Visit an accessories’ shop, and you’ll hear plentiful discussions about wallets and purses, and whether they are for men or women. Yet in the end, a shop assistant’s purpose is to sell. Can you really trust what they say? Perhaps it’s a better idea to find out what are the differences between a wallet and a purse before roaming the stores.
Another common question is whether they are gender specific or not. This question is much more straightforward. No, they are not gender specific. But both wallets and purses have gender-specific models.
And now that that’s settled let’s get more in-depth into the matter and find what are the real differences between a wallet and a purse.
Table of Contents
What is a Wallet?
According to the dictionary, a wallet is a small and flat case designed to carry cash and fit into a pocket. The definition may not evoke today’s image of a wallet, but if we stop and think of it for a while, this description is not too far from the truth.
With the evolution of mankind, wallets evolved too. I can’t think of anyone in the seventeenth century needing ID or slot cards in their wallets, so the definition was perhaps quite accurate at the time.
For quite a few centuries, the only purpose of a wallet was that of holding paper bills and coins.
With the emergence of small ID cards, driver’s licenses, and work passes, wallets transformed and gained slots designed to accommodate these new items. The same goes for bank cards and business cards.
Shape, size, and design evolved too. Today’s wallets focus on minimalism, but a quick look at your grandpa’s wallet will likely reveal a different reality. Back then, a wallet was for a man the equivalent of a woman’s purse, an accessory designed to hold everything from money to receipts and other junk items.
Luckily, wallets got smaller over time; now you can choose from a wide range of men’s and women’s wallets made from various materials and designed to fit different lifestyles and personalities.
Men’s Wallet vs. Women’s Wallet
It’s already established both men and women wear wallets. However, there are important differences between them.
The most obvious one is the design. Men’s wallets are inspired by the classic bifold lines. Obviously, there are many other styles, but they are all designed to fit in a pocket.
Men can choose from a wide selection of styles and colors. Leather wallets are classic and popular, but there are also metal and plastic variants that appeal to millennials or to the metrosexual guys. Preppers may appreciate more an every-day-carry wallet undoubtedly.
Women’s wallets, on the other hand, inspire themselves from the classic purse design. They are much bulkier than a man’s wallet. Most women’s wallets close with zippers and comprise various compartments that can hold everything from money and documents to tampons.
Most women’s wallets are too big to fit in a pocket, that’s why manufacturers came up with multiple models of minimalist unisex wallets that appeal to most modern women.
What is a Purse?
Returning to the dictionary, a purse is defined as a small bag for coins. Its history is much older than the history of the wallet. According to some sources, the first historical evidence runs back to 3,300 BC.
At the time, paper cash was a sort of sci-fi story, and people didn’t actually need wallets. Coins could sit perfectly in a pouch, and they were easier to access.
The original shape of the purse is still maintained in today’s coin purses. But with the evolution, the shape and purpose of a purse changed. Most people now think of a women’s handbag when talking about a purse. At least here in America.
In Britain though, purses are not necessarily women’s apparel. The Brits refer to a purse when talking about any accessory designed to hold bank notes, currency cards, coins, and other items, but they call women’s purses handbags.
In the general understanding though, a purse is an accessory designed to hold wallets and other items.
Bag vs. Coin Purse
As said, purses have retained much of their original design. But not all purses. Coin purses still have a pouch design. Yes, they have modern closures, although artisanal models may still close with strings. However, they still look like a burlap pouch the Egyptians would have probably used.
A woman’s purse, however, is quite different. Here, you can pick from a wide range of styles, and only a few look like pouches. The right term to define these purses is a handbag. They may have shoulder straps or messenger designs and their size vary from small clutches to luggage-style bags.
Is Purse Exclusively Women’s Accessories?
In the general understanding of the term, yes. We wouldn’t refer to a men’s accessory with that name. However, the definition says otherwise. A purse is either a coin holder or a handbag. There are numerous models of handbags for men.
You can choose from leather handbags, messenger bags, shoulder bags, and more. Gender differences tend to vanish, and now it’s safe to say men wear purses too, albeit they are called differently.
Wallet vs. Purse
And now that you know exactly which is the difference between a wallet and a purse let’s have a deeper look into the matter. We’re going to focus on three factors, size, purpose, and convenience.
At a quick look, the size difference between the two items is obvious. Even the bulkier wallets are smaller than a purse. However, some wallets may have almost the same size as a small purse. That’s particularly the case of the biker’s wallets, which are usually big.
Women’s wallets can also be referred to as purses, and some even come with shoulder or wrist straps for added convenience.
In broad terms, however, a wallet is small enough to fit in a pocket. The biggest wallets will still fit into a back pocket. Purses, however, will unlikely fit even in your looser pair of trousers, hence the name handbag.
There is again a clear difference between the items if we think of their purpose. A wallet is designed to hold money, currency cards, IDs, perhaps your gym or work pass. A purse is designed to hold your wallet and many other items, including your home keys, smartphone, makeup, a bottle of water, and anything else you might need throughout the day.
It is hard to talk about convenience. Each accessory serves a different purpose, and they may or may not be fit for a particular individual.
Minimalist wallets, for instance, are convenient for men, and even for women who want to slide it in a pocket and not worry about carrying a purse. However, on an everyday basis, a purse could be more convenient.
Otherwise, you’ll have to fill your pockets with a wallet, a phone, keys, and perhaps a bunch of other small essentials.
So, I’d call this a draw. Both accessories are important, and you definitely need both in your arsenal. If you’re a man though, I’d suggest finding first your perfect wallet. Luckily, there is a bountiful range on the market, and we even reviewed models in each category. All you have to do is browse our selection and get inspired.