Back in the days of my brief visit at CMR Saint-Jean, one of my extraordinary instructors taught us a piece war-time wisedom that I still remember: wearing the same combat uniform for 30 straight days is hell, but lugging around too much fresh gear is probably worst. Since then, I have tried to apply this lesson in minimalist packing into my daily life. Previously, my packing/carrying habits would function on a cycle of progressive accumulation followed by a frenzy of furious stripping of anything remotely less useful. The ample wallet that I carried allow me to pack as much stuff as I wanted without getting disorganized, until I eventually grew tired of my fat wallet and cleaned it out to make it slimmer. However, no matter how much stuff you take out, you can't make a big wallet smaller than the size it was built to; after a solid 6 months of minimal wallet habits, that's when I felt a need for change.
I had been eyeing Bellroy's stuff for a little while now, as for the past year or so I've been an occasional lurker on their sister site Carryology, which covers all things carry from wallets to luggage. Seeing a company run a blog featuring mostly competitor's products really inspired me. The folks at Bellroy are obviously passionate about what they do, and this passion definitely transpires through their products. We've all been disappointed at one point or another by internet purchases that turn out to be duds; buying from passionate craftsmen eliminates the possibility of disappointment because you KNOW you're going to get a kick-ass product.
My criteria for my new wallet were pretty simple: it had to fit at least 4 cards, ideally more, it had to be small, and it didn't necessarily need much place for bills. Because I'm broke most of the time, I generally don't strut around with much cash, and most of my purchases are made with plastic. Being that I am not very fond of zippered wallets, I chose the Slim Sleeve. Choosing the color was the hard part: I'm a black leather kind of man, but the blue stitching on the black leather seemed kind of out of my usual "shades of gray" color palette, and the tan version also looked very good. In then end, I went with the black version, and 4 business days later, my new wallet was at my doorstep.
The wallet showed up in a surprisingly small USPS envelope, which contained a slim, protective and thoughtfully designed cardboard sleeve. This use of intelligent packaging shows how serious these guys are about respecting their environmental goals. My slim sleeve was unaffected by shipping, and nearly all the packaging that was used to get it from Bellroy to my doorstep could be recycled.
My first contact with my new Slim Sleeve a very pleasant experience. Leather goods in general are very satisfying things to hold and manipulate, so coupled with the "new item" hype, this wallet definitely had me stoked. My particular copy was nearly perfect: the smooth, fine-grained leather was evenly tanned and free of any major defects or flaw. Of course, there were the odd imperfections that give real leather it's character, but otherwise the wallet was a blank canvas for the abuse that I will be putting it through in the years to come. The lining was also in perfect condition, and the sewing was top notch, with every seam tight and laser-straight.The embossed Bellroy logo, which turned out much smaller than I had imagined it, is a nice subtle touch that beautifully completes the clean look of the product. A similar embossed owl logo can be found on the inside of the wallet. Put shortly, the Slim Sleeve looks and feels like a quality product design to stand through years of use. It also smells good (vegetable tanning maybe?), but I don't expect that to last.
With regards to usability, the Slim Sleeve isn't a traditional wallet in any kind of way. The design is totally different from the classic note section + card slots, being comprised of two main card slots, a cash/card section and an additional card section with a pull tab. This design is what permits having such a slim wallet: the wallet doesn't control your organization with individual cards slots, note sections, and other features that boil down to useless additional leather, YOU choose where your stuff belongs.
If you're used to regular bi-folds or tri-folds, there will be some things to get used to. The first one of them is cleaning up your everyday carry. I had a pretty minimal wallet already at the time of purchase, but I took advantage of my switch to a new wallet to do further stripping: the odd business card, receipts and my social security card were removed. It takes a bit of discipline to empty out a wallet, but even more so to keep it clean; this means that if you're a pack rat or a messy person in general, this wallet might not be for you.
The second habit is bill-folding. Aussies have it easy with the Slim Sleeve: they can fold their baby-sized notes in half and just slip it right in to the pocket built to that effect. Us Canadians, with our (relatively) big notes, have to be a bit more strategic and fold the notes in three to make them fit, as folding in two will obstruct the fold of the wallet. For obvious reasons, this makes carrying large amounts of cash sort of cumbersome. This doesn't really affect me because I only carry solid currency during my nights out for fast payment, but the old-timers of this world who like carrying around 3 month's worth of pay might find this troublesome. Who still pays cash anyways? By the end of next year we'll all be using bitcoins anyways, right? For the time being, I have found that carrying 6 bills folded in three is perfectly feasable without bulking up the wallet, and I'd expect up to 10 notes to fit without a problem. The only real inconvenience that I find with folding is that it can sometimes be a very awkward thing to do in public, specially when deal with several notes.
Unfortunately, I didn't test out how bill-folding works with American notes, or any other currency for that matter. The most square-like euro notes like pounds might be a tight fit, but according to my calculations will fit with a single fold. Be sure to check out how you'll have to fold before purchasing.
Bottom line: if you're in the market for a slim wallet, I'd have no reservations at recommending the Bellroy Slim Sleeve. It's a quality product from people who know what they're doing, and it's does it's job in style while remaining perfectly functional.