Exploring the History of the Wallet: An EDC Essential

The wallet. Chances are you’ve got one in your pocket right now. Hopefully, a Machine Era one but we won’t hold it against you if it’s not! But have you ever thought about this EDC essential, a cornerstone of a man’s accessory line up and contemplated its origins and how they came to be so diverse today?

Well, we did, and we decided to do a little digging into the history of the wallet and wanted to shed some light on where this fundamental accessory came from and delve into the various different iterations and permutations that it has experienced over the years to get where it is today.

We obviously have a certain affinity for wallets in the workshop at Machine Era Co as it’s one of our cornerstone products and we’ve had a blast creating such a great selection of wallets over the years. It is, of course, interesting to us to trace the timeline of the humble wallet and we hope you’ll find it an interesting one too!


Whilst there is always going to be some disputes and disparities when it comes to the first use of a wallet, the concept as it has come to be known can be traced back to the 14th century and was used to refer to a bag or a knapsack for carrying articles about so not quite in the same mold as we know and love wallets today but certainly with the same intention of keeping one’s portable and personal possessions close at hand.

It is in the Renaissance period of the 1600’s where the notion of the wallet really comes into its own, however, and they were born out of necessity because this coincided with the emergence of paper currency in the Western world (the first paper currency was introduced in the New World by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690).

And, of course, a means by which to keep this currency protected was needed. So, the EDC enthusiasts of the 17th century came up with the clever idea of a wallet. It’s fair to say the wallets that these guys were carrying around would undoubtedly have looked very different from our own Ti5’s at Machine Era but the principle of them carrying them remained resolutely the same.

Whilst many men would have carried a coin-purse to carry around their money prior to the emergence of the wallet as we would recognise it today, it is this emergence of a paper currency in 1690 that acted as the catalyst for the creation of wallets as we understand them today and set the wheels in motion for so many different styles and materials to be used in their crafting in the subsequent years.

By the time the 19th century rolled around, the way in which men used wallets had moved on and adapted to their needs and requirements. For example, they were no longer merely a means of carrying money around, many men in the West would be using their wallets to store other essentials as well such as food and tobacco.

However, carrying food around in the “wallet” soon become recognised as uncivilised and died a death fairly quickly but using them to carry tobacco remained popular for a long time - particularly in England and Spain.


Leather is a material which history has shown to be around in the textile trade since the Middle Ages (and probably before) but it was the Industrial Revolution which became integral to its usage in the crafting of wallets and, it’s easy to see why this material initially became the most commonly used in the creation of wallets in the 19th century because it was abundantly available and extremely robust and durable.

The Industrial Revolution brought leather to the masses and made it possible to create products in a whole host of new ways including the dying, oiling and preserving of the material which meant craftsmen could get more and more creative about the sorts and styles of the wallets that they were creating during this time period.

This is one of the most integral points in the history of the wallet and really did give rise to its blossoming popularity to the point where it is now considered a fundamental piece of EDC for all men.


With the Industrial Revolution well and truly laying the groundwork for the emergence of the wallet as we know and love it today by making the crafting process and the access to materials much more manageable, the speed at which the wallet industry took off thereafter is fairly unprecedented.

Today’s wallets, whether they be bi-folds, tri-folds, card holders or money clips and whether they are crafted from leather, aluminium or titanium, can all trace their origins back to the Industrial Revolution’s influence on the manufacturing and material sourcing process and regardless of the style of wallet that you yourself favor today, it will have been heavily influenced by this period of time and the upheaval that surrounded it.

As we said, it was the emergence of paper currency that gave rise to the need for wallets in the first place and, similarly, the arrival of credit cards in the 1950s meant that the style and shape of men’s wallets could change and were no longer so reliant and restricted by the shape of the currency that we typically carried on a day to day basis.

The trend for wallets has been becoming more and more minimalist as the decades wore on and men grew weary of lugging around a colossal wallet in their pockets. The emergence of new technologies meant the amount of things we needed to carry around in our wallets experienced a dramatic reduction and most of today’s modern men will seldom need to carry more than a handful of cards and perhaps a few bank notes with them on a day to day basis - and this is a fact which is reflected in the way in which we design our selection of wallets here at Machine Era Co.

Our EDC is minimalist, durable and USA made in our own workshop so we can vouch for the quality. We fully appreciate the journey wallets have been on since they first became an entity back in the 14th Century and we love the fact that we get the opportunity to flex our design muscles and create new and exciting wallets for any EDC enthusiast out there so regularly.

Wallets have come a long way in the last few centuries and we’re excited to see where they might go in the next few decades as technology improves and new materials are considered in their crafting. Watch this space for more wallets from us here at Machine Era!