When Wes Cox set out to make himself an ultralight wallet, he hoped to create something so thin and comfortable he wouldn’t even notice it in his pocket.
"My goal was to have the most minimal, most frugal, most elemental wallet. How can I strip this down to the most basic thing?" he said.
As someone who has been a professional product designer for 20+ years, Wes had some ideas for how he could improve upon the current lightweight wallets on the market.
"The Dyneema wallets I saw out there we’re not ‘going with the grain’ of Dyneema, they were designed for Nylon," he said. This is problematic because Dyneema is a laminate, not a fabric; and the sewing and assembly process for each material should be done differently.
Utilizing a Dyneema-specific design, Wes made himself an ultralight wallet. He then made a few for friends. And before long he started selling them.
Wes named his new cottage business Hawbuck. And he called his signature product the Lean Wallet. The Lean Wallet is offered in a few colors and notably features thumb holes for ease of flicking your cash and cards out when you need them. It weighs 5 grams and is a mere 0.9 mm thick.
"A wallet is something you're carrying with you all the time,” Wes said. “The lighter I get in the outdoors, the lighter it makes me want to be everywhere.”
Plus while most of us don’t really think of a wallet as an outdoor product, it’s often actually crucial to carry small bills in remote places, to pay trailhead and camp fees and support tiny gateway towns that depend on tourism, Wes said.
For Wes, Hawbuck is both an “entrepreneurial creative exercise” and a “design game.”
At his day job as a product designer at a large architectural lighting company everything he does is collaborative, or in Wes’ words “design by committee.” While Wes loves being part of a team in that way, the ‘one man band’ nature of Hawbuck provides a great counterbalance.
With Hawbuck he doesn’t overthink the design process. He just follows his own intuition and does exactly what he wants to do. And it’s turned out well.
The ultralight community on Reddit has fueled a lot of Hawbuck’s growth. The response there has served as “a real burst of validation” and “creative fuel for me," Wes said.
But Reddit commenters haven’t always been so kind. Early on, before Wes was really ready to broadcast his project, his friend posted a picture of a Hawbuck wallet on a Reddit fashion thread. People brutally and relentlessly attacked his poor stitching quality.
That was almost the end of Hawbuck. Wes stopped sewing for more than a month and basically came to the conclusion that he didn’t need that type of negative energy in his life.
But before completely throwing in the towel, he decided to see if he could figure out a way to improve his stitching quality. He found a specific type of sewing machine that works much better with Dyneema and bought it. He then spent hours behind his new machine not just learning how to use it, but also master it.
“All that internet hate prompted me to do what I needed to do to bring the craft up to where it needed it to be,” he said.
Now, at night after putting their kids to bed, Wes and his wife gather in the same space in their Chicago home to work on their creative projects. She’s a freelance illustrator and Wes makes Hawbuck wallets — helping people ditch the weight of leather for their everyday carry, whether frontcountry or backcountry, in favor of something slender and small.