In the mid-1990s, chain wallets were a surefire way to tell others how cool you were. I know that in order to fit in at my Middle School, I begged Mom to buy me one.
While being used to prevent pickpockets for nearly a century, the widespread appeal of the chain wallet originated in the 1950s, following the Marlon Brando film “The Wild One” in 1954. Cuffed jeans, engineer’s boots, white tee shirts, leather jackets, and chain wallets became the intimidating uniform of biker gangs (and wannabees) nationwide. The chain not only deterred theft but was also a makeshift weapon should the need arise. Once children discovered it could be used as a weapon, it wasn’t long before chain wallets were banned in most American schoolyards.
Chain wallets became popular in the 70s and 80s during the “Punk” fashion period. In the early 1990s, when “grunge” faded and “skater fashion” became popular, the chain wallet started to become popular. As pant legs grew in size, so did the rise of wallet chains. As the days of grunge bands like Nirvana lost favor to “nu-metal” bands like Korn, bands began trading in their flannel for oversized clothing and an overall baggy look. As was usual with the days when music was still on MTV, the “cool kids” at home followed along.
Despite the controversy among parents, the chain was an essential piece of 1990s wardrobe. Paired with Airwalk shoes and JNCO Jeans, a chain wallet was the height of fashion for a time.
Did you own one of these? Let us know in the comments below!