The Wallet

Oct 04, 2021 View Comments by

Getting Sentimental Over a Fold of Leather

By: Jeff Buchanan

RoadRUNNER Magazine - The Wallet
There was just no getting around it any longer. The wallet I’d had for 28 years was close to expiring. It’s sad. I noticed the subtle hints of distress about a year ago when the stitching began to come apart, loose threads sprouting out like little errant, frayed black hairs. Then, a few months back, the main crease had already become extremely thin and the first hint of a tear was visible. I was in denial, pretending I could nurse it through several more seasons of motorcycle trips by being more careful with it, a little more gentle with the daily ritual of sliding it in and out of various riding jackets. But, as these things go, once the rip took purchase, it escalated with a vengeance.

As my trusted wallet began its rapid decline, I started thinking of everywhere it’s been with me. It dawned on me that my wallet had been along on every single motorcycle outing and every overseas trip I’d taken in the last 28 years. It had been there on every one of my trips up the Pacific Coast to attend the World Superbike and MotoGP races at Laguna Seca. As a matter of fact, it’s older than most of the riders currently piloting factory machines on the grid.

The wallet had been tucked into the pockets of many different riding jackets on myriad motorcycle trips, from arid deserts to cold mountain summits, and it’d endured both sweltering heat and frigid cold. It had been through the rugged Baviaanskloof of South Africa and submerged in a stream-crossing crash in the foothills of California. It crested the Atlas Mountains of Morocco with me, as well as experienced the sublime, serpentine roads of Tuscany. It was with me one night in the Pyrenees when I was caught in a torrential and frightening lightning storm that left it saturated with so much Spanish rain that all the ink-written items tucked away in its folds were turned to unintelligible blue rivulets.

That wallet had been taken out over the years at gas stations all over the world to retrieve a credit card to refuel a multitude of motorcycles. It accompanied me to every domestic and international press launch I’ve attended during my motorcycle journalism career. The wallet was opened in a hospital in Italy to retrieve my Blue Shield card when I shattered my collarbone and broke five ribs after tucking the front end of a Ducati 999 at speed on the Imola circuit. And it was my steady and loyal, nonjudgmental partner in crime whenever I had to show an officer of the law my license when caught exceeding the speed limit. It had been there, through it all, without complaint, without demands.

Making a Fashion Statement

Perhaps that walk down memory lane will help assuage any notions of me being overly forlorn about a fold of leather. If it were possible to extract them, there are enough stories embedded in its grain to produce a fairly interesting novel. All this sentimentality is born out of a simple reality in life; when something doesn’t cause you any anguish, it’s all too easy to take it for granted until it’s too late. Most guys reading this will no doubt consider their own wallets and the fact that these items are our dutiful companions through thick and thin. They are the things that go with us, often at speed, on our two-wheeled adventures. They are the rectangular forms we feel for through layers of leather, denim, or textile to ensure we have not left them behind at a gas station or restaurant. They share status with ignition keys and helmets as one of our most important and essential possessions.

The sojourn with my wallet started in 1992. I stumbled onto it in a fine men’s store while shopping with my girlfriend. It was so wonderfully uncomplicated; a single, thin fold of fine leather with a place for a license and three credit cards. Perfect. My interest instantly waned when I saw the dangling little white price tag read $50. I couldn’t justify spending that on a wallet. However, my girlfriend—a very sophisticated and fashionable woman—said that a wallet was a very important accessory for a man. She proffered that most males sport very little in the way of jewelry or ornamentation (this was long before tattoos became socially acceptable) and therefore a wallet, like a watch, becomes an important accoutrement for a man.

In other words, when you present your wallet it reflects something of who you are. Her words struck me as genuine and true, so I paid the then princely sum of 50 dollars and transferred all the contents of my old battered wallet into the new one. It’s true. Having a nice wallet does make you feel a little classier.

Over the ensuing years, I watched the wallet transition through various stages. The board-like stiffness, fresh from the store, gradually vanished. The leather was eventually softened by the natural oils from my hands in the daily ritual of sliding it into and drawing it out of pockets. It took on the natural curve of my hip and became a comfortable, almost invisible companion. Over time, the leather aged to an exquisite, supple smoothness. All in all, over 28 years, the $50 price works out to a very cost-effective $1.78 per year.

A Worthy Successor

Now, sadly, my dear wallet was finally giving up the ghost. The tear down the fold could be ignored no more. The only thing holding the two halves together was the silk liner with the brand name Bree vaguely visible in a black-on-black design. And so it was that on a recent press launch to Madrid, I finally decided it was time to replace her.

I perused the small avenues off the main drags in search of a quaint shop that just might have a wallet that spoke to me. Milling about, after an espresso or two, I entered a tiny leather shop and saw it; a thin, simple, single fold-over wallet with a license area and slots for five credit cards. It was made of beautiful, soft, black Spanish leather. It was on sale for $34.

On the return trip from Madrid, I used my new wallet to obtain my boarding pass—its first official duty. I sincerely hope this wallet gets to enjoy the kind of wonderful experiences the old one did. I got to thinking about its predecessor, which was tucked away in my gear bag in the holds of the jet, and decided I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. Wherever the cow who gave up some of her precious flesh for the makings of my old wallet is, she can rest peacefully knowing that her sacrifice was put to good use. Since that wallet has served as a kind of trophy for so many of my various adventures in life, it deserves to be on display. Therefore, I have decided to frame it.

Tags: Categories: Lifestyle