Wallets & Billfolds: They Haven’t Always Been What They Are Today

When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life, now that I am old I know it is. -Oscar Wilde 

There is no doubt about it, as long as man has had the desire for anything he himself could not produce, we have relied on various forms of currency over time to barter, trade, and deal with. This currency, in all its forms, has also had the necessity of needing to be carried.

TheArmadillo / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

As such, the idea of a wallet was born, and in the archaic sense, it was nothing more than a bag or knapsack that was intended to hold provisions. Those going on long journeys or voyages primarily used it, and would carry anything that could be easily traded for other items or services along the way. In ancient Greece, the wallet was considered a poor man cupboard, essentially carrying all the food they owned. They did this because food could not be left unattended in fear of it being stolen or spoiling.

But as time advanced, and the use of metal became more prolific during the renaissance, currency was formed out of rare and precious metals. Which meant there needed to be something to tote them around in. This is when what we now know as a purse or coin pouch was used, but was still referred to as a wallet. The wallet however was also used for other things besides carrying money. It also was useful for carrying various articles and smaller items that were needed throughout the day. One odd thought is that well before women, men carried purses, or as we would call them nowadays, man bags.

As time proceeded on up through the 19th century, the wallet had taken many forms, and was relied on for various uses. It once again fell back to being used for actual provisions rather than just currency and smaller articles. For example, early Americans used them for carrying their foods, smaller tools, and even took a similar shape to the fanny pack, being strapped to their belts. They were generally larger than most wallets prior, and relied upon for carrying the essentials for people of the day. Everything from tobacco and teas to various dried foods, essentially anything that could fit into it would be.

As we move into present day, the wallet has once again fallen back to only being used for carrying mostly currency and identification. Anything that becomes larger than a billfold, or has a vastly different design, has taken on other names, such as purses, bags, backpacks, fanny packs, etc. Though, it used to be that most of these items all fell under the same name of wallet. But even though the actual uses of a wallet nowadays are limited, the varying degrees and styles of wallet types have grown tremendously. Below is a list of current types of wallets, many of which most people would not have known or considered.

The Various Wallet Types

Secretary Wallets – When a wallet is needed that will not fit into a pant pocket, the breast wallet as it is also known as, can be tucked away into the inner pocket of a jacket or blazer. Generally these carry checkbooks as well, making them longer than normal, and often times do not fold in the traditional sense.

Bi-Fold Wallet – When you think of a wallet nowadays, this is what you are picturing. It is a simple wallet which folds over once and can fit into any back pocket. Can easily store currency notes and credit cards.

Tri-Fold Wallet – Being very similar to the bi-fold wallet, the tri-fold is as the name implies. A wallet that folds three times, where the extra fold is a vertical portion that folds down, rather than an extra horizontal section. Generally, credit cards and pictures are stored in the extra fold. But some actually even have key slots for spares.

Money Clip – A money clip is not exactly a wallet as you would think, but a device which secures credit cards and paper currency. It is very limited in that sense, but with the additional bonus of having a small profile, making it easy to carry in the front pocket.

Long Wallet – These are essentially the same as the secretary wallet, save that they have a chain attached to them which can latch on to your pants. They were made popular by bikers who needed to ensure their wallets didn’t fall out of their pockets as they were riding.

Wallet Band – The wallet band is similar to a money clip in that it is not a wallet, but a devise for securing. In essence, it is a band, usually rubber, which can fasten and keep paper currency and cards together.

Travel Wallet – You may feel like a tourist wearing one of these, but it is perhaps the safest wallet to carry. There is little chance of losing it or having it stolen off of your person. It’s a wallet that either fastens around your waist, and hangs down under the inside of your pants or hangs from your neck under your shirt.

As you can imagine, this list is as limitless as the human imagination. One new form of wallet that is available is the digital wallet, which is essentially a computer file used for maintaining digital currency. But as time goes on, there is no doubt going to be a slew of new wallet product types that hit the market. But only time will tell what the wallets of the future will look like or be used for.

The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter @JakabokBotch. When I’m not perusing the web looking for interesting wallets, clips, and money bands, I’m usually out trying to find means to fill those items with cash.

Wallets & Billfolds: They Haven’t Always Been What They Are Today

Stefan is a co-founder of LookHunting.com and one of the lead contributors. He brings you hot style tips and awesome outfits on a daily basis. You can find him on Google+ and on our Facebook Page where he posts his latest fashion and beauty finds.
  • http://www.styleontheside.com/ Caroline

    I love a great wallet! I just got my husband one that he can easily keep in his pocket with no bulk and it’s fantastic!