Okay, the title may be exaggerated, but only slightly. Because figuratively speaking, good leather Should last a lifetime. There are some parallels you can draw to appreciate this more: mechanical watches vs. quartz watches and selvedge denim vs. non-selvedge denim, among other examples, where the former signifies a higher level of craft and durability. Full grain leather falls into this camp too and is the undisputed king in the world of leather.
You may or may not know this, but Genuine Leather isn’t as ‘genuine’ as it sounds. It is real leather, but far from the best quality. You can’t see the natural texture or grain of the material in all its glory and it often isn’t very durable. It’s basically what it is left after the good stuff has been taken (namely, full grain and top grain).
Why is this important, you may think? Because we’ve all had our fingers burned at some point with buying a leather product that looks great when we purchase it, but quickly becomes something we are embarrassed to be seen with. You need to take some care of these things, of course, but most likely it is just bad quality leather – only about 10% of all leather made in the world nowadays is full grain. I wasn’t always this curious about the leather I use, but being so led to some interesting discoveries, one of which was Godbolé Gear.
If you’re a fan of leather done right, Godbolé Gear’s Classic Wallet offers a rather tasty cocktail – full grain leather, vegetable tanned, hand cut, saddle stitched and burnished. Basically, all questions a leather aficionado would ask are answered by Godbolé with a ‘Yes’.
Their full grain, classic wallet allows you to experience leather the way it used to be and the way it should be. Leather has historically been known as a tough material, but that’s starting to get diluted because of inferior quality leathers being used.
The Godbolé Gear wallet feels tough and looks rustic thanks to the visible hand-stitches and napped texture on the inside of the cash and coin pockets. The no-frills, functional look, along with the beautiful leather grain makes for a product that looks old-school and oozes a certain romance. It should develop a lovely patina over time, and I can see it being a great companion to daily life and adventure.
If you’ve been disappointed with wallets you used in the past, here’s your answer. I also feel it makes for a rather nice gift.
Product: Coin Pocket Wallet
Material: Full grain, oil pull up, vegetable tanned leather sourced from India
Storage: 3 card slots, 1 coin pocket; option of 1 or 2 cash pockets
Construction: Saddle stitching by hand; edges burnished with saddle-soap and beeswax
Godbolé Gear have also used American leather from Wickett & Craig (a famous tannery in Pennsylvania, USA) in the past. It is more expensive and has slightly different qualities and appearance, due to being more heavy, dense and firm. If that sounds interesting, you can reach out to them to ask about availability and pricing.
The full package
The wallet comes in a cream coloured cloth pouch that continues the all-natural vibe of the brand. True to their niche, there are leather accents on the pouch too – on the face of the pouch with an embossed Godbolé Gear logo, and on the zip slider. These are great little details and the entire feel of the packaging elevates your expectation of what’s inside.
There is a little brown envelope with a handwritten warranty card and leather care instructions accompanying the wallet. That’s a lovely personal touch, and one that we’ve come to expect from some of our favourite local, indie brands. The Classic Wallet with Coin Pocket has a 3 year warranty against material or workmanship defects. Talk about standing behind your product! It’s one of those things that inspires supreme confidence and I laud the brand for that. I don’t remember the last time I saw a 3 year warranty offered by an Indian brand for a consumer good of this nature.
When all of this is looked at together, you can see how serious Godbolé Gear is about their leather as well as about offering you a truly well made product.
First impressions about the Godbolé Gear wallet
One look at the wallet and you know it has been created by human hands. It’s unmistakable, with the stitches and edges giving it away. The minute individual variations you see as you inspect up-close infuse the wallet with a lot of character.
The design is very basic and symmetrical. In fact, the absence of ornamentation allows you to focus on just the full grain leather – which is the star of the show, really. There is no visible branding on the outside either. I always consider this to be a sign that the maker believes in the inherent quality of the product above all else.
Overall, while the leather is soft to the touch as it’s oil pull up leather (i.e. conditioned with oils to make it supple), it does feel rugged.
Living with a handmade in India, full grain leather wallet
Since I started using this wallet, one thing that’s changed is that every time I take it out of my pocket, I take a moment to look at it closely and enjoy the richness of the leather. You could call it an occupational hazard, but there’s actually something very real and nice about it.
The other major difference is that wallets we generally use tend to have fabric linings. The Godbolé Gear Classic Wallet is full grain leather all around. So the insides of the card slots, coin and cash pockets are basically the underside of the hide. And making contact with the napped texture of the underside reinforces the purity of material and construction. The card slots and coin pocket were a little tight at first, but they broke-in soon and I was able to fill them up without difficulty.
The leather picks up scratches, now and then, from something in the pocket or by an accidental brush of a fingernail. But I rub it a little bit and it’s gone. This is thanks to the natural quality of oil pull up leather. It’s a neat party trick the next time you find yourself wanting to make a case for it.
In the few weeks of use I’ve put the wallet through, I haven’t found anything worrying or missing the mark.
Why should I care about things like vegetable tanning and saddle stitching?
I’ve mentioned these terms earlier in this review and made it sound like they’re relevant to the product at hand. Without getting into too much detail, I’ll tell you why.
Tanning is the process of using tannins to make animal hides usable and durable. This can be done through natural means like with tree bark, plants, leaves, fruits etc (vegetable tanning). Or by using chemicals like chromium sulphate and acid (chrome tanning). Chrome tanning takes about a day, while vegetable tanning can take up to 2 months!
In terms of outcomes, vegetable tanned leather only uses natural ingredients that affords it a more natural look as well. It is far more environment friendly than chrome tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather also has a more individual quality about it as it develops patina with use and age. It tells a story.
On the other hand, saddle stitching in leather is a traditional technique done manually with two needles for greater structural integrity. This method ensures that there’s a lock at every stitch. This way, even if the thread breaks, the entire line will not come apart. It’s their way of saying “We’ve got your back”.
I like the slowness attached to both these aspects of this wallet. And for all the buzz about slow and sustainable fashion, it’s easy to see where we can walk the talk, as consumers, with leather.
A purist’s approach to leather and its craft
The husband-wife duo of Gaurav and Juhi are the force behind Godbolé Gear. All their leather goods are made in a small workshop on a farm on the outskirts of Mumbai. They also told me they have employed local, rural youth and trained them to become leather craftsmen, even though the young men had no prior experience of working with the material.
The thought of all this makes for a charming image and if you follow the brand’s social media pages, you’ll see this in action as well.
Making a wallet from scratch takes about 8 hours of a craftsman’s time. Because each process is done carefully by hand, from cutting the hide to burnishing the edges. In most cases, the products are made on receiving an order, so they are custom-made in their own way.
If you look at the Godbolé Gear website, there is an extremely high level of transparency in processes employed, materials used and their sources. Full points.
Pricing and buying
Godbolé Gear’s coin pocket wallet is priced at ₹3,989 and can be ordered from their website here. You have the option to get an additional cash pocket for ₹200 and can also get your initials monogrammed for ₹500.
Depending on how familiar you are with leather, you’ll know the prices they are asking are not out of line. The premium you pay, over a mainstream brand you would otherwise choose for a wallet, is for superior materials and man-hours that go into crafting a handmade product that’s going to really last. And they stand behind it, with their 3 year warranty.
Godbolé Gear make a variety of other leather products for men and women too. These include cardholders, passport cases, organisers, handbags and key fobs. All made with the same philosophy, care and attention to detail. Check it out.
Lately, there has been a great shift of focus to mass-production. Leather goods are very much a part of this wave too. Which means not a lot of people are working with leather the way it used to be. So when a brand like Godbolé Gear raises its hand to go the traditional route, it’s quite heartening. And for something like a wallet that is part of your everyday life, it’s great to own something really durable whose creators and origins you know about.
Who’s it for: Anyone with an affinity for natural materials and rustic design
Talking point: A single craftsman spent an entire day making this with his hands
Best thing about it: High quality full grain leather with gorgeous texture
Winning combination: Solid overall product + Traditional techniques
One thing I’d change: Getting a more consistent outcome with burnishing around the edges
How did you hear about Godbolé Gear? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this story interesting or useful, please spread the indie brand goodness by sharing it!