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American Made - The Good Looking, Hard Wearing Wallets of Chester Mox (Review & Live Photos)

The #53 at HODINKEE HQ

Central to HODINKEE is an appreciation of fine craftsmanship and a belief in products that get better with time. This doesn't apply just to watches. So it's with this in mind that we present Chester Mox, a small American leather goods company making great wallets at affordable prices.

When I say "small company," it might be a bit of an understatement - Chester Mox is California husband and wife duo Brandon and Bellanie Salcedo. They began making wallets for friends and family while Brandon was selling furniture (though he was already trained in leather-craft) and Bellanie was working in a bank. Eventually they began selling their creations online and demand took off, allowing them to quit their jobs and make Chester Mox a full-time operation.

1680 with a #52

"Brandon would cut and prepare me the leather so that I could stitch on my days off or after work," says Bellanie. "Through word of mouths from our customers, we suddenly found ourselves working 4-6 hours a day. We would go to sleep late every night, very tired yet very happy…I scaled back hours at the bank and my husband had to make a decision between the leather work and the furniture, and I think there wasn't an easier decision to make."

Until recently, Chester Mox worked primarily with Horween's rugged Chromexcel and Shell Cordovan leathers, resulting in hearty, robust-looking wallets. But they recently started crafting pieces from Ilcea's replica watches Antique Calf, which is the same stuff the Hermés-owned branch of John Lobb calls Museum Calf. The hand-treated mottled surface gives it amazing visual depth, and the finish is smooth and supple. Photos don't do it justice at all.

#52 in Saffron Antique Calf

#53 in Dark Brown Antique Calf

Bellanie and Brandon sent two wallets over to HODINKEE HQ for us to road-test, a #52 dual side cardholder in saffron antique calf and a #53 compact bi-fold in dark brown antique calf (along with photos of the wallets being made). The latter has my initials in place of the Chester Mox logo, which is a service they offer on any wallet for just $10. Out of the box, the only criticism was that the saffron is much darker in person than the photograph on the website would imply. See our live photos for reference.

Discrete Initials on the #53

The #52 is extremely slim, and if you need fewer than a half-dozen cards and a couple of bills, it's a great option for tucking in the back pocket of your jeans. But the #53 is what I've been carrying around for the past week or so. It has room for my credit cards, ID, a few bills, and a subway card, and is the sort of the thing you'll find yourself playing with every time you pull it out. Neither is going to allow you anywhere close to Costanza territory, so don't expect to cram everything in. Think of it as enforced editing.

Tracing the pattern

Stitching together by hand

Finishing the edges

All the wallets are made-to-order, so you can choose your leather, sticking, and branding/initials. Turnaround time fluctuates, but at time of publication is 5-15 days. There are about 10 steps to making each wallet, which can take 4-5 hours or more depending on the model. The hand-stitching is nice and tight, the leather is cleanly finished, and overall the wallets seem pretty substantial and durable - they're nice and refined without being fussy. For wallets ranging from $65 to $165, they present immense value.

We think the American craftsmanship is beginning to shift to be able to make a presence in the world," Bellanie told me. "We want to think Chester Mox is part of that change, part of this new American generation where we can compete with European offerings and play at the same level…quality is our top priority."

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