by D. R. Hildebrand
I was about ten, maybe eleven years old, the first (and only) time my mother bought me a wallet. The store sold leather jackets, leather purses, leather everything, all at very inexpensive prices. As she paid I asked her, unaware, where this thing leather came from. She hesitated a moment, probably caught off guard, then told me, “from animals.” As someone who grew up vegetarian, not because of my parents but because of my stubborn older siblings who demanded it, there was no doubt my mother knew exactly what I thought of this suddenly morose, unappealing gift. Before I could even utter a rebuttal she looked at me with frustration, and a little guilt, and said, “Well what other options are there? It’s leather or nothing.”
I made that wallet last through college.
Fortunately, twenty years later my mother’s question has a host of answers. Leather is passé and the alternatives are abundant. The assortment below, by no means exhaustive, is intended simply to highlight a few of the materials and styles currently available, and to hint at what innovation will bring in the future.
My first vegan wallet was the National Bi-Fold, a very popular item from the Vegan Collection. It had a leather-like look and feel and was often mistaken for leather. Unfortunately, it wore out like leather too. Others have found theirs to be quite resilient however and if a likeness to leather is the aesthetic you desire then this, or one of the company’s other designs, is worth considering. Prices range from $24 to $32, with MooShoes carrying select styles in-store.
Dynomighty Design, intended to “accentuate the modern urban lifestyle,” by Terrence Kelleman offers a tear-resistant, water-resistant, expandable, and recyclable wallet at an affordable $15. The material is tyvek, which makes for an extremely lightweight, almost unnoticeable presence. Dynomighty’s only drawback comes for those who carry extra credit cards, piles of receipts, photos, condoms, business cards, or anything else that will strain it. For the minimalist, though, it is a gem. Find it online at Alternative Outfitters or in a Whole Foods supermarket.
For the past year I’ve carried a US-made wallet by HARVEYS. This California-based maker, founded by the couple Dana and Melanie Harvey, offers no visible mention of being vegan—something I actually kind of like. Each item, though, is made of seat belts and has a fashionable yet conscientious look. The wallet, Black Label, costs $48 and is as reliable as, well, a seat belt.
Additional options include: Franklin by Alchemy Goods, which makes wallets from reclaimed bicycle inner tubes for $29; hemp wallets by Rawganique ranging from $4 to $17; the effortless yet resilient Flowfold at $30, crafted in Maine from the sailcloth of boats; RAGGEDedge Gear, with badass wallets made of carbon fiber and Kevlar at $60; handmade by “dudes in California,” Couch Guitar Straps offers Jet Age, a funky $30 vintage-style wallet manufactured from vinyl; and for $74 any number of the sleek and über-chic stainless steel wallets by Stewart/Stand.