Good design can show up anywhere, and it deserves to be pointed out. I recently stumbled across a product that was a bit of a revelation for me: the Big Skinny wallet.
Okay; maybe my OCD is showing, but I have for years searched for the perfect wallet. I don’t carry much in my wallet, but it always seemed to me that whatever wallet I used was just the wrong size. Or too complicated, or too weird, or too expensive.
Besides some money, my wallet must hold an assortment of cards: one credit card, my debit card, license, health & insurance cards, employee ID, business cards, photos of the kids, and a few things. Nothing extraordinary.
I’ve tried all kinds of wallets: bi-folds and tri-folds, leather and nylon, big ones, little ones, and everything in between.
The problem I have with most wallets is that they get too thick once I’ve filled them. I almost always carry my wallet in my jacket and I really hate the bulge it makes. Tri-folds are the worst offenders for this.
I even tried formal wallets, which are quite tall and quite flat. I really like the flatness, but they’re too tall. I can only carry them in a jacket (or coat with some pretty deep pockets); they just don’t fit in my trouser pockets. And my personal preferences aside, there are times when I just don’t have a jacket, so I’m forced to keep my wallet in my trousers.
Enter the Big Skinny. It’s a little wider and longer than average, but still fits in any jacket or shirt pocket, and, in a pinch, vanishes nicely into a trouser pocket.
And they achieve this clever feat just by using geometry to their advantage, and some attentive manufacturing.
Conventional wallets tend to arrange cards so they partly overlap one another. This let’s you shrink the width and length of the wallet at the expense of its thickness. The Big Skinny, on the other hand, has four main pouches for cards that do not overlap at all, and each pouch can hold up to five cards. This spreads the contents out evenly so you don’t get the central bulge from the overlap. To help keep the cards from falling out, they line the inside of each pouch with a rubbery substance that has a bit of stick to it.
To make the wallet even thinner, they’ve carefully selected materials that are very thin, and use careful design to minimize the number of folds in the material where stitching has to go.
Of course, like anything else, the Big Skinny is not perfect. Shake the thing hard enough in the right way, and stuff will slip out of the pouches. But I have adapted quickly to it and now have as much confidence in it to hold onto its contents as I’ve had in any other wallet I’ve used. Of course, as a desk-bound academic whose most acrobatic work activity is writing on a blackboard, I don’t really get the chance to shake the wallet that much. If you carry your wallet while spelunking, playing contact sports, or doing trapeze work, you may find that the Big Skinny is not up to your needs.
Like all good design, the Big Skinny wallet seems glaringly obvious in hindsight. But hindsight is 20/20, and the real challenge is seeing ahead as well as one can see behind. As far as the design of this wallet goes, it looks like the makers of the Big Skinny have done just that. And at under $30, it’s not hard itself.