There’s a rule of thumb that says your wallet shouldn’t cost more than the money you have in it. It’s a nice idea: if you spend all of your money on an object that carries all of your money, you don't need it anymore.
Buying a wallet has other pragmatic considerations. As the silhouette of pants slims down, their pockets have shrunk with them. Men are still carrying their lumpy wallets--dragging all the detritus of their pasts behind them--while wearing jeans that can barely hold a tic-tac.
All of this means that it might be a good idea to take a hard look at your wallet. Perhaps that six-year-old coffee shop loyalty card and expired gym card don't have the same utility as your Metrocard. And maybe all of that plastic doesn't need to be swaddled in crocodile.
The smallest alternative to whatever you have now isn't really a wallet at all; it's a money clip. For that, Jack Spade makes a decent nickle clip for $68. Someone in the design team decided it would be a good idea to put words like "Bacon" and "Bones" on the clips, which could be a nice alternative to the regular monogram.
If you do want an actual object to hold all of your stuff (maximalist!), the next best answer is a cardholder. These are thin pieces of leather with little slits cut into them, so companies tend to justify their massive markup by affixing each holder with a giant logo. Shinola's cardholder ($80) ducks this trend; the logo gets covered up by cards its meant to hold.
For those who really do need to haul around a stack of credit cards, cash and an expired Blockbuster card, there are still some slimmer options. The ubiquitous Comme de Garcons wallets (if someone held up an art opening in Chelsea they'd have 40 of them) are compact. Their black "go out" wallet, for $175, can hold a bundle but is only a few centimeters thick.
That and other fatter wallets will let you bring everything you've ever needed in case you need to prove, for example, you once belonged to a gym, used up all your Starbucks credit, and rented Groundhog's Day four times in 1997.
It might be nice to carry the past in your pocket. But there's a point where it begins to weigh you down.
James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.