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    From pouches to pockets - The evolution of wallets

    One would think wallets have existed as long as money has. But the need to carry a survival pack or a pouch of essentials may have existed even before money. Nevertheless, the evolution of wallets is linked closely to that of money. When money changed form, so did wallets. Survival essentials meant dry meats and tools at one time, while today they mean identity proofs and credit cards - and wallets have adapted to the same.

    A wallet has always been a carrier of essentials and treasures - from coins to food, to photos of loved ones - through history.

    Here’s a rough timeline of how wallets evolved.

    1. May we have a word?
    The story of wallets starts from literature. The etymology of the word wallet tells us that it probably comes from the Middle English word walet - a bag or knapsack for the holding of essentials, or Anglo-Norman French from a Germanic word wall/ web meaning to roll, or revolve.


    The ancient Greek word Kibisis which refers to the knapsack carried by Hermes as well as the one used by Perseus to carry the severed head of the monster Medusa is also translated to what we today call a wallet. Yes, and you thought your wallet was messy.

    The word “wallet” also appeared in 1609 when Shakespeare wrote it in the tragedy “Troilus and Cressida” (“Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back, Wherein he puts alms for oblivion, a great-sized monster of ingratitude.”)

    The earliest use of a wallet was similar to that of a survival pack. One carried not just money but also food, and tools.

    2. Hear the coins jingling…
    Before paper money came to being, wallets were essentially coin pouches which were usually simple drawstring leather pouches. Early wallets were made primarily of cow or horse leather. We have also seen mention of coin pouches made from cloths and silks in Indian history. These were used to carry jewels, coins, and sometimes even lunch.

     

    3. Enter: Paper Money
    Paper money entered the scene in 1600s and the wallets became flatter. However, it was still considered rude to carry your wallet in your pocket. It was mostly attached to the belt and was on display - the bigger the wallet, the richer the person.

    Wallets were still being used for more than just cash. They often carried other valuable items and even smoking paraphernalia. These were mostly made from cow or horse leather.

    4. A war, and an unlikely wallet designer.
    In 1920s, Hermes, who was at that time, a bridle and harness maker for horses, took the opportunity to create fashionable leather goods for everyday life. Hence, modern-style wallets came into being. Wallets dating back to WWII have been discovered containing dog tags and photos of family and loved ones.

    5. Put it on the card
    The bi-fold wallet became a standard with the introduction of credit cards in the 1950s. This era also so a lot of different colours, unique leathers, and even velcro entered the wallet scene.

    By 1970s the wallets took a simpler turn towards darker, minimal leather pieces. From an everyday essential to a high-end luxury accessory - wallets became a consistent part of fashion.

    6. And now…
    Everyday wallets are continuously becoming more minimal. There is also a focus on extremely compact and slim wallets as most of our valuables move online.

    Fashion overall is taking a turn towards sustainability, and wallets are no exception. We have come a long way from people showing off crocodile leather purses to today when we are opting for faux leather and other unique materials. Our favourite? Cork.

    Wallets have changed throughout history depending on the needs of the user. We think the need of the world today is to make better, responsible choices. Hence, wallets must once again adapt from being a largely leather-made accessory to something more sustainable and modern.

     

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