Where can you find the nicest scarf? Who makes the best cashmere sweater? Every year, around this time — like holiday classics on the radio — certain gifts become popular all over again. To determine the very best versions of those things, we’re talking to experts, adding our own opinions, and even testing products ourselves to find the greatest one (plus several runners-up).
A wallet is a classic gift for good reason: we all need one, and the ones we have often wear out over time. But choosing one, especially for someone else, should be treated delicately. This object will get used, touched, and looked at every single day. It shouldn’t be boring, but it should be durable and broadly tasteful.
To help us sort through the vast wallet-sphere, we talked to buyers, tastemakers, and fashion directors, who independently came to an unexpected consensus: with wallets — both men’s and women’s — smaller is better. Really, the best wallet to give is actually a card case. “Most guys have a ridiculous, overstuffed wallet with receipts falling out, so the card case is actually perfect to push them in the right direction,” Lawrence Schlossman, brand director of Grailed, said. With one, your recipient “can carry some cash, a Metrocard and credit card, and their coffee card. And I’m almost positive it’s better for their posture.” So our list kicks off with just such a wallet. But if you’re not trying to drop heavy hints about throwing out the year’s Whole Foods receipts, our experts guided us towards larger, versatile pieces, too. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.
The best wallet to give
Like Schlossman, Olie Arnold, the style director at Mr. Porter, prefers slim card cases. “I don’t like bulky wallets, as given the chance, I’d happily fill a billfold with receipts, membership cards I don’t use, etc., so it’s best I stay clear.” Besides sticking to streamlined card holders — which, he notes, “slip easily into pockets without ruining the silhouette of my fitted blazer jacket” — finding one in a high-quality, durable leather that ages well is a must. Arnold’s choice for the best wallet to give is this card holder from Valextra. “Valextra are the masters at quality and unusual design (without being too wacky),” he says.
Cassie Smart, the head of womenswear at Matches Fashion, agrees. “The ones by Valextra are standouts for me — I have one of my own and the contrast of the stitching and variety of colors are very appealing.” With a number of colors to choose from in a pebbled leather that works equally well for men and women, this card case is the best bet for a wallet to give.
The runner-up wallets to give
Schlossman, who doesn’t “rely on someone else to get me a wallet,” was adamant that he would give others a Gucci card case, the same item he himself uses. Out of all the designer card carriers out there, what he likes about Gucci in particular is that “it’s cool right now, for both somebody fashion savvy and a more regular guy.” Arnold said something similar, pointing out that if you’re not interested in taking a minimalist approach, Gucci is among the designers “adding excitement to their accessories.”
If you don’t want to go Gucci, Schlossman recommends looking around at higher-end card cases across the designer spectrum. “I think people would be surprised that any card case from a luxury or designer brand is usually sub-$250,” he says. This Tod’s case is one of those, and it’s currently 60 percent off at Barney’s.
If you’re looking for a card case with a similar silhouette to the Valextra or Tod’s, but you’re shopping for a leather boycotter, we’d recommend vegan brand Matt & Nat. They make a sleek, classic case in a variety of colors.
The theory that smaller is better generally extends to women’s wallets, too. Julia Gall, the accessories director at Marie Claire, says that “given the trend of downsizing in women’s handbags and focusing on the trifecta of essentials (keys, cards, lip product — phone usually stays in hand), my ideal wallet is as compact as possible.” Just a bit bigger than a card case, Gall’s preferred option is this Balenciaga mini billfold with a useful outer pocket. She likes it in this cracked silver leather, but other colors like red and black are available, as well.
For the person who doesn’t subscribe to minimalism, Gall suggests a twist on a familiar style: “The classic Comme des Garçons wallet takes a dramatic turn in fringed leather,” she says. “I love this wallet that doubles as a bag, as sometimes a designated ‘evening bag’ can feel too precious.”
You can also just get the classic Comme des Garçons zip wallet, which has such a following that last year writer Merrel Hambleton wrote about alternatives. But it’s a longstanding favorite for a reason, and you can always perk things up by buying it in an unusual color like this dark orange.
For Smart, too, wallets that do double duty are the way to go. “Micro bags have been a trend this season [and] seem to have translated into wallets, as well. I love the Jacquemus Le Pitchou mini coin purses that can be worn in a necklace style — perfect size for just your bank card,” she says.