Evolution of wallets

Blog 6

Wallets have become an inseparable part of “top 5 things to need before stepping out” checklist, regardless of gender or social status but it wasn’t the case always. Through time, pocket accessories and wallets have come far from what they used to be. Here is our attempt at understanding the history & evolution of wallets.

21 degree Genuine leather card holder


 WALLET– Usage of the term dates back to 14th century Europe developing from the French word “wallet”. In the early usage of the word by a certain ‘William Shakespeare’, it was referred to as a modern day backpack or knapsack.

These days the size of the wallet might have become the metaphor for wealth, however it didn’t use to be that way. Wallets used to be associated with poverty, where it used to function as a potable larder or a store for those who couldn’t afford of the luxury of settlement and needed to be on the move.

Ancient wallet, survival kit, Leather

Massachusetts Bay Colony came up with the first official paper currency in the late 17th century. One of the human’s finest inventions. By then, the usage of horse leather pouches had started to become common among upper class & royal powers mainly for storing of coins and important documents. However, introduction of paper currency added the required fuel to it.

In 19th century America, it was considered “semi-civilized” to carry one’s wallet on one’s belt. At this time, carrying goods or a wallet in one’s pocket was considered uncivilized and uncommon. In Spain, a wallet had become a case for smoking paraphernalia or Yesca.

By 20th century, the ‘Survival Pack’ of 14th century had turned into a treasury or something with confidential importance which brought a lot innovation in design and usage.

The modern bi-fold wallet with multiple “card slots” became standardized in the early 1950s with the introduction of the first credit cards. Some trends that sustained include the introduction of Velcro-closure wallet in the 1970s. Pocket-sized wallets remain popular to this day.


Leather is no doubt the most used material in terms of wallets. However metal, elastic, polyester have also begun to gain popularity. All the materials have their own origin story along with major pros and cons.

Leather – is well recognized for being soft, durable and elegant; its versatility and longevity are the reasons for it being the first choice material since the inception of wallets.

Metal – is resistant to all types of shocks and challenges and this makes them part of a happening lifestyle. The necessity of carrying cards is behind the popularization of this trend.

Polyester – despite being a vegan option, polyester is not considered healthy to the environment.  Though being an inexpensive yet durable option, it has provided a lot of designer options at lesser prices.


Different trends and civilizations always impacts fashion and utility designs of different machines of the era. Geography also plays an important part on how different things operate and are used.

Pure leather old coin pack

The same is the case for wallets as well, people from diversified periods and diversified needs altered the shape size and material of the wallets according to their needs.

Some wallets, particularly in Europe where larger value coins are prevalent, contain a coin purse compartment. Some wallets have built-in clasps or bands to keep them closed. As European banknotes, such as euros and pounds, are typically larger than American banknotes in size, they do not fit in some smaller American wallets.

Common wallets’ variations available today are ranged below:

  • Secretary wallet: a wallet in which the banknotes are not folded. They are intended for men’s breast pocket in a jacket, or for a handbag. Breast wallets will often hold cheques and other monetary documents as they are too large for storage in a pants’ pocket.
  • Bi-fold wallet: a type of wallet in which the banknotes are folded over once. Credit cards and identification cards may be stored horizontally or vertically. This is the daily usage wallet, found popularly around the globe.
  • Tri-fold wallet: a wallet with two folds, in which credit cards are generally stored vertically.
  • Front pocket wallet: a case with no currency compartment and very few pockets for cards. Usually banknotes are folded and held in a wallet compartment.
  • Long wallet: a larger wallet usually worn with jeans, fastened by a chain, strap or leather rein. Bills are held flat and long wallets typically have a coin purse. Popularized by bikers to secure their wallets while riding a motorcycle, smaller chained wallets became popular in 1970s−’80s Punk fashion and in the early 1990s with the grunge fashion movement as well as heavy metal fashion. Long wallets are popular with men in cash-based countries like Japan and may reflect Native American aesthetic influence.
  • Wallet band: a type of wallet that uses a continuous elastic band, made of fabric or rubber, to secure cards and/or cash. Wallet bands reduce the bulk of a traditional wallet. Passport covers and card holders use this type of functionality.
  • Travel wallet: used by travelers to hold essential documentation together, such as passports, tickets, boarding passes, foreign currency, traveler’s cheques, itinerary, travel insurance, hotel booking information, and other similar items.
  • ID case/neck pouch: thin nylon or leather cases with plastic see-through compartments designed to hold an ID card. Usually worn around the neck, many have extra pockets for holding small items, hence they also function as wallets.
  • Digital wallet: a computer file for maintaining digital currency. A cryptocurrency wallet is a digital wallet where private keys are stored for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Bitcoin digital wallet, 21 degree leather brand
  • L-Zip wallet: a rectangular shaped wallet with a zipper that runs along 2 sides of the wallet.
  • Credit card holder or credit card wallet: a rectangular shaped wallet for credit cards. The modern generation has found a way around carrying bulky wallet filled with paper and hence the use of these compact wallets have come to known which allow you to keep certain cards and necessity items only.
  • Checkbook: a wallet that can hold standard-sized cheques used primarily for business meetings potentially involving higher amount transactions.
  • Automatic wallet: a wallet with a mechanism that ejects the credit cards with a button to display them for use. Also known as a pop-up or cascading wallet.
  • RFID signal-blocking wallet: A wallet acting as a faraday cage around proximity-sensing enabled cards can block NFC & RFID signals, preventing portable RFID readers from reading sensitive data.


The term “purse” originally referred to a small bag for holding coins. In many English-speaking countries, it is still used to refer to a small money bag.

A “handbag” is a larger accessory that holds objects beyond currency, such as personal items.

During the start of modernization, the upper-class women needed something stringed to carry along on parties and gatherings so as to keep the general belongings and valuables in.

And hence the culture of women’s wallets started blooming. With cultural variations and different needs according to the person and occasion, the classifications have taken over the industry and these days;

21 Degree Women's Wallet

Baguette, Barrel, Bowling bag purse, Bucket bag, Clutch, Lucite handbags, Carpet bag, Doctor’s bag, Drawstring, Half-moon, Hobo, Kiondo, Lighted, Messenger bag, Minaudière, Muff, Pocketbook, Pouch, Reticule, Saddlebag, Satchel, Tote bag, Trapezoid, Wristlet, Tote bag, Cross-body bag, Sling bag, Shoulder bag, Laptop purse, Camera bag, Gym bag, Cosmetic bag, Duffel bag, Security bag, Diaper bag “ are just a few of all the variations available.

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