How to buy a leather wallet that lasts

Getting a good quality leather wallet isn’t as simple as spending more.

Most mainstream options, regardless of price, use cheap materials and construction and degrade rapidly.

How do you distinguish the good from the bad? Here’s what to look for.

1. All leather construction.

If you peep down the pockets of just about any random leather wallet, you’ll see the number one reason why they don’t last–synthetic fabric. Most “leather” wallets in actuality are cloth wallets covered with cheap leather.

2. Excellent quality leather

This can be quite difficult to determine, but luckily there are some clues to light the way.

Makers that use the good stuff won’t hide it. Information about where the leather comes from, what type of tannage, and finish are all good signs. Absence of this information often indicates low or middling quality.

The finest leather generally comes from Italy, France, the UK, the US, Germany, and Japan. Buying leather produced in one of these countries increase the odds that you’re getting top tier quality.*

3. Burnished or painted edges

Burnished or painted edges are not only essential to protect the edges from fraying and premature wear, but elevate the looks of the product considerably.

Most products are finished poorly, if at all, as a proper edge takes careful planning, skill, and a lot of time to execute properly.

Quality features tend to go together. It doesn’t make sense to skimp on leather if you’re going to construct a wallet well, and in turn, excellent leather doesn’t really belong in a poorly made product. 

Where to buy

There are many very talented makers out there producing fantastic wallets with top of the line materials and construction. They have taken the time to develop skill and offer a quality and value than just cannot be matched by bigger companies. Buy from one of them, and you’ll have a wallet that not only will last, but look great, for years. I’d suggest finding a maker through social media that jibes well with you.

*Below I’ve listed the countries that produce the highest regarded leather, as well as some of the better known tanneries and products to come out of each.

Italy

Italy is chock-full of tanneries, but perhaps it’s best known for its vegetable tanned leather. And there’s no better example of this than those tanneries that are part of the Consorzio Vera Pelle (Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium). Some of the member tanneries include: Badalassi Carlo (makers of Pueblo and Minerva Box), Conceria Walpier (makers of Buttero), La Bretagna, La Perla Azzurra (makers of Dakota), and Tempesti.

France

Thanks to an extensive luxury leather goods industry, French tanneries offer an elite selection of leathers. The most well-known ones, in contrast to Italy, are chrome tanned, with exemplary examples of calf and goatskin leathers.

Tanneries Haas, Degermann, Du Puy, and D’Annonay are well-known for their calf leathers, including printed calf (e.g. “Epsom”). Remy Carriat is a wonderful example of taurillon leather.

Tanneries Alran, Relma, and Jullien are best known for their goatskin (chèvre).

Germany

German tanneries are fewer in number, but the quality of the products are at least as well regarded as their French counterparts. The most well-known are Weinheimer and Perlinger which focus on calfskin.

United Kingdom

The UK is best known for its bridle leather. J&FJ Baker is perhaps the highest regarded of the bunch with a 1 year+ traditional oak bark tanning. Clayton and J.E. Sedgwick are other highly regarded producers of bridle and other leathers.

Japan

Japan has a very healthy tanning industry. Their best known leathers are all traditional pit-tanned leathers. Of which, Shinki-Hikaku is probably the best known thanks to their beautiful cordovan. Whereas, Shonan and Tochigi are also highly prized for their veg tan cowhide.

United States

The tanning industry isn’t quite it once was, but there still are at least a handful of tanneries making the good stuff. The best known by far, of course, is Horween. They are best known for their shell cordovan and Chromexcel® leathers. Other tanneries of note are Hermann Oak and Wickett & Craig.