There has never been a better time to buy a wallet.
Between the many brands, styles, makes, and how easy the internet makes it to buy one, it’s possible for just about anyone to find the perfect wallet.
Or at least, that’s what I was telling myself last fall.
My previous wallet — something I’d picked up spur-of-the-moment at a clothing store — had held up for a couple years, but was beginning to give up the fight. It was fraying around the edges and didn’t look or feel quite as solid as when it was brand new.
It was time for something different and this time I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted next. I had a goldilocks-esque list of things I was looking for.
And there was one specific wallet that had captured my attention in that regard.
The Shinola Zip Wallet was something I’d had my eye on for a little while, and even though its price was steep, I was convinced that it was the one for me. This might be a flaw of mine as a product-guy, but I knew I’d always wonder just how good it might’ve been if I didn’t give it a fair shot.
Not long after I was down at the Detroit Shinola store, picking up one of the last wallets they had in stock for the holidays and straight afterwards loading it up with what I wanted to carry over from my old wallet.
From the outside the Shinola Zip Wallet looks like a little leather pouch, with the only branding and adornment consisting of the serial-number debossed into the leather, and the zip-pull itself. Of course, pull that zipper open and you’ll find something akin to a traditional bi-fold design — it’s just a minimal, leather-bound take on the style.
What stands out first, both on the outside and inside of the wallet, is the leather. It comes from the American company Horween, who have been tanning leather by hand for over 100 years now. When picking up the wallet, the hide on the outside feels durable and smooth even with the unique, rippled textures that only become apparent when tilted in the light.
Inside, thinner pieces of leather are stitched together to make up the various compartments and folds that hold cards and cash. The thinner slices allow for some stretch to slide the contents of the wallet in and out. While all this leather started out stiff at first, over the months it’s softened considerably and gained some gorgeous patina and wear.
The zipper is something to behold as well. It’s still just a zipper of course, but being solid brass with a leather pull-tab makes it feel nice and smooth to open and shut. Being brass, the edges of the teeth are beginning to show a brilliant golden patina as they age, and I can’t wait to see how much more they’ll change color in the future. The zipper is a true highlight, as I’ll go into more later.
Coming back to the inside pockets, you’ll find three card-slots to each side — two facing outwards and one more behind them going left-to-right. Each of these can fit two or three cards for maximum capacity, or just one card per slot can keep things organized and light weight.
Behind both sides you’ll find the classic bi-fold’s cash pocket, which spans the length of the wallet and can hold a reasonable amount of bills if you’re keen to put them there. Stuffing in a little too much money or cramming an unruly wad that sticks up too far can lead to the zipper biting into your cash. Never destructively so, but if that problem comes up it might be time for tidying-up or a quick deposit at the bank.
The last thing of note about the Shinola Zip Wallet’s make isn’t something in its design or materials, but instead about where it’s from and who made it. Different people feel different things about Shinola and how they do business, but no matter how you look at it, Shinola pays for local people to make quality American goods in Detroit (my home-city), and that’s something special.
Every Shinola leather-good comes with a metallic card embossed with the name of the person who made it and the series of production it was in. Mine was made by a person named Eric Scott, and is in the 3rd series of the Zip Wallet’s production. I don’t keep this card in my wallet (it’s rather heavy, being metal and all) but I do feel good about the fact that I supported an American company.
I’m not always the most patriotic, but keeping the American-goods market around is something I can get behind. Throw in the fact that it’s made and laid out impeccably, and you’ve got a wallet primed for the pocket.
As A Wallet
After filling the Zip Wallet with all my things and using it every day for the past six months – I’d say it’s time to evaluate how it does as a wallet. And it’s time to see if it manages to live up to the list of things I was looking for when I first bought it.
The first thing I was looking for in a wallet was a pocket-piece that I could use minimally, but without it explicitly being a “tiny” or “slim-design” wallet. Too many of those ultra-thin wallets are designed with only the slimmest of carries in mind, and for anyone who still carries a little cash around I think they’re just unrealistically small.
Thankfully, the Shinola delivers here. Looking at it from the side it’s certainly not ultra-slim, but keep the load light enough and it feels right at home in my pocket. This varies from person to person, but for me the size of the Shinola is just right. It’s substantial enough without making itself too known in my pocket.
Something one might not think of when describing a wallet is how visually minimal it is. That’s another thing I find ridiculous about many of the minimally designed wallets you see — how visually complex they are between their various folds, textures, and trendy logos. Some of them have the cards and bills so tightly packaged that you can’t easily tell them apart or remove them, which is an absolute no-go in my book. The Shinola remedies this. Even though it might not be the smallest it keeps its design classy, spacious, and minimal throughout.
A simple, near-unadorned exterior gives way to a symmetrical interior. Stick just one card in each of the wallet’s slots, and you’ve got both visual and organizational minimalism that an ultra-thin design just can’t match. I never have to hunt for a card in the Shinola, and it never looks bad while doing so either. I love this about the Zip Wallet.
While it wasn’t mandatory on my list, being made from leather was something I definitely looked for when choosing a wallet. The leather on the outside feels beefy and durable, and the inside is soft and smooth with just enough stretch to allow the contents in and out freely. It’s some of the best leather I’ve laid hands on since I first got my ONA Prince Street, and it’s just as much of a pleasure to handle every day.
I love the color orange and having the Shinola come in that color-way was a boon right from the start. When I first got the Zip Wallet it was an extremely bright orange — which I enjoyed — but since then it’s gained a patina that I’ve also come to love. The spine especially has darkened, but the whole wallet has gained more character around the edges through color changes and the occasional scuff or scratch.
Funny enough, the Shinola Zip Wallet matches my similarly aged DDC Stuff Sheath nearly perfectly in color. If you’re planning to color-coordinate your leather goods, then just know the Zip Wallet will match up well with other similarly orange kit.
I’ve saved my favorite bit for last when it comes to how the Zip Wallet has fit into my life — and that’s the zip-pull itself. I don’t know exactly how, but I knew even before buying the Shinola that I’d love having a zipper on my wallet.
I suppose some could find it a nuisance, but I really enjoy getting to un-zip and then re-zip the wallet every time I go to use it. In a practical sense it’s more secure, but I think my love for the zipper comes from a more sensory place. It’s a little tactile ritual every time you take out the wallet. You grab the leather pull-tab and slide that oh-so-smooth brass zipper around the three sides to open it up. When it’s time to put away cash or a card, you slide it around again to seal up your valuables.
Like any other sort of quality latch, seal, or lock crafted onto a piece of gear, the zipper is a treat to use. I can’t completely quantify it, but it’s something I love.
When closed, the Zip Wallet is compact and self-contained. When open, it’s a minimal, classic bi-fold. It’s made from terrific materials, made locally, and to top it all off, it has the signature quirks of being orange and sporting a zipper. I can’t imagine a wallet being better set up for myself.
Unfortunately, I have to admit the Zip Wallet is no longer produced by Shinola. I’ve looked around online, but aside from a lone listing on eBay, I’ve had no luck finding stock of Shinola’s Zip Wallet.
Not all is lost though. Shinola still makes other products with the same Horween leather and with similar design philosophies. Just know that if you’ve set out to purchase a Shinola Zip Wallet, you could have quite the time of it and it might be better to consider another one of their offerings instead.
I took it upon myself to head down to their Detroit store and check out those offerings, and I can confirm that they all seem of similar quality to my Zip Wallet, just with differing form-factors and sizes.
On offer they have:
- Slim and Classic Bifold wallets
- Square and ‘Hipster’ Bifold wallets
- Ultra-thin 5 and 6-card Pocket cases
- and Magnetic and Money-Clip wallets
Out of all of these, the Classic Bifold is probably the closest to my Three-Zip Wallet in capacity and design — sans-zip of course — so if you’re most interested in something like the one in this review, this is where I’d start.
Between the six or seven other options, it’s clear there’s still plenty of choices if you’re looking to buy one of Shinola’s minimal and well-made products. It’s disappointing the Zip Wallet isn’t in production any longer, but between the option of tracking one down on a resale site and considering Shinola’s other offerings, you’ll be able to find something that suits you.
From my experience with the Zip Wallet, I can certainly vouch that Shinola can make something from local materials, with a minimal design, and with some little details that can really please. Their prices — which can be anywhere from $125 to $250 — are expensive. But if you have a hunch like I did that one of their wallets will be the perfect one for you — and you can spare the means — then I can highly recommend picking one up.