Bellroy is one of the originators of the slim wallet, their first edition released well before the whole Marie Kondo minimalist movement took off. The Australian born company identified a problem, solved that problem, and crucially (and ruthlessly) focused on an intense marketing campaign which saw exposure and sales skyrocket.
Their approach to making a slim wallet is quite simple: remove dedicated card slots thereby reducing the amount of material between cards and ultimately the thickness of the wallet in its closed position.
Hooked right into their slick website, marketing, design, and value proposition I actually ended up buying a Bellroy leather wallet in 2016. There were a couple of choices in the range at the time but their newly released Note Sleeve seemed the perfect fit.
In the Note Sleeve there are still a few compartments for dedicated cards although I do double stack one or two of these slots. In all, there are four slots plus the interior compartment. For that interior compartment Bellroy have engineered an easy pull tab for multiple stacked cards that are hidden out of the way making it an ideal card wallet if you do want to carry a few. I always thought it was a cool idea but perhaps a little gimmicky until I started using it regularly, and now I’ll make any excuse to slide those cards out, and the tab has never failed in 5 years of use.
The leathers Bellroy use are vegetable tanned and have stood the test of time with the usual patina you can expect from everyday carry use. However, this wasn’t the case when I first picked up my wallet in Tokyo, Japan. After two weeks the wallet showed signs of severe colour deterioration that was quite unexpected, almost like moisture had wiped clean the tanning in places.
Disappointed I contacted Bellroy whose customer care staff responded quickly, politely, and showing genuine interest in making sure I was looked after. I sent a few pictures and they agreed it was not to their standards explaining the curing process in tanning was most likely to blame. They actually sent out a brand new wallet before I had even sent the faulty one back, which to me was an incredible gesture and shows the company is on top of their customer service.
Since then the wallet had been flawless.
The stitching has completely held up to continuously being stuffed into jeans pockets. These photos actually reveal far more detail than you would ever notice on a day to day basis and I’ve never attempted to even clean or care for the leather which might be an interesting undertaking to see the before and after. The interior fabric has also held up well with no tears or signs of fatigue.
One of the best things about the wallet is the design and it’s exactly the size you need to carry all sorts of notes. The lack of flash branding is welcome too with just a small embossed Bellroy logotype on the front and a very subtle embossed owl on the inner flap.
The range of colours Bellroy offer are really awesome too, currently with 10 colours to choose from. Nothing weird, plenty of classic colours but not anything too boring either especially when open and the often contrasting colour gives a bit of pop, making it inviting to use. You can also see the designers having a bit of fun with the interior fabrics, the point here being the outside is more reserved but once open the wallet comes to life a little.
What improvements would I like to see? Since I bought mine, Bellroy have added RFID functionality (protecting from electronic skimmers) to the Note Sleeve making it a better travel companion. They’ve also made improvements to the pull tab featuring the Bellroy logotype.
The only other improvement I would like to see is a more secure closing flap on the coin compartment. Perhaps a different closure or stiffer flap would work better but to be honest it still does the job providing you don’t start stuffing too many coins in there.
It’s also unpretentious. Many of the designer wallets from big fashion houses go out of their way to sell a particular hide or simply trade on name alone charging huge amounts of money for no real benefit or increase in quality.
Would I buy another Note Sleeve? Absolutely. It just does everything I need in a wallet, is high quality without pretending to be more than what it is, and at a great price too. Bellroy products aren’t always cheap, but the Note Sleeve is tremendous value.
Price: $129 AUD ($89 USD / £75 GBP)
Note: Bellroy’s colour spec between the old and new wallets shown here may have changed over the past 5 years so may not accurately reflect changes over time.
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