Monday, June 3, 2013

Bellroy Note Sleeve Review

I am, like most guys, a serial monogamist when it comes to wallets. My first wallet was a very traditional leather burgundy number my grandmother got when I was little and she went to Italy to see the Pope. It had my initials in it and that, alone, was enough for me. Eventually one of the corners blew out and despite serving me well from age 8 or 9 until college, I ditched it in favor of a newer black number, also conservative in design. That wallet limped through college, grad school, and law school, battered by the cost of all that mostly useless, but incredibly fun education. When I landed my job, my only one, coincidentally I am monogamist when it comes to work as well, I did some research on a new wallet. This is how I found EDCF, by the way.

In the end I settled on a wallet made of high tech sail material, the Big Skinny wallet (from a local company, they are headquartered here in Massachusetts). It is a marvel of technology really--super duper slim, non-slip interior, and tons of room for cards and bills. But there are three issues I have with this wallet. First, the sail material, while tough, is not as tough as leather.  Second the material doesn't look anywhere near as nice as leather. This is just part of the trade off for a uber-thin wallet. My first Big Skinny lasted me about 5 years until I retired it. It never self-destructed but it looks quite the worse for wear. Third , again because of its slim form factor, the wallet couldn't store a lot of stuff. There was no way to carry coins or other items. I adapted to these things, liking the slim design first and foremost, but I always kept an eye open for something a little bit more flexible.

Enter Bellroy.

They have made their name with an assault on the Costanza wallet, named after George Costanza of Seinfield fame. George was a wallet monogamist too, but he like his wallets to In one episode he busted out a massive three inch thick wallet stuffed with receipts. This is, coincidentally, very similar to my Dad's wallet. I dubbed his wallet the Hamburger. Bellroy has waged their war on these bulky backpocket buddies through clever designs and careful use of materials. They have a number of designs, all with real leather, all beautifully made, and all designed to be a wallet Weightwatcher.

But the Note Sleeve is something evolutionary. It is their attempt at making a full function wallet slim, or making a slim wallet fully functional. The Note Sleeve is vastly more handsome and more versatile than my Big Skinny. It is also more expensive ($90 v. $25). The real question is whether or not it is worth the extra size, weight, and money. After a two week test, I think the answer for most folks is yes.  There is one drawback that is specific to your country and state's laws regarding proof of ID at purchases, but if that is not an issue or you don't care, then this is a great choice. 

Here is the Note Slim product page. Here is a video eview of the Note Slim. Here is a written review of the Note Slim. Finally, here is the Note Slim review sample sent to me by Bellroy:


Wallets are difficult to review because paper money is different sizes from country to country, because people use their wallets for fundamentally different things, and because ID requirements for purchases vary from state to state and country to country. With these caveats in mind, here are my thoughts on the Note Sleeve.

First, the design is impressive.  Straddling the line between minimalist wallets like the cheaper but less functional Saddleback Leather ID wallet and the traditional full sized wallet, the Note Sleeve's design is an exercise is space management.  Every pocket and sleeve is thoughtfully laid out and despite the thick material, the design accomplishes its goal of being small in stature but big in capacity.

The bill pocket is deep, easily holding US currency and I would imagine many taller bills as well. The stacked credit card sleeves have nice tabbed cut outs that make access easy, though I'd prefer no stacked sleeves at all. The concealed sleeve with the very clever pull out tab is nice, but having it behind the already thick double stack of sleeves adds bulk to the wallet. I like the memory card slot and the coin pocket (though I would not imagine it could carry more than a few quarters or bus tokens).  Here is the business card slot:


and the coin slot:


The memory card slot was hard to photograph because it is embossed leather, but it is on the opposite side of the coin pocket.  Overall, the number of features and pockets is stunning for a slim line wallet.  Here is the layout, sans cards and cash:


This is the Swiss Army knife of wallets, with tons of places to tuck and hide and hold important things.

One big drawback for me that may have zero bearing on your estimation of the wallet is the lack of an ID window.  I live in a state that requires photo IDs for most purchases and the lack of an ID window (even if it fogs up and turns yellow over the years) is a feature I really missed.

The fit and finish on the wallet is really top notch, miles and miles ahead of the Big Skinny I normally carry.  The leather is smooth and soft but durable.


Over two weeks of carry it began to stretch and mold itself to the stuff I carried making the cards and such more secure.  The orange contrast stitching reminds me of the stitching on old blue jeans and it set off the black leather well.  There were no uneven threads or popped seams.  Even the tool work logo was well done--crisp and well-defined.  In terms of fit and finish I could have asked for nothing more.  The fabric on the inside is a little too colorful for me, but it seemed more than sturdy enough for its intended purpose.

The wallet, when loaded up, was thicker by a substantial margin than my Big Skinny.


The leather is, of course, thicker than the sail fabric, but the design is not as ruthlessly slim either.  There is essentially a three sleeve stack on the right hand of the wallet (the concealed stack with pull tab, the middle stack, and the outer stack). This is the main source of bulk, aside from the material.  I really like super slim wallets, so the Note Sleeve's size was a pretty substantial change, but I did appreciate the increased carrying capacity.  If I were a person that hand more credit cards (I have three, that is it; one is the site's account the other two are personal) or had more stuff in my wallet I would definitely settle on this design.  Trifolds and those with detatchable sleeves are too big, and while the Note Sleeve is much larger than the Big Skinny, it carrys a tremendous amount more.  It is probably three times thicker, but carries at least three times as much stuff.

Accessibility is quite good, even with the tight dimensions (whoa the ID sleeve is REALLY tight). This is, in large part thanks to the tabbed sleeves and the Bellroy innovation--the pull tab.


I am not convinced that the pull tab is either necessary or worth the added bulk but there is no way around it--it really, really works.  None of the sleeves are too tight to retrieve things even when the wallet is fully loaded.

The appearance of the wallet is something that is a marked upgrade from my Big Skinny wallet, which, when new looks like a kids wallet, and when old, looks like a wet sock  on the side of the road.  I am entranced by the Bellroy's confident, sleek presentation.  The stitching, dimensions, and leather all command your attention and none look silly.  This is a beautifully crafted and manly looking wallet without looking stupid or tactical.  I would note that the bill sleeve liner, seen here:

is more colorful than I like, but it did help find things in the darkest crevices of the wallet.  

Two weeks of use is not enough time to assess the durability of an object that is with you everyday for decades at a time, but the testing period resulted in no substantial wear, either than the stretching of the material (as I mentioned above).


None of the threads were pulled or popped at all.  I can't guarantee it (though Bellroy does), but it seems like the wallet will wear well for years to come.  

If you need to carry more than the barest essentials and don't want to go down the weirdo wallet route many Kickstart wallets take or the tacticool/Spiderman wallet seen in Maxpedition wallets and the like, the Note Sleeve is a really great design. You'll be surprised as you stuff more and more things into the Note Sleeve and realize that it is not getting substantially bigger.  At some point you might think the Time Lords designed it, so that the Note Sleeve, like their Tardis, is bigger on the inside than on the outside.  But no, it was made by the craftspeople at Bellroy.  The wallet is expensive, especially compared to the cheap leather numbers you can find at discount stores everywhere, but this wallet has top quality leather and most notably an interesting and innovative design.  My only real gripe is the lack of an ID window, but that is a small thing for this space defying big wallet.


  1. I use this wallet and have for the last year or so. Mine has molded beautifully to the cards I carry in it, and I love the pull out tab. It makes carrying things like insurance cards that you only need on occasion great, because they are out of sight and unobtrusive, but when needed are very easily accessed. I also appreciate the stacked card slots because I can pull out the card behind without having to move the card in front. In all a great wallet that I have enjoyed using and believe to be well designed.

  2. Big Skinny has leather skinned versions of a lot of their wallets if you want a little more grown up appearance without much added bulk ( I've only had personal experience with the non-leather version of the very minimalist MiniSkinny (, which I love due to the ID window and how it absolulely disappears in the pocket while carrying quite a bit (in my opinion) and having easy access to cash and primary credit card.

  3. Thanks for such a detailed, informative review Anthony. We'll be sure to share it round. If anyone has any questions just shoot us an email >

    Thanks again.


    1. Dear Friend,

      Does de Slim Slevee Wallet holds business cards?

    2. Does the Slim Slevee Wallet holds Business Cards?

    3. Yes, unfortunately I am multiple months late, but yes it does.

  4. Dudes - how many cards can this handle? I don't carry much cash and never any coins. My life has turned into cards - 12 at the moment, but 15+ is possible. Yikes...

  5. This wallet looks like the perfect balance between minimal and practical. Great design also and I don't think $90 is that expensive for an item that I will use every day for probably 5 years.

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  8. thanks a lot for the informative review :D
    but i want to know, is this wallet sold in indonesia?