I feel that there are many words in the menswear vernacular that are overused or used incorrectly; terms like “bespoke,” “tailored,” “hand-made” and others readily come to mind. There is one in particular that bugs me more than the others, and that’s the overuse of the word “artisanal.” In my mind, this word refers to a high-quality item created and sold by a skilled craftsman. As an example – Camillo of Red Cotton Denim, Diane and Gerald of Vanda Fine Clothing, and Charlie of Equus Leather are some of the people that I feel match that definition. These people aren’t salesmen or vendors; they’re incredibly skilled craftsmen and women spending most of their time making great products.
Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that after trying out this wallet I can confidently say that Bellanie and Brandon of Chester Mox fit this definition well. They design and craft a wide array of small leather goods in Los Angeles and in doing so they have created the best value for wallets that I know of.
Earlier this summer I was put in touch with the Chester Mox team and was offered one of their stock items for review, free of charge. Most of the times I am offered free products I find that they don’t fit in with what I write about here or are otherwise uninteresting; however, I had heard and seen many good things about Chester Mox over the past few years and was curious to try their products in person.
Wallets are a very personal and important accessory, if for no other reason than the fact that they are always with you. Because of this, I think it’s important to find something that fits your lifestyle and is built well enough to last for a long time. Although I am generally a thrifty person, I don’t have a problem putting down a bit of money for a good wallet because I know that the wears-per-dollar ratio will be off the chart.
I picked the #53 compact bifold in saffron museum calf because the design seemed ideal to me – the same size as most cardholders, but with a bifold shape. The price for this design varies from $100-$180, depending on the material; however, some simpler card cases are priced as low as $45.
When I received the wallet I was greeted with all the signs of a high-quality leather product – the rich smell, tactile sensations, and depth of color. Upon closer examination, I could also see the marks of careful and skilled handwork – the hand-painted and burnished edges, clean and straight stitching, and of course, a simple and aesthetically pleasing design. I should also mention that the museum calf leather is beautiful and adds a bit of visual interest without being too loud.
Speaking of stitching, it is worth noting that Chester Mox has now fully converted to exclusively using saddle stitching on their goods. Saddle stitching is an old-school way of hand-stitching leather goods, and it is used by some of the best leather brands in the world like Hermes. I won’t pretend that I can fully appreciate this big upgrade in construction quality, but the stitching looks wonderful and feels indestructible. Any wallet ordered from this point forward will be constructed with saddle stitching.
I have owned two wallets of reasonable quality over the years, one by Coach and one by Aspinal of London. I do enjoy both of those wallets and have put them to good use, but there is absolutely no denying that this Chester Mox one is on a level above them. The material and construction are both significantly better. Given the use of saddle stitching, the high quality of the leathers used, and the large amount of handwork I’m confident that this could stand up well next to some of the best wallets out there, and for a much better price. If this wallet was lost or stolen I would not hesitate to replace it at the price it’s currently offered.
I could go on about the quality of this wallet, but instead I’ll say this: whenever I pull it out of my jacket I can’t help but smile. The feeling of the leather in my hand and the rich color of the wallet are exciting every time I use it, and that helps take the sting out of buying a seven dollar Sierra Nevada at my neighborhood watering hole. The money may flow in and out of this wallet all too quickly, but I’m confident that it will be around for a while.