form•function•form Architect’s Wallet and Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) review

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One of our favorite topics here at The Gadgeteer are wallets.  And of course we gadget junkies have an affinity toward items that are multifunctional.  So when I was perusing the goods on a site called Huckberry a while back, and stumbled upon the form•function•form Architect’s Wallet with its minimalist design of rich, handmade leather, miniature Moleskine notebook and Fisher Space Pen holder, I took notice right quick-like.  Given the opportunity to evaluate one, along with the Bow Shackle Bracelet (x), another item from form•function•form, I immediately agreed.  Let’s check them out.

Background

I’m a recovering “Costanza wallet” sufferer.  In the past few years, I’ve been leaning in the direction of wallets that are more minimal, thinner and lighter weight, which not only forces me to reduce the amount of junk I am carrying in my wallet but also lightens the load in my pocket.  I’m also a big fan of products that are made in USA, and if they happen to be hand-crafted to boot, all the better.  As mentioned above, I stumbled upon the Architect’s Wallet at a site called Huckberry, and it immediately caught my attention, as it seemed to lie at the nexus of the above characteristics.  Well, that and it just looked plain cool.  After posting a news item about the Architect’s Wallet here at The Gadgeteer not long ago, the owner/designer of form•function•form—makers of the Wallet among several great products—contacted Julie to ask if we’d like to try out one of his products.  Having been given first dibs by Julie, I quickly agreed and requested the Architect’s Wallet to review.  The package I received contained not only the Wallet, but I was delighted to find a Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) from form•function•form (try saying that ten times fast) in in the package as well.

Specifications

Per the form•function•form site,  below are the specs on the respective products as they have been reviewed here:

Architect’s Wallet

  • 5/6 ounce Horween leather (made in USA)
  • YKK nickle plated brass rivet in bright silver or matte black to match pen (made in USA)
  • Fisher Bullet Space Pen (made in USA)
  • 2x black Moleskine Volant mini-notebook (made in China)
  • Dimensions: 4.75 inches x 3.75 inches

Bow Shackle Bracelet (x)

  • 5/6 ounce Horween leather (made in USA)
  • YKK nickle plated brass rivet and snap (made in USA)
  • Stainless steel enclosure
  • Dimensions: Band is just under 3/4″ wide, bow shackle just over 1″ long (see sizing below)

Options

Both the Architect’s Wallet and the Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) have lots of options from which you can choose when you place your order:

  • Architect’s Wallet is available in three types of Horween leather: Chomexcel, Veg Tan and Latigo.  You can also select the Pen/Hardware color, either Matte Black or Silver.
  • Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) is also available in three types of Horween leather: Chomexcel, Veg Tan and Russet.  Three Standard sizes are available: Sizes 00, 01 and 02, as well as a custom sizing option for no additional charge.

Packaging & Contents

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The Architect’s Wallet and Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) arrived in a thickly padded envelope as their external shipping container, with the items shown above inside the package.  Both the Wallet and the Bracelet were inside cloth drawstring bags with the form•function•form logo stamped onto them and each had a tag explaining the Horween leather from which both the Wallet and Bracelet are made.  Both were nice touches that to me signified quality and attention to detail.  Note that at the bottom of the tag, it reads, “Do not handle with care.  We can take it.”  And by just looking at both items, I tended to believe it.  Additionally, the Bracelet was inside a small cardboard box with a removable lid.

Architect’s Wallet

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The Architect’s Wallet is really three components: Moleskine Volant mini notebook, Fisher “Bullet” Space Pen and the handmade leather wallet itself.  The first feature I noticed about the Wallet was the leather.  The thick, 5/6 oz leather use in the Wallet (as well as the Bracelet) has an amazingly rick look and feel.  Just fantastic.  All leather products from form•function•form use the leather from the famous Horween Leather Company in Chicago, one of the oldest continuously running tanneries in the United States, dating back to 1905.  The version of the Architect’s Wallet here is Horween Chromexcel Natural Leather with Matte Black Space Pen/Hardware (rivet) color but as mentioned above, there are many leather, color and hardware options to customize your Architect’s Wallet to your liking.

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The Wallet is assembled by sliding the back cover of the Moleskine Volant Notebook into the circular cutout side of the wallet and placing the pen in its cap which is captured in a special holder on the bottom of the wallet.  I will mention that the Space Pen’s cap is held in its special holder quite securely.  In fact, I found it very difficult to remove the cap at all, but I actually found little reason to remove the cap—the Bullet version of the Fisher Space Pen is intended for jotting, not penning your Great American Novel.  Note: You may also want to check out the form•function•form Charette Wallet which is similar to the Architect’s Wallet, but with a different style holder for the Space Pen.

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The Wallet makes a compact package once assembled.  Lots of people EDC (or Every Day Carry) a small notebook and a small pen in their pocket already, so adding them to a wallet, which is another item that most people already carry, just seems to make sense.  For me, even in this age of smartphones, I find it useful (and a bit satisfying) to have a small notebook for jotting and a pen comes in handy more often then I would have ever realized.

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The Moleskine Volant Notebook overhangs the “back” side of the Wallet…

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…which allows the notebook to be accessed quickly for jotting notes and so forth, or for quick removal and replacement.  I should mention here that I could envision the Moleskine Volant Notebook would begin to deteriorate after some period of time of regular use.  However, replacement 2-packs of the Moleskine Volant Notebook are available at many online and brick-and-mortar retailers and in different colors to further customize the look of your Architect’s Wallet.

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In the image above, you can see the relative size of the Wallet in hand.  This is a good point to mention that some may find the cost of the Architect’s Wallet to be excessive at $98.  I thought that at first too, until I realized that a 2-pack of Moleskine Volant Notebooks cost from $5 to $10, and the Fisher Space Bullet Pen costs around $20.  This made the overall cost of the Wallet seem much more reasonable to me.

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The Wallet’s design is simple: basically a single piece of leather, folder over and stitched together.  The Fisher Space Pen holder on the bottom of the wallet is secured with a thick, sturdy YKK rivet.  The Wallets are sold with Space Pen color matching the rivet color, in this case matte black.  A shiny silver combo is available as well.

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Like the Moleskine Volant Notebook, the Space Pen is easily accessible for jotting notes.  Also note the thick, heavy-duty stitching around the perimeter of the Wallet, as well as the form•function•form “F” logo branded into the leather.  Again, I was very impressed by the Wallet’s construction as well as the material from which it was made.  Outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail throughout.

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Above is a top-view photo of the assembled Wallet with no cards inside.  It is quite thin, even with the Moleskine Volant Notebook.

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The Wallet is designed to hold a handful of cards and a bit of cash.  The “front” of the Wallet is intended to hold the cards, as evidenced by the oval window on that side.  In fact, the oval window facilitates easy removal: place your thumb in the window and slide that top card out of the wallet, quickly and easily.  You can also see the outline of the corners of the cards that have been loaded into the Wallet.  This is a side effect of the type of leather and adds to the character of the Wallet as it is breaking in over time.

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The Wallet is also designed to hold a bit of cash as well.  The above photo shows four bills folded into quarters and inserted into the “back” of the wallet, ducked inside the back cover of the Moleskine Volant Notebook and quickly accessible due to the large, semi-circular cutout in the Wallet.

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The Wallet is shown above from a top view with a total of five cards inserted into it.

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Above is a side view of the Wallet with the same five cards inserted into it as well as the cash shown above.  The Wallet starts to bulge a bit, but does not greatly increase in thickness; however, I did notice that with the cards inserted, the Notebook seemed to want to “pop out” away from the Wallet, and I had to hold it down a bit for this photo.  Not such a big deal when it is in your pocket I suppose and in addition, this flattened down over time.

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Another top view of the Wallet with five cards loaded into it.  The Architect’s Wallet will force you to simplify and minimize the cards you carry, because it really can’t hold more than just the essentials.  But that is the purpose of this style of wallet anyway.  I found that for me, five or six cards and a few cash bills were just about the right amount to be carried in the Wallet.  Any more and I think it would get excessive to the point where Mr. Costanza would be knocking at my door again.

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The Wallet can easily slide into a front pocket to be carried.  It is definitely thin and not bulky; however, I thought that it had a slightly larger footprint than most of the other “front pocket” minimal wallets I’ve tried.  Including the Space Pen, the Wallet is a bit larger than the footprint of an iPhone 4S.

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The Wallet does well in a back pocket also.  As seen in the image above, I’ve inserted it halfway into my pocket to demonstrate that there is plenty of room.  Again, it is also much thinner than a regular wallet.

Bow Shackle Bracelet (x)

Let’s switch to the Bow Shackle Bracelet (x).  There is also an earlier Bow Shackle Bracelet design, and the “(x)” has been added to signify this updated version.   This was an item that I had not anticipated receiving to review, but I was quite pleasantly surprised to find it included with the Wallet.  I’d had my eye on the green color leather but wasn’t sure how it would look as a wallet, so I requested the Chromexcel Natural for the wallet.  However, having the green leather in the Bracelet was a good compromise to be able to try it out.  This is the Kelly Green Cavalier version of the Bracelet.

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The design of the Bracelet is bold, rugged and as well-built as the Wallet.

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The Bracelet really consists of two parts.  The shackle style buckle has a horseshoe-shaped portion and a threaded pin that secures it.  The Horween Chromexcel leather band has a riveted loop on one end and a snap closure on the other end.  Note also the form•function•form “F” logo branded into the inside of the Bracelet.  There are several styles of bracelets offered by form•function•form, all with various leather, color and attachment options, so you can find one that is best suited to your tastes.

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As mentioned above, I was equally as impressed with the materials and construction of the Bracelet as with the Wallet.  Just a rich look and feel all around, from the leather itself to the shackle’s ruggedness and styling.

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The Bracelet is very evenly and thoroughly dyed on both the front and back sides, and the rivet and snap are both securely placed.  The Bracelet can be secured to your wrist by using either the snap closure or by threading the pin into the horseshoe shackle.  I found them both to be a bit tricky.  Because the Bracelet fit snug on my wrist, it was somewhat difficult to engage the snap.  It was slightly less difficult to thread the pin into the shackle.  However, your mileage may vary, of course.

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The form•function•form site states that the Bracelet is designed to fit close to the wrist, and that is how it fit me.  It was not snug, but did not have much room to spare.  However, this fit was fine with me, as I preferred this to being too sloppy.  I found that the Bracelet could be worn with the shackle facing outward, like a wristwatch…

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…or with the shackle facing downward and the leather band facing outward.

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However, with the shackle downward, it did tend to clunk around on things a bit, like my laptop keyboard as I am typing this.

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It’s been mentioned above but it bears repeating here: the Architect’s Wallet and Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) are both made from thick, rich, high-quality 5/6 oz Horween Chromexcel Leather.  Their color dyeing has been performed evenly and thoroughly on all sides and the form•function•form “F” logo has been clearly yet simply branded into both products.  I like that the branding is minimal and not overly large, fitting for the styling of these products.

Conclusion

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If the Architect’s Wallet and Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) are any indication, form•function•form makes some very high quality products.  They are almost like durable, functional pieces of art that hearken back to the handcrafted goods of yesteryear.  The Horween Chromexcel leather is rich in look and feel and the details, like the rivets snaps and stitching have been very carefully assembled.  The Wallet is simple in design and lends itself to minimizing what you put in it, which lets you carry less in back or front pocket more comfortably.  The addition of the small Moleskine Volant notebook and the Fisher Bullet Space Pen give the Wallet that much more utility. The drawbacks, such as the notebook falling apart over time and the relatively high price seem like fair tradeoff for a durable, handmade-in-USA product in my opinion. The Bracelet is as ruggedly designed and built as the Wallet with fantastic leather and ruggest hardware.  In all, I was quite impressed with the Architect’s Wallet and the Bow Shackle Bracelet (x), and I’ve a good mind to check out some of form•function•form’s other great-looking items, like the Button-Stud Watchband—and I still have my eye on those green hues.  ;-)

 

Product Information

Price:Architect's Wallet $98.00, Bow Shackle Bracelet (x) $36.00
Manufacturer:form•function•form
Pros:
  • Rich, thick quality leather: great look and feel
  • Very sturdy, rugged style and construction
  • Minimal design fits easily into front or back pocket
  • Handmade in USA
Cons:
  • Moleskine notebook eventually falls apart
  • Pen cap difficult to remove from holder
  • Cost seems a bit high
Posted in: Reviews, Wallets

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • vicki January 6, 2014, 11:28 am

    Is there a practical purpose for the bracelet other than cool looking?

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  • poqeteer January 6, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I’ve always liked the architect wallet, but still can’t get over the price.

    2
  • steve January 6, 2014, 3:32 pm

    I recently purchased the wallet and it is as good as you describe. I am very happy with it and will purchase more for gifts.

    3
  • vicki January 6, 2014, 3:57 pm

    Oh, never mind. Answered my own question. Looked up ‘bow shakle’. Now I understand.

    4
  • Andy Jacobs January 6, 2014, 4:22 pm

    @vicki – Far as I can tell, the bow shackle is just to look cool. I do know that the bow shackle hardware is often used on paracord bracelets because the steel version of the bow shackle can carry a significant amount of load if needed in an emergency situation. However, the leather band wouldn’t help much in that situation, where paracord is rated for up to several hundred pounds.

    @poqueteer – I’m there with you, as mentioned in the article. However, I am of the opinion that if you want a high quality, durable, well-made product, you should expect to pay more. The converse of this is what I call the “Walmart syndrome”–we all want things to be as inexpensively priced as possible, but the quality of the item almost always suffers as a result.

    @steve – Thanks for the feedback. It’s always good to have other readers of The Gadgeteer provide positive or negative experiences with the items we review.

    5

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