Hollows Leather – ‘Eastbound’ wallet review

Type: review

Status: non-sponsored

Maker: Hollows Leather

Item: wallet, bifold

 

Nicholas Hollows’ appearance on this blog is, most certainly, many years overdue.

For as long as this blog has been running, and as Superfuture was growing into its golden years, Nic has been making work-style leather goods; Nic being perhaps one of a handful of leather workers who are also true hobbyists in heritage inspired menswear & Japanese denim.

An opportunity arose earlier this year, with our Patina Party 2019 contest, for me to commission a natural vegetable tanned wallet. Whilst Nic no longer takes on custom projects, he was kind enough to make an exception for our contest.

After some brainstorming and leather selection, we settled on this special version of his Eastbound bifold wallet.

Let’s take a look!

 

Design

The Eastbound wallet is a classic bifold wallet, featuring symmetrical inner paneling and an inlay-style outshell.

This bifold measures 11.5 cm in length and 9.5 cm in height.

The thickness is 17 mm, at the thickest, when loaded and folded.

The Eastbound could be considered a medium to large sized bifold.

The inside features 4 quick access card slots, 2 storage compartments, and 1 full sized bill compartment.

It will store a dozen cards easily, whilst allowing fast and clear access to bills.

 

Leather

The leathers on the Eastbound has been specially selected to be compliant with the rules of the Patina Party 2019 contest – they must be undyed, natural vegetable tanned leathers without excessive post-tannage correction or stuffing.

The main character here, being the inlay of the outshell, is a rare leather: Shinki tannery’s natural horsebutt leather.

Shinki, of shell cordovan fame, produces also horsebutt leather for shoes and front quarter horsehide for jackets. The natural version of their horsebutt is fairly rare, and a piece as clean as the one Nic has chosen is very rare indeed.

As with Shinki’s other leathers, the horsebutt is pit-tanned with Mimosa bark, spending several months in the liquor, in a process not too dissimilar to Baker’s crafting of oak bark leather.

The result is an extremely dense horsehide, with incredible grain and superior wear potential. Due to its density, the hand-feel is rather slippery, despite the intense grain pattern of horsehide, and the sheen is already quite intense when new.

You may have encountered Shinki’s horsebutt leather on some high-end work boots, such as Viberg or The Real McCoy’s, though this super-clean natural version is a tier above Shinki’s usual coloured horsebutts.

The horsebutt here measures around 1.4 mm (3.5 oz).

The frame and the inner paneling are made from Conceria Walpier’s natural Buttero leather. Regular readers of this blog will have come across Buttero leather in my previous wallet reviews already, but here is a recap:

“……it is a drum tanned and heat finished Italian vegetable tanned leather, known for its durability, slippery & somewhat glossy surface, and rigid temper. The key qualities of a dense grain, solid & firm handle and the ability to stay relatively ‘clean’ with use makes this an almost ideal carry goods leather – easy to work with, and produces good results – indeed, Buttero is very popular among craftsman who specializes in finer wallets.

The consistency and depth of colour is very good compared with most Italian leathers, but like all vegetable tanned leathers, natural scars and grain variegation do show through with some wear or a layer of conditioner. The baseline colour is also a shade darker compared to the true, unfinished colour of most hides.

Of interest, Buttero has a light, creamy smell. Very different from pure bark tanned leathers which tend do have a much more astringent scent.

Overall, Buttero is a very refined leather that has a decent tannage. Perhaps a little more ‘finished’ and lacking in grain growth compared to the highest tier of natural leathers, which are pit-tanned over much longer periods of time, but Buttero does add elegance…… Natural Buttero will age quite gracefully over time too.”

 

Construct

The Eastbound wallet has been hand-cut, hand-sewn & hand-burnished.

The paneling and stitch-work on the outer, due to the inlay design, is more complex than the average bifold.

Nick has managed to cut and panel the wallet very neatly – there are no misaligned edges or asymmetries.

All the pieces of leather fit into each other perfectly.

The saddle-stitching is neat, sewn at 7 SPI.

Due to the inlay design, the Eastbound is more time-intensive in terms of hand-stitching compared with most bifolds of the same size.

Zooming a little closer, you can see that the holes have been consistently and neatly punched.

The thread tension is close to perfect throughout, with the threads sitting at just the right level relative to the leathers.

Overall, the stitch lines are very straight and regularly spaced from the edges, even with the curving edges of the outer rim.

Nic has managed to cross over the various panels without the threads biting through the edges of the leather.

The Hollows symbol is stamped on the bottom left.

The panels are neatly placed, and the edges of the slots are nicely creased.

Nic has cleverly designed the inner so the the thickness of the wallet is very even, from top to bottom.

The backsides of the leather are smoothly finished, resulting in minimal friction when the bill compartment is in use.

The edge work is fairly good throughout.

All the edges of the various panels have been burnished.

The outer edges are beveled nicely.

The various layers of leather are densely pressed together, and multiple rounds of burnishing have resulted in a blended edge, where it is initially difficult to distinguish the layers.

The burnishing has resulted in a smooth touch and moderate shine.

I quite like the bloomy appearance.

Overall, the crafting here is at a very high level – definitely the work of a professional.

 

Patina at 3 Months

I’ve carried this Eastbound wallet for a full 3 months now – the longest I’ve carried one wallet since I was in high school!

What do you think of the leather evo here?

Definitely, the horsebutt and the Buttero have aged in different ways in terms of rate, shine and colour.

By chance, the browning tones are different but complementary. No sickly blue shades here!

The most obvious observation so far is that the Buttero achieves patina much faster than the Shinki horsehide – the horse leather is certainly a slow-burn project.

The placement of the leathers here make a big difference of course.

Friction spots, where there is significant focal darkening, can be observed on the Buttero inner, offering some insights as to the tone of brown to expect in the future.

The wallet is very user friendly too, and meets my needs – the bifold is still my favourite wallet form factor.

Overall, I’d say the wallet and its leathers are looking very good at 90 days.

 

Thoughts

I’ve spent much time with this Eastbound wallet by Hollows Leather since May this year, and I can say with confidence that Nic has crafted an incredible wallet that is standing up to very rugged use.

The 3-month update photos above can tell you more about the quality and potential of this wallet more than any words I can type here. Truly, a beautiful wallet that is becoming more magnificent with time. A perfect demonstration of the essence of our leather hobby.

I think it is important to mention that the Eastbound wallet is $350 USD, and thus I will be critiquing this wallet very strictly, given the boutique tier pricing.

Firstly, Nic’s material selection is certainly high end – the best Japanese and Italian natural vegetable tanned leathers are showcased here. The truth of these leathers is in how they age with wear, and I must say both the Shinki horsebutt and Buttero leather are demonstrating their worth. The toasty brown tone of the Buttero and the mellow darkening of the Shinki are very pleasing to my eyes – not many leather can age with such grace.

The rarity of the super-clean natural horsebutt certainly adds to the mystique of this particular Eastbound wallet. I’m glad Nic decided to take a gamble on it with me.

The design of the Eastbound is at once user friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Nic’s work has always impressed me by their character & styling – in sensing Hollows Leather goods, it is clear to me that their maker is a true enthusiast of heritage-inspired styles and vintage Americana. This Eastbound wallet, for example, would not look out of place if displayed in a workwear museum!

There are hundreds of leather crafters showcasing their wares on platforms like Instagram, but few people manage to create goods which matches so perfectly with Japanese denims or early century work-wear. From broad outlines to the small details, every aspect of Nic’s craft combine to create a flavorsome whole, with a spirit and flare which few other workshops can match.

The construct of this wallet is worthy of a professional craftsman with 11 years experience. I would say the paneling and sewing Nic has showcased in this wallet is top tier – almost faultless, for what is an entirely hand-made object.

To be a little critical here, I would say that the burnishing on this wallet is perhaps its weakest point as far as construct is concerned. Firstly, there was still some fluffiness around the inside edge of the out rim and the upper edges of the slot panels, which you may be able to appreciate in some of the earlier photos. Secondly, I was able to bring the main edges of this wallet to a higher level of shine and smoothness by a gentle polish with canvas cloth. It seems the burnishing on this wallet was taken up to 95% perfection – which is still, admittedly, vastly superior compared to most other wallets I’ve seen – and yet I know well that Nic could have pushed it to 110%, given his incredible skill.

As a side note, after reviewing leather goods for more than a decade, I’ve found that taking in the entire object with all my senses to be an important part of judging its merit – all the little details, and measurements, and qualities, are taken in and a formulation of the leather craft is created at an almost emotional level. Using this subjective method of critique, I would say this particular wallet might be my second favourite bifold in my entire collection.

Such a high caliber combination of handsome looks and expert craftsmanship is, truly, hard to come across. It must be the result of many years invested in working with leathers and a lifetime of immersion in vintage-style work-wear.

$350 USD might be considered somewhat expensive as far as a bifold wallet is concerned in work-wear circles, but given the caliber of materials and workmanship demonstrated on this Eastbound wallet, I’d say Nic is charging very fairly for his masterful efforts.

In terms of work-style Americana wallets, Hollows Leather should certainly be considered in the top tier. Alongside Ray Lansburg at The Blackacre and John Faler at Faler Leathers, Nic Hollows’ work is some of the best coming out of North America.

Overall, the Eastbound wallet has impressed me, and is proving to be a rugged but beautiful companion.

Denim and work-wear enthusiasts should check out Hollows Leather, for sure. Even if you are not in the market for a top tier wallet, the aesthetics and techniques on display could serve as an indication of the quality to expect when you eventually commission a work wallet.

Check out the Hollows Leather website, and feast your eyes on Nic’s leather crafts.

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