Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Many of us consider shell cordovan to be the end-all-be-all of leathers, however, the small size of shells and long, difficult shell tanning process result in shell products being exorbitantly expensive. That’s why we’ve put together a list of relatively inexpensive shell cordovan billfolds, which we’ve defined as being $180 or less. While cheaper shell wallets do exist they’re going to be smaller card wallets rather than billfolds, and for many of us a billfold is a requirement for an everyday carry.
1) Meermin: 303002 Shell Cordovan Billfold
Meermin is known for their high quality yet affordable boots and shoes, so it should come as no surprise that they make a great shell cordovan wallet as well. They source their shells from Shinki Hikaku, one of the most well renowned tanneries in Japan, which is known to produce shell cordovan that is a bit thinner than Horween’s.
Their 303002 Shell Cordovan Billfold is constructed with a shell cordovan exterior and calfskin interior, which helps to keep the price so low. This wallet has a bill stow, two large hidden pockets, and eight card pockets, offering ample space for just about anyone.
Available for $100 from Meermin.
2) Allen Edmonds: Shell Cordovan Executive Billfold Wallet
Allen Edmonds is one of the most well known made in the USA shoemakers, and while their quality has declined in recent years, they’re still turning out products that turn heads. The Shell Cordovan Executive Billfold Wallet is one of the most affordable shell cordovan wallets available with a full shell interior, and they source from Horween to boot! Featuring a billfold and eight card slots, this fully shell wallet allows you to watch the shell age on both the inside and outside. While you aren’t going to get the same quality you get from a shell wallet that is two, three, or even four times its price, you still get a lot of bang for your buck.
Available for $150 from Allen Edmonds.
3) Rancourt: Medium Bifold Wallet
The onslaught of shoemakers who offer great, inexpensive shell cordovan wallets continues with Rancourt’s Medium Bifold wallet. Made from shell cordovan from Lis Royal (aka Rocinante) of Argentina, this wallet features two billfolds (lined with nylon) and eight card pockets, which is more than enough room. While every leather fanatic has their own opinion on which tannery makes the best shell cordovan in the world, at this price it’s hard to argue even if you prefer other tanneries’ products.
Available for $135 from Rancourt.
4) Hides and Stitches: Shell Cordovan Traditional Billfold Wallet
Hides and Stitches is another great option, especially if you are only interested in Horween shell cordovan. Their Shell Cordovan Traditional Billfold Wallet feature a shell cordovan exterior with a Chromexcel interior, resulting in a great wallet for a bit less than a full shell variant. This piece is made with a single billfold pocket and four card pockets, although the latter will expand to accommodate many cards per slot.
Available for $180 from Hides and Stitches.
5) Brooks Brothers: Cordovan Wallet with Money Clip
Whether or not Brooks Brothers’ Cordovan Wallet with Money Clip is a billfold is a subject of no small debate, but the facts remain: you insert the bills in an unfolded state and they are then folded when you close the wallet, and to me that’s all that is required. It’s constructed with a shell cordovan exterior and and French calfskin interior, and features a single quarter-circle slot for your most important cards. While this is a rather small wallet, if cash and a few cards is all you need then it might be a great choice.
Available for $173 from Brooks Brothers.
Plus One – Form•Function•Form: The George Bifold (Shell Cordovan)
Form•Function•Form’s The George Bifolds feature a shell cordovan exterior with non-shell interior. It features a billfold, two hidden pockets, and six card slots, offering about as much storage as you can have in such a small package. What sets this wallet apart from the competition is the rough-out/smooth-out staggering of the card slots and two-tone nature of the wallets. While these details won’t appeal to everyone they are something that no other maker is offering stock, although custom makers would certainly be able to accommodate requests of a similar nature.
Available for $168 from Form•Function•Form.