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Text by Laurie LaMountain

Our patented Rogue Wallet is unlike any other wallet out there. In fact, we think it will be the best wallet you’ll ever own,” says Michael Lyons of Rogue Industries. That’s a pretty bold claim for a company to make about their product, but the reviews for Rogue wallets bear it out. The reasons for supporting such a claim are many, from it’s “Made in Maine” status to its quality construction to the fact that its unique, curved design is made to fit comfortably in a front pocket, thereby eluding would-be pickpockets and preventing future back problems. For this reason, motorcyclists are particularly impressed with the design.

It all started with a visit to the doctor. Rogue Industries Co-Owner, Michael Lyons had blown his back out and his doctor asked to see his wallet. He took one look at the brick Lyons pulled out of his back pocket and told him to stop wearing it there. He explained that stuffing a wallet in his back pocket was causing his pelvis to tilt to one side, which was putting undo stress on his spine. He also explained that the sciatic nerve, located just behind the hip joint, was getting pinched between the wallet and his hip. Skeptical at first, Lyons committed to following doctor’s orders for a week. Almost immediately, he noticed his back pain had lessened.

He then started looking for a front pocket wallet to replace his old one, and while he found many, they were all rectangular. Then, when he was doing a load of laundry, a pair of jeans with a pocket turned inside-out caught his eye. Using that pocket as a guide, he made a prototype with the hard covers of outdated Tower Publishing directories he had on hand (Lyons also owns Tower Publishing). That prototype sat around the house long enough for his partner, Mary Anne, to ask when he was going to do something with it, and in 2005 he finally applied for a patent. It was, as Lyons says, a huge gamble at the time. But it was a gamble that paid off. Five years later the front pocket wallet was granted both a design and a utility patent.

Today, Rogue Industries is a familyowned business, with Lyons and his son Wells at the helm. They produce around thirty variations on Lyons’s original front pocket design profile, from the original cowhide style to the best-selling bison hide to a new stainless steel version that is naturally RFID-blocking. For those of you who are not familiar with it, RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. Electronic pickpockets are able to skim credit card and identity information contained on cards and passport chips from a distance by using an RFID reader device. Once captured, the information can be written to a new blank card that operates in the same manner. Basically, it amounts to digital identity theft and is becoming more prevalent with the advent of RFID chips.

Rogue Industries’ RFID-blocking line came about as a result of customer requests for a way to protect themselves. While the stainless steel wallet is RFID-blocking on its own, other styles rely on a thin layer of material to block skimming. WalletGuard® is an “electromagnetically opaque” metal barrier used in the lining of Rogue wallets, passport covers and credit card sleeves that creates a Faraday cage of electromagnetic interference to block the transmission of RFID waves. The material itself is remarkably thin, lightweight and durable. Rogue holds a patent on their RFID-blocking credit card sleeve design.

WalletGuard® has most definitely given Rogue Industries an edge in the market, but it’s their premium Made in Maine line that sets them apart. This past November, Maine Public Broadcasting ran a Maine Calling segment on Made-in-Maine products and how important they are to the Maine economy, and, above all, how important that moniker is to consumers. Maine has a reputation for producing quality products, and Rogue wallets are no exception. Made in Lewiston, the wallets are beautifully stitched and, unlike a lot of mass-produced goods that we don’t expect to last, only get better with age. To illustrate this point, Joel Ouellette, Business Development & Sales, reaches into his pocket and hands me his wallet, along with a new one of the same style off the shelf. His wallet has a smooth, buttery surface and a patina made richer as a result of handling and nestling in his pocket. The new wallet is stiffer and looks, well, new. I’m told it takes about six months to fully break in a Rogue wallet, especially the bison leather, but it’s well worth the wait. The softer leathers used in the buckskin and baseball glove wallets take less time. One of the newest wallets is a salmon skin wallet that they’ve subjected to rigorous machine stress testing to make sure it will stand up to daily wear and tear. It passed the with flying colors and is proving very popular with the European market.

Rogue “Made in Maine” wallets also have an edge when it comes to design, especially among other RFID-blocking products on the market that place function ahead of form. For the oak tan wallet, oak bark is used to preserve the leather, resulting in a beautiful tawny color that contrasts richly with the deep brown interior. Nearly all styles are available in a choice of colors. My favorite is bourbon.

Currently, the Made in Maine line accounts for 60% of Rogue Industries revenue, which comes from direct sales or through one of more than 165 retailers nationwide. The number one best-selling Rogue wallet is the bison leather wallet. In the spirit of cooperation, Horween Leathers of Chicago, one of the oldest tanneries in the U.S., provides hides for the baseball glove and football leather wallets. Then there’s the moose skin wallet, which is all Maine.

But not all of Rogue Industries products are made in Maine. In order to satisfy wholesaler demand, Rogue offers a line of wallets and accessories that are produced overseas. And with an eye to the future and an understanding of who has the purchasing power, there are plans to expand their women’s line. Despite the fact that the majority of Rogue’s offerings are for men, they know that it’s women who are buying them. Father’s Day, graduation and Christmas continue to be their biggest producers. And despite the fact that they are a growing company with a vision for the future, they are ever mindful of what it is they set out to do . . . “to build a better wallet.”