Let's be candid--the amount of leatherwork available on the Hipsternet is crazy. In the past five years it seems like everyone that has ever whiffed the pungent tang of a cow patty now makes wallets, leather watch bands, key fobs, and valet trays. And over the years I have been seduced by many of these hipster leather brands. In short, if you want an "artisianal" leather you can find 10,000 cows worth on the web.
Unfortunately, in my experience, many of these leather products have two things in common--they are expensive and they are half-baked. Do you know why so few people did leatherwork ten years ago? Because it is hard to do. Do you know why so many people do it now? Because our standards for what constitutes good work have been lowered as we buy products more for their "story" and twee websites than we do for the end result. You can keep your leather wallet so thick that it looks like a stack of coaster. While your at it, keep the wallet that looks like it was made from straps of some old hippy's Birkenstocks.
I want a leather wallet that looks like it was made for and by an adult--a wallet that is not out of place in a suit pocket or a nice restaurant. But if I could, I'd like that wallet to also have some good design chops to it, which, unfortunately, many traditional brands lack. I have no space in my pocket or my life for a trifold. For a long time I thought that wallet was the Bellroy Card Sleeve, which is an excellent little money holder. But over time it seemed to wear thin. And, in retrospect (the best of the -spects, in my opinion), it lacked that last bit of polish necessary to make it look like a quality piece, as opposed to quality piece for an internet-only brand.
Enter the A-Slim Yaiba. A-Slim reached out to me for this review. That's not unusual because a full 1/3 of review request sent my way are for wallets (the other 2/3s are Kickstarter projects and things that are only tangentially related to EDC). The vast majority of these requests get no response at all from me as I can tell they are bots and not people and because you and I both have no interest in an accordion-style aluminum wallet in digicam (can we just agree that no one wants something in digicam unless they are going to battle, especially something you don't want to lose?) that sells for $3.95 on Ali Express. Initially I didn't bite. But then I circled back and did some research and it turned out they weren't offering me an "extraordinary deal" on wallets, SEO, moving services or some other bullshit. This was a real company with a real product. And so I said yes and a few days later the Yaiba arrived.
Here is the review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: An adult's minimalist wallet.
There are only a few ways to layout a non-folding wallet. It is pretty hard to come up with new ideas in this space. You get a vertical layout like the Bellroy I liked so much or a horizontal layout like this wallet. Beyond that, the rest is just a series of small touches. But my experience has shown me that those small touches really matter. Here the stitching, the access cut outs, and the center pocket have all been masterfully designed. The end result is a wallet that is clearly my favorite among the wallets I have reviewed.
Fit and Finish: 2
Unlike some of the "artisianal" leather wallets out there, this one has competent stitching, excellent edge finishing, and a bright, smooth, and flawless finish to the leather. There is nothing to complain about here.
The leather here has an excellent finish to it, a true shine that makes it feel like it was given that extra step of care that many of the matte-finished leather wallets are lacking. The thread in the stitching isn't the now-cliched contrast color and on my review sample it was nicely sewn and even around the entire wallet. It has also held up to a good amount of wear and tear.
Carry has been delightful. The wallet is not a slim as others I have had, but the overall volume is still well within the acceptable range. It slides nicely into a back pocket and it can even ride in a dress shirt breast pocket when necessary. I also like the fact that unlike with many Hipsternet wallets, this one doesn't cling to the material in my pocket allowing me to get it out easily. Its not so slick that it would fall out, but its not like pulling an eraser out of a sock either.
The v-neck access cutouts on the Yaiba make it an very accessible wallet, you can pop out any card with just a push of the thumb. The pockets are low enough that you can flash an ID without having to remove it. The only thing that isn't great is the center pocket when it is stuffed with cash.
I am not a cash carrying person, so that's not a drawback for me, but it is something worth noting. As with all of these slim wallets, they are not designed to hold a mafioso's wad of cash, but with a few bills the Yaiba does well.
One of my big complaints with some of the "artisanal" leather wallets out there is that they look like garbage out of the package. I understand that leather hipsters want their gear to age with them, the carry a patina of use indicative of tales and adventures. But you know what? I'd prefer a wallet that looks nice, that isn't embarrassing to pull out at a nice restaurant, and doesn't look like it was made from recycled shoe leather. The threading is also very nice here--even and clean. It is a very small thing, but some of the thread used on other wallets is garish and bright in a way that detracts from the overall appearance. It makes the wallet look amateurish because, well, it was made by an amateur. Not so with the Yaiba.
The only drawback here is that when you have credit cards with raised text, like all thin wallets, you get imprinting. The extra layer of polish found on the leather makes that imprinting stand out a bit more than it would on a matte-finished wallet:
If you move stuff around or store cards face to face you can limit this issue, but if you don't eventually you could just get your credit card number from your wallet, without even taking your card. That said, if you are careful, this is no big deal.
After carrying it for a few months, the Yaiba still looks almost indistinguishable from when it was brand new. The wallet has flexed out a bit, but nothing that inhibits retention. Over a year or two I would imagine that the Yaiba would still look great as there is very little that is prone to ugly wear on the wallet--there is no ID window to fog up or plastic sleeves to hold pictures.
The wallet's size and shape help a lot with retention. Even with the wallet not stuffed, the cards and cash stay in place quite well. When the center cash slot is full things have no chance of moving around. There are no tricks here, no rubberized interior or bands, just a good solid design.
There is very simple design with only two different kinds of pockets. The end result is a wallet that is probably not going to trick anyone or foil a pickpocket. It might, however, make it easier to find stuff. Some wallets seem to go for being a gizmo accessory offering things like key holders and secret pockets. These features and designs have yet to persuade me of their utility. Leaving them off the Yaiba is a good idea.
While not as efficient as an uber thin wallet, the Yaiba does quite well given how thick and sturdy the leather is. For the volume, the Yaiba holds an above average amount of stuff.
Score: 19 out of 20
Aside from the imprinting issue, there is really no reason not to buy this wallet. And in this design, this particular form factor, there is no way around the imprinting issue, regardless of brand. If you have a wallet like this, you will have some imprinting--its a side effect of such a slim package with no "interior" facing pockets. I really liked the Yaiba, its probably an upgrade the to Bellroy I was previously entranced by, but I can easily see fans of bifold scoffing. This is a wallet that is nearly as thick with not as much storage. Still, for me, someone that has no need for a bifold, this wallet fell into a sweet spot.
Compared to the Bellroy, even with the conversion rate (this is a British product priced in pounds) the Yaiba comes out ahead. If they were the same price I would probably choose the Yaiba, but given that they aren't and the Yaiba is cheaper, this is a no-brainer.