“I hate to say it, but the answer is definitely yes,” said Andrew Maag, CEO of Dunhill, a London-based men’s luxury brand. We’re in a digital era, he explained, when there’s little need to lug around the stuff that makes some men’s wallets puff out like a pillow folded in half. A smartphone holds family photos; business cards are unnecessary when you can share contact details via text. Plus, the old-school deck of bank, store and gasoline credit cards can be whittled down to an ID and a debit or credit card to neatly tuck into a razor-thin slotted case with ease.
The digital revolution is just one reason demand is growing, said Mr. Maag, who noted that sales of Dunhill’s card cases have jumped roughly 70% over the past five years, prompting it to increase its card-case selection by 15%. Today the brand offers 30, many priced from $150 to $180—roughly half the cost of its wallets. Lower prices may be another selling point for millennials.
Zach Murman-Freer, 23, a Chicago copywriter, bought his first card holder four years ago, and now uses a $25 Herschel Supply Co. model to hold a credit card, his driver’s license, and a transit pass. “It’s lightweight, slim and clutter free,” he said. “No, you can’t carry cash in it. But why do I need cash in a cashless world? I probably have, like, a dollar in my pocket now.”
Some feel the card case’s flat profile is also a plus for deterring crime. While thieves might spot wallets that balloon from back pockets, a card case can be slipped inconspicuously into a front pocket. And if it does get stolen or lost? “Big deal,” said Ross Bertrand, 55, a sales consultant at Macy’s Herald Square in New York. “It’s just one credit card and an ID to replace.” Another bonus: “When you wear tight jeans, you want them to look flattering,” said Mr. Bertrand, who prefers not to bulge in the back.
Walter Thomas, 59, who works in advertising in New York, wants no part of a minimalist card case. “A wallet is substantive,” he said. “I need the feel of currency in my pocket.” That’s why Mr. Thomas doesn’t care if others think his Prada wallet dates him. In it he carries his driver’s license, health insurance ID, MetroCard, an array of credit cards and usually several hundred dollars in cash. “People who are cashless are clueless,” he argued. “They don’t know what they’ve spent. Having a wallet is like having a gas gauge.”
Keeping tabs on your bottom line isn’t the only draw for those who prefer a wallet over a card case. A quality billfold in plain or embossed leather is a bigger fashion statement, as it’s more noticeable when you whip it out. “A wallet is like a tie or socks,” said Jonathan Rhys Abbott, the public relations manager for Smythson, a London-based fine leather goods company. “It’s a way of expressing personality. And it’s an investment piece.”
While many younger shoppers are leaning toward card cases, Mr. Abbott said, it’s not uncommon for millennials to opt for a thin wallet, which holds six to eight cards. Courting both ends of the market, Smythson’s offerings range from cross-grain card cases ($165)—with two to four slots—to coat wallets ($455), the longer and larger kind you tuck in the inside pocket of your topper. That latter boasts 14 card slots and four pockets for cash, receipts and sundry items.
Is it possible to satisfy minimalists and old-school wallet aficionados in one fell swoop? Consider hybrids such as Il Bussetto’s slim pocket-size zip-around version ($80; mrporter.com ), which has two card slots and a zippered compartment to hold cash.
Mr. Thomas remains unswayed. “The card case still seems like an affectation,” he said. “It’s like being in the Wild West and trying to get by with a derringer.”