The Minimal Wallet that Gets it Right
Twenty-twelve seems to have been the year of minimalism across lifestyles, products, and software -- wallets notwithstanding. As one of the holy carrying trifecta for men (phone and keys being the other two, natch), the wallet holds the necessary things for buying and identifying. In an increasing modern world where cash is carried less and less, designers have moved towards minimizing the grossly over-sized everyday carry to accommodate only the necessaries. Supr's Slim Kickstarter project was one such endeavor.
Supr pitched their Slim wallet with a goal of $10,000 for production assistance. Their manifesto:
We believe that all you really need in your wallet are your essential cards. Supr Slim was created with this in mind - to be a super-thin, card-carrying over-achiever.
Six thousand, two hundred and thirty-seven backers later, Supr exploded that goal by reaching $203,488. Obviously there is a market for this kind of thing.
Based on Supr's project, the qualifications for a minimal, slim wallet seem to be the following:
- Ability to hold 5-10 credit card-sized items
- Ability to hold cash, but likely only a few bills folded into thirds
- Adds very little additional weight, girth to the items you carry
- Ableness to move easily through RFID scanners (office buildings, public transportation)
- Durability of materials
- Built in the USA
The Supr Slim wallet is minimally built for its minimal purpose. Its body is comprised of durable elastic band, designed to stretch and wrap around its contents, but smart enough to unwind tightly to adjust to the load. They claim (and I can attest to with previous wallets) that leather materials stretch to accommodate larger loads, but do not gracefully shrink back when you remove a card or two. This leaves an undesirable gap between cards and their thresholds. The Supr Slim wallet solves this [possibly] critical predicement: it "will never stretch out or lose its ability to grip your cards". Since we are just talking about a nice piece of elastic stiched together to holds things in, it should measure up to these expansion/deflation expectations.
Build quality that touts these features, including manufacture in the USA, should excell. After only a week of use, the Super Slim does seem to have durability, though it's too early to say how long a piece of elastic fabric will last. The hand-stiched "X" is also of suspect quality. According to their updates, mid-way through production:
"We lost our embroidery team who had been doing all the hand-stitching of our X detail. As a consequence, we experienced a bit of a slowdown in production for the past couple weeks as a new team is being trained. One of the lessons for us throughout this process has been how difficult it is to find skilled people to perform this kind of fine handwork here in the USA at this scale."
This kind of thing is bound to happen, and it's not the embroidery team I'm worried about -- it's simply the durability of a very simple X with four piercings through the elastic. It is the one unique identifying detail about the wallet, and I doubt it will withstand the daily use of a wallet from tight pockets and varying fabrics. (Though it could be argued that the wallet becomes more minimal by losing such an embellishment.) And lastly, the elastic surface does tend to attract small pocket stuffs, like lint. I may notice more often than most because my elastic color is a dark navy, but this would never happen with leather material. Go figure.
I'd grown accostomed to carrying around a simple card wallet for over several years, so I knew what to expect with something like the Supr Slim wallet's sleeve design. You squeeze some cards in, maybe a folded bill, and that's it. The trick is positioning frequently used cards on the outer ends of the interior "stack" so that they are easily to pull out. These are typically my CTA (public transportation) pass 1 and my ID. This layout may change with the Supr Slim wallet, but the point is it's actually a bit difficult to get to some of those cards in the middle of the stack. The Supr Slim wallet doesn't make this any easier -- in fact, it creates more difficulty than the Saddleback Wallet Sleeve I'd previously been using. The Saddleback has a finger-cut bottom for pushing up the cards vertically (the design is vertical whereas the Supr Slim is horizontal) and easily sifting through the tight stack, Supr's has a rather thick, 2mm stitched binding at the bottom of the elastic bay. If you want to get something out of the stack, you're going to have to pull everything out, or pick at it with your fingernails.
When empty, the wallet is surprisingly smaller than the size of a credit card -- this is obviously by design, but it actually adds a bit of friction during use. Since the elastic bay is smaller than its typical contents, when you are depositing and withdrawing cards, it takes a bit more time to get the stack back inside than a typical card wallet made of credit-card sized leather.
Overall, however, it's functional -- but not necessarily utilitarian for everyday use. Of the positives: it has a very small footprint in your pocket, adds little to no weight to the items you use it for, and works exceptionally well with RFID scanners. It isn't so great, however, when it comes to the elastic material holding cash, packing more than 6 cards, and easily accessing cards in the middle of the stack. After a few more weeks, I'd probably get a quick system down for extracting cards in the middle of the stack, so the last point might be moot. And since I've only given it a test run of a week, I can't speak to its long-term durability, but I'll likely update this review at the 6-month mark with results.
Supr certainly wasn't the first out of the gate for a product filling these qualifications. Several other great brands have designed slim, sturdy little card-carrying wallets that work just great. Granted, you could take any product designed to carry business cards and call it a slim wallet, but these are exemplar of what we're talking about with Supr's project.
A few examples:
While I haven't tried the Gus, the other two operate as advertised. I found the Slimmy wallet to actually be a bit thicker than the Saddleback because of its three-panel design, but the separated sections do help with organization. Saddleback's is made of amazingly durable real leather, but it's just a glorified card case, so you'll have to pull out everything to get cards in the middle of the "stack". Both work with my office building's security gates, but fail to properly work with my public transportation's stalls (CTA). Either leather must not help with the RFID scanners they employ, or my office building's stronger card interferes.
The Experience of Kickstarting
I've kickstarted several projects, a few of which have been hardware. As with most Kickstarter projects, there were a few delays in getting the wallet into production and finalized for shipment, but I received mine three and a half months after the project was funded. This is one of the better turnarounds for hardware funded through Kickstarter (the Pen Type-A, for instance, was notoriously late to ship -- 6-10 months after the estimate). As noted, designers claimed there were issues with stitching their little "X" on the front of the wallets, an explanation I'm fine with. But as an investor in a product, like most of these Kickstarter things go, I'm entitled to know what's going on -- challenges, solutions, and requests for input. Luckily, the Supr team did a fairly good job with all this, and the experience funding this particular project has been notably good:
- Backers received frequent enough updates that didn't inundate our inboxes with unnecessary banter
- Updates often came with well-designed photo cards with a splash of typography, giving the whole process a stylized methodology
- Production was smartly planned, and for the most part, proceeded without any derailments (aside from the aforementioned loss of their embroidery team) 2
In summary: the Supr Slim wallet is a nice piece of stitched elastic that happens to conform nicely with credit cards. That's it. And that's all it's suppose to be. So call it minimal, or call it dumb. If you like removing all the excess from your pockets and your life, you'll probably like the Supr Slim wallet.
You can sign up for a notification for when it is available at the Supr Good store.
Updated - June 2013
It's been a few months since I wrote this review of the Supr Slim wallet. To call it a review is somewhat dishonest -- it operated as more of a one week impression of using the product. Now that I've been using the wallet daily, I can provide a much better interpretation of how it operates in the real world and holds up as an object.
The Supr Slim wallet has surprised me in its usability. It really is the slimmest thing you can buy to keep your credit cards (or business cards) somewhat protected from the elements. I tried going back to my Saddleback wallet for a few days on a trip back to Minnesota and as slim as it is, it felt thicker and heavier than what I'd grown accustomed to with the Supr Slim. Definitely wasn't expecting that -- it's so awesomely lightweight, you forget it's in your pocket.
The quality concerns I had, while not unfounded, have proved moot. The stitched 'X' remains in tact with the slightest of threading (eventually this will fuzz up or get snagged on something), remaining visually intact. The elastic material has held up perfectly fine, too, and I can presume will do so for quite some time. As thin as it is, it still feels sturdy and tight, and adjusts dandily to my set of six cards.
Overall, I still recommend it for the minimalist wallet carrier.
For some reason the RFID reader for the CTA can't pierce through my Saddleback wallet, so I have to scoot the card out a little in order to successfully pass through the turnstyle. ↩
As of this writing, they have only shipped the black and navy wallets, while backers of other colors still wait. Whether this was planned or not, I can't recall. ↩
Updated - July 2014
Here we are, over a year since the last update. I've still been using the Supr Slim wallet frequently (more so than other wallets, aside from the few months of trying a new one for a review), and it has held up remarkably well. Still perfectly functioning, still in great shape. A few notable observations (with a new photo below):
- The "x" stitching is still fully intact (and hasn't ripped or broke)
- The elastic is still super sturdy and hasn't lost a bit of grip/tightness
- The only issue I've encountered is the unraveling of a very small elastic lining in one of the bottom-corners of the wallet. Wear and tear, most likely, and it hasn't affectly anything. Only worry is accidentally aggravating this by pulling it out -- it could unravel the integrity of the bottom enclosure.
Otherwise, I still recommend the hell out of this wallet.