What is a Wallet?

A wallet is a universal compact, flat case, often made of leather, originally designed to hold cash, however today it is used by both men and women to carry other personal items such as ID and credit cards.

Although there are a variety of sizes and styles available, most wallets tend to be pocket-sized and made from leather, fabric or synthetic plastics.

Types of wallet can vary hugely but the most common for men are the breast wallet and the bi-fold wallet although with the introduction of modern smartphone such as Apple’s iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S and 5C as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 the concept of the unisex combined Leather Wallet Case incorporating ID, Credit and Business Card Holder is rapidly gaining popularity amongst both men and women.


History of wallets

The word “wallet” was originally derived from Proto-Germanic roots. A story from old Greek mythology tells the tale of the hero Perseus who beheaded Medusa, a monster whose sight could turn people to stone, and placed the head in a sack called kibisis. In another tale, the Greek messenger God Hermes used a kibisis to carry documents, a word which has been loosely translated to mean “wallet”.

A theoretical scholar, AY Campbell, discovered that in past Greek society the wallet was used by poor men to be “replenished as a store”, a survival pack of provisions. Nobody is sure how women carried their wealth but perhaps owing to the legal and social structures of the day they were usually not allowed to handle cash! Subsequently, during the Renaissance period in the 14th century, metal coins became increasingly prominent for exchange and the wallet evolved as a pouch to carry valuable items and articles.

After the invention of paper money, the wallet began to take shape into what we know today, “a flat case for carrying paper currency”.

In the late 19th century in America the wallet worn on a belt became a symbol of civilisation, a pouch used to carry personal items that the owner would not want to be exposed to the public, such as dried meat or money (much like in these days where the security conscious want to conceal their iPhone 4 or 5). Unlike today, it was not seen as acceptable to carry one’s wallet in a pocket, possibly because of the poor stitching of the day and the likelihood of things falling out!

The wallet was previously used only by men; however women may now also carry a smaller version of a purse with a wallet tucked inside. Originally made from cow or horse leather, the wallet may also be made from fabric or synthetic plastic. Although practical, it is also a huge hit among pick-pockets, so watch out!

With the introduction of the credit cards came the biggest progression of the wallet to what we use today. A simple, flat case with numerous slots. Throughout the 21st century, the wallet has been evolved to a variety of shapes, sizes and colour for style and fashion; yet the function has remained universal.

That said, as the nature of money itself changes at an ever increasing pace and we stand on the threshold of a “cashless society” with wireless payment system multiplying every day, what does the future of the wallet hold?

The author suggests that for both men and women, the function of your wallet may no longer be to hold notes but instead to hold wireless credit cards or even just your smart phone since many (including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the S4 and rumoured to be embedded on the forthcoming iPhone 6) already boast NFC and you can pay by just waving your leather phone wallet case over the payment point.

Other pages and discussions about Wallets and Purses elsewhere on the site.