Wallet chains prevent loss by connecting wallets to the belt loops of their wearers. Considered sensible and stylish, they became prevalent in the middle of the 20th century.
Fast forward to the 2020s. Wallet chains are still considered to be a very functional and practical addition. To many, the decision now isn’t really whether to wear a wallet chain, but rather which kind to wear.
Your wallet needs to have a small d-ring or grommet to hook onto to use most wallet chains. (If yours doesn’t, check out these options – all made by hand in the USA by Mr. Lentz.)
With summer travel coming up, keep your wallet close and protected with the addition of a simple wallet chain.
Through the Years
History’s oldest known wallet was discovered in 1991 when the mummified, 5,300-year-old remains of a late Neolithic man who lived during the Copper Age were found on a glacier in the mountains between Italy and Austria. Dubbed Otzi the Iceman, he wore a bag made of sheepskin.
Purses Become Wallets
By the 1300s, bag-style purses had evolved into flatter styles with gussets that could accommodate coins and personal items. This was when the word “wallet” was first used. Following the introduction of the first flat paper currency in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1690, wallets as we now know them were born. By the late 1800s, wallets had become foldable accessories that fit into pockets.
The modern bi-fold wallet with card slots was created in the early 1950s and jumped in popularity after charge cards emerged. This is still the most popular style sold in the U.S., although money-clip-style wallets, trifold, and smartphone wallets are also widely used.
Biker Chain Evolution
Bikers essentially invented the modern concept of chain wallets to avoid losing their cash during long trips over rugged terrain and through rough weather conditions. Avid motorcyclists adopted the use of wallet chains so widely in the 1950s and 1960s that any wallet secured by a chain became known as a “biker’s wallet.”
Since their adoption as a wardrobe staple in the ‘50s, wallet chains have experienced several surges in popularity. Interestingly, most of these were related to changing tastes in music:
- In the ‘70s, punk-rock fans were drawn to thick, heavy wallet chains that looked intimidating and made chinking sounds as they walked.
- Glam-rockers of the ‘80s responded to shiny wallet chains plated in chrome or precious metals.
- Grunge musicians of the ‘90s shared with their fans affection for the “laid-back” vibe and undeniable functionality of wallet chains.
- By the ‘00s, musicians of the emo, alternative, and hip-hop had taken up wallet chains.
Nowadays, wallet chains are widely accepted by a wide range of groups. Even so, particularly for those with active lifestyles, they remain a very functional and effective method of avoiding wallet loss and theft.
Choosing a Chain Wallet
The best chain wallets are not just stylish but can also take plenty of use and abuse. To quote from the venerable Rolling Stone magazine in August 2021:
“Chain wallets, which date back to the Forties, typically take the form of a trifold or bifold leather wallet with a sturdy chain anchored at the fold. The best chain wallets are built tough by necessity, allowing the chain to be pulled without damaging the wallet.
“This simple addition of a chain is surprisingly convenient. You can hook the chain to your belt or belt loop for faster access to your wallet — no digging in pockets required. This move also adds security, as the wallet isn’t lost forever if it falls out of your pocket, and pickpocketing is all but prevented.
“Alternatively, some chain wallet users attach their keys to prevent forgetting one or the other.”
The 14 styles of chain wallets offered by Mr. Lentz are handmade in our small workshop. We make bifold, biker, trifold, trucker, snap, double-snap, cork, slim, and travel styles.
All are available in your choice of Sun Tanned Natural, Western Brown, or Desert Night Dark full-grain leather and come with a stainless steel, plated steel or leather chain. Each is shipped with a container of our shop-made Mr. Lentz Spiff ‘n Shine leather conditioner.
Choosing a Wallet Chain
Stainless Steel wallet chains don’t tarnish and remain shiny even after years of use. They are cleaned easily with soap, baking soda, and warm water.
For those who already have a chain-ready wallet, Mr. Lentz offers a variety of classic chain styles in durable stainless steel and full-grain U.S. leather. Try our 3/16” nickel-plated steel and 7/16” stainless steel chains in 18” lengths.
Full-grain U.S. leather chains give off a different vibe. Mr. Lentz offers a 7/16″ chain strap width in three colors: Suntanned Natural, Western Brown, and Desert Night Dark.
How to Wear Them
Here’s how to wear a wallet chain:
- Your wallet chain should have a spring hook on at least one end. Use the spring hook to attach the chain to your wallet by snapping it onto the d-ring or grommet.
- Use the other spring hook (or the snapping leather loop) to secure the chain to your belt loop on the side, matching your dominant hand.
- Slide your wallet into the back pocket on the same side as the belt loop.
It’s just that simple. You can now travel with confidence that your wallet will be there right along with you, stylish and secure, when you arrive at your destination.