So I have been friends with the owner of Varsity Brown, Matt Boston, for 15 years now and since coming back to the country I have been kicking it around the shop quite a bit as of late. We are always talking about the functionality of products, and how well they're married with aesthetics. What looks good, what works well, and what doesn't. This conversation sparked a wonder of where wallets started; have they traditionally been small like the 1/2 Card 1/2 Cash Bi-Fold or have they been more akin to George Costanza's scoliosis inducing monstrosity?
Well! If you have been pondering the same thing, you my friend are in the right place! I started to look into it, and I found some interesting things. Initially, the word Wallet originated around the 14th century to refer to a bag or knapsack - so maybe it traditionally has been more Costanza-esque? In ancient Greece they used the word kibisis, which is usually translated into wallet, to describe the sack that the god Hermes carried with him. They viewed a 'wallet' as more of a survival pack, filled with provisions and stores.
From my research, it only seems that our modern day understanding of the wallet emerges in the 17th century with the advent of paper currency. From the wallets inception until this point, currency came in the form of metal coins - so they carried around leather draw string pouches. So at the very least, the materials used to make 'wallets' have stayed the same as time rolls on. But in all honesty, I don't think there is a more reliable, durable and natural material to be used - why reinvent the wheel if she is still rollin', right?
Even with paper money coming into popularity, the use of wallets maintained a wide variety of functions. People would have wallets that carried tobacco, dried meats and the like - keeping with the ancient Greeks tradition of using a 'wallet' as a carry-all accessory.
As time moved on and city life became more common place, people's needs for wallets began to change. By the time the 19th century rolls around, people are using them pretty much exclusively to hold money. But they didn't keep them in their pockets - no that was considered uncivilized. Rather it was social custom to wear one's wallet on their belt. Which in my head doesn't really make sense - putting yourself on blast, letting everyone know you got money and where you're keeping it? Especially at a time in history where street thieves and pick pockets were a lot more common. Nah, I'm good.
But then we move into the 20th century. And wallets get even smaller - in the 1950s with the introduction of credit cards/currency to help boost post-WWII economies, we begin to see wallets for cards. Which when you think about it, still maintain the same uses as it did for the ancients. Only the necessary stores and provisions one needs for survival or bargaining are all placed on small cards. Hence, I guess, the continued use of the word.
Near the end of my research I started to come across cryptocurrency wallets, and thats where I stopped. I can't be fucked with all that, you can't put cryptocurrency in a leather wallet. Unless they invent a leather wallet app? Is that a thing? Money is confusing and elusive enough for me without bring computers into the whole situation. I'm a bit of a luddite, I prefer to pay for things with cash and credit where it benefits me. And I don't have a computer, so that stuff just doesn't make sense to me.
Anyways, that is a very brief history of wallets - just incase you were wondering.
Until next time!