15 must have items

15 Must-Have Items Every Gentleman Should Own

As scouts, we should “be prepared” for some situations, good or bad. Here we list fifteen items that every gentleman should have around, from occasional to frequent-usage; nothing too unusual. Some are unavoidable, and many Internet lists mention them, but some are decidedly intriguing.

Oh, lists. We like lists. Don’t you? Confess – you look eagerly for the yearly list of nominees for the Academy Awards.

We collected some ideas on the 15 must-have items a gentleman should have. Similar lists abound – many books, blogs and magazines carry them – but sometimes they focus on the country guy or include elements that are so obvious you should not even bother to read it.

I know this list will probably generate dozens of answers saying that we should have included this or that item, but we made an effort to focus on handy things. By the way, this is not an EDC – “Every Day Carry” list, such as we’ve featured before; it is more like a “use or have these items at the office or home,” even though you may, of course, carry some around daily.

1. A Bespoke Suit

A bespoke suit boosts your confidence and elegance

A bespoke suit boosts your confidence and elegance

Or, a made-to-measure suit if bespoke is out of your budget. A better presentation is one of Gentleman’s Gazette reasons for existence – and few things boost a gentleman’s morale more than a good bespoke suit, as we have discussed here. The reason is self-evident: the fitting is impeccable, the details are top-notch, sleeve buttons are functional (but please, don’t fall for the faux pas of leaving one opened; a true gentleman is understated, low-profile, and moreover many off-the-rack suits have them.

The ultimate experience in bespoke suits can be had, of course, in London’s Savile Row, as we’ve discussed here and here. This street has become so intricately associated with suits that the Japanese word for suit, sebiro, is a mispronunciation of Savile Row.

As for the color, be practical: if it is your only suit – which is questionable, for usually, the bespoke suit buyer is a man who already has a few suits – go for navy or dark gray. If it is not, opt for one that reflects your style or that enhances your physique (here and here).

If a bespoke suit is out of your budget, a Made-To-Measure suit is the next best thing.

2. A Lighter

A Dunhill cigar lighter

A Dunhill cigar lighter

When I was a young adult, I was in a party with a friend, and a lady asked me to light her cigarette. Since I didn’t smoke by then, I said, sorry! But my friend reached into his pants pocket and produced a beautiful gold lighter. He lit the cigarette in her lips, she puffed, and said thank you! with a smile. I asked him, “Why do you carry a lighter if you don’t smoke?” He grinned and replied, “For moments such as this!” Next morning I visited a jeweler near my place and bought my own Cartier lighter, which I still own.

After years of cigarette smoking, I quit them and started to enjoy an occasional cigar. I bought a nice Dunhill silver lighter specially designed for cigar smokers, with a double flame. If you enjoy cigars, you may check Xikar accessories and Dunhill, both highly recommended for the quality of their products.

3. A Good Umbrella

The Umbrella Guide

Umbrellas with fine leather and wood handles

I still own an umbrella that belonged to my father. It is English, with a wooden stick and Malacca handle; it has a gold collar with a “G&S” mark on it. Its handle and tip have a mechanism that allows me to fold both and fit the umbrella inside a suitcase. My conclusion is that some countries sort of “specialize” in certain products, and since Britain is a rainy country, umbrellas and trench coats thrive there.

There are many good umbrella brands, but today I’d go for a Brigg. They have options such as the size of ribs, canopy material (you may order yours with silk instead of nylon for a premium), engraving of initials on the collar and color of the canopy. You may also choose the handle wood (Malacca, chestnut, maple, bark ash, hickory, and the most traditional, whangee). Fox and James Smith are also good makers, and the latter has carved handles (duck, dog, jaguar, etc.) for the more daring gentleman.

4. A Trench Coat

Burberry Westminster trench coat

Burberry Westminster trench coat

Purists swear by the standard raincoat, Burberry. Its fabric, gabardine, was invented in 1879 by Thomas Burberry, but Aquascutum also claims the creation of this coat in the 1850s. It protects you from a sudden shower, keeps you warm in dreary weather, and adds a bit of mystery to your look.

We have already covered trench coats, but my personal preference goes to the honey-colored Westminster, an extra-long Burberry model. For a fee, you may have your initials embroidered on the inner flap.

5. A Corkscrew

Laguiole corkscrew

Laguiole corkscrew

Forget crazy contraptions with air pumps, manifold levers, and hundred dollar price tags. We’re talking about the real thing here, a Laguiole. The name refers to the small namesake village in France, their equivalent to Germany’s Solingen. According to legend, Napoleon I allowed the village to use his imperial symbol, a bee (even though some say that it is a fly), on their cutlery products and on the city’s coat of arms.

You may find the Laguiole corkscrew priced from $10 to $100 or more, depending on the presentation and on the handle material. The materials and the knife (for cutting the wine foil) are top-notch and will not let you down when you are about to pour a great Burgundy for your guests.

6. Linen Handkerchiefs

Yes, you may use them as pocket squares, too, but its primary utility is blowing your nose, cleaning your glasses or drying up your lady’s tears when you are watching Les Misérables (or Bambi).

Linen lasts a lifetime, and real Irish linen handkerchiefs may be passed from father to son through generations: Luckily for me, my father and I had the same initials, so I use 50- or 60-year old handkerchiefs that are still pristine. We have our Fort Belvedere Irish linen handkerchiefs available here.

7. A Fountain Pen

A Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 aka The Diplomat

A Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 aka The Diplomat

Gentleman’s Gazette published a guide about fine writing instruments here. I know: sometimes it is cumbersome to write with a fountain pen, especially if you are in a hurry; besides, the ink will not work well on some surfaces. For a quick jotting down of a phone number or directions you have the rollerball or ballpoint, but when you want to confer gravity to a document, nothing replaces a good fountain pen.

You may have your name or initials engraved on the cap and the pen will become a beautiful heirloom. The only “problem” with fountain pens is that you tend to become a collector – lawyers and doctors are serious candidates!

Choose an ink color that reflects your personal taste. Some people buy variations of their favorite color and mix their ink. Ah – avoid lending your fountain pen, for practical reasons – the nib may change with somebody else’s handwriting. But if you do lend it, keep the cap with you and the person will forcefully remember to give the pen back!

8. A Toolbox with Tools

Stanley screwdriver set

Stanley screwdriver set

The idea here is to collect the most used tools in a single place, so that you don’t have to search for a wrench when the faucet starts to sprinkle water around the kitchen, for instance.

My father swore by his Stanley screwdrivers, which I still own and use regularly. A good hammer, like this Dewalt ,will be handy for hanging a picture frame. Irwin has a good and comprehensive plier set; finally, this General Tools laser and tape can’t be beaten as a measuring instrument. Carry your tools in this Goplus 5-tray box.

9. A Real Camera

Leica digital camera

Leica digital camera

Yes, I know your smartphone has a resolution of a gazillion pixels. But sometimes you may prefer to have complete control over the shutter speed, focus, depth of field and other adjustments to produce that perfect photo of your significant other, of your kid or of that once-in-a-lifetime, perfect sunset over the sea.

Brands abound, but some have made the transition from film to digital better than others. We have already talked about the Leica, and many professional photographers of the past, such as Robert Capa, used nothing but Leicas to immortalize everyday moments or historical events. The quality of their lenses and mechanism is difficult to beat. Check a digital Leica model here.

10. Black Dress Shoes

John Lobb City II Oxford shoes

John Lobb City II Oxford shoes

In a previous article, we showed the best dress shoes with which you may start your shoe wardrobe. Personally, I’d say that if you have to narrow down your list, you should stay with a black cap toe Oxford. It is elegant, uncluttered by decorations and has a grave aura to it.

Virtually every American and English brand make a good Oxford, but my advice is to buy the best your budget allows. It will have a longer life and give you a better mileage-per-dollar ratio. But always remember to rotate your shoes to make them last more.

11. A Signature Scent

Blenheim Bouquet from Penhaligons the author's choice

Blenheim Bouquet from Penhaligons the author’s choice

I believe Gentleman’s Gazette has produced an article for virtually every item a gentleman should possess, but one of the best has been this cologne guide. Our olfactory memory is amazing: I can still remember the smell of the gauze curtains in my grandfather’s house, and in Remembrance of Things Past, by Proust, there is this evocative passage:

And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea.

That is my tip: use a cologne that evokes good memories. It will make you happy, and your good mindset spreads around you like the scent you chose to wear on that day.

12. A Serious Watch

Vintage watches can be a good conversation piece like this Omega De Ville

Vintage watches can be a good conversation piece like this Omega De Ville

The first (and frequently, the only) jewel a man owns, the watch is an inestimable friend every gentleman should own. Of course, there are thousands of options around, but I’ll try to make things easier for you. First, consider the main use of your watch: is it for professional wear? Evening wear? Weekend wear? There are watches that may be worn in most occasions, but as a rule of thumb think of the dial and the strap.

An uncluttered, clean dial is better for professional use, preferably with a leather strap; an evening watch may have a dark dial, also with a leather strap; and a weekend or sportive watch may be more elaborate, such as a chronograph or diving model, with metal or rubber strap.

Go for the best watch your budget allows, but be sensible: a precious metal watch will look pretentious for diving, for instance. Also, many etiquette manuals say that you should forego a watch with formal wear (the rationale being that you shouldn’t care about the time in such occasions). Be sure to check our previous articles on watches, such as this, and this.

13. A Bottle of Vintage Port from Your Birth Year (or Your Kid’s)

Vintage Port by Krohns

Vintage Port by Krohns

It is a Portuguese tradition: when your kid is born, you buy a bottle of Vintage Port from the same year to open it when he (or she) turns 18, and you drink it together. See here if your kid’s birth year (or your own) was declared Vintage – if a given year didn’t come out as the regulatory institute expected, then it does not approve the Vintage Port for that crop. If the year you are interested in was not declared a vintage for Port, check out the Colheita Port – a Tawny, not a Ruby as the Vintage, of a single crop.

14. A Great Copy of your Favorite Book

A first edition of Casino Royale, 007s first novel, dedicated to his secretary by Ian Fleming

A first edition of Casino Royale, 007s first novel, dedicated to his secretary by Ian Fleming

And by great, I mean a first edition or another edition where the author made some important correction or added something. Preferably leather bound and, if your pocket allows, signed and/or dedicated by the author. A good place to search is the Abebooks website.

We all are used to the ubiquitous Kindle or similar gizmo for reading e-books, but I believe these contraptions will never give you the same sensation as you have from turning the pages of a paper book, especially one that was seasoned by the time and dust of a good bookshelf.

Resist the temptation to write on it, unless you do it lightly with a pencil and do not intend to sell it someday. Collectors frown upon annotated books and the marginalia – the comments inscribed by a previous reader – devaluate an otherwise valuable copy.

15. A Pristine White Shirt

Semi spread collar on a white dress shirt

Semi-spread collar on a white dress shirt

Well, if you had to have only one shirt in your wardrobe, probably it would be a white shirt with spread collar and French cuffs, made of a good fabric. We have covered the dress shirt here.

If you really want to hit it, have two classic white shirts: one that you use weekly and another kept neatly folded (or hanging) in your wardrobe. You never know if a friend will surprise you with a formal party – or if that old uncle decides to leave this world. A white shirt is simply unbeatable in terms of versatility.

Conclusion

Which items would you add or subtract from the list?

 

Summary
15 Must-Have Items Every Gentleman Should Own
Article Name
15 Must-Have Items Every Gentleman Should Own
Description
15 items that every gentleman should have around, from occasional to frequent-usage.
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Publisher
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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50 replies
  1. LAStyleGuy says:

    I agree with most of your must-have items, but a lighter? No thanks. If I have to disappoint a cigarette-smoking woman by not being able to enable her deadly, smelly, yellow-her-teeth habit, so be it. For gosh sakes, it’s been 50 years since tobacco was found to be a killer. How ’bout entering the new millennium and stop equating smoking—including your cigars—with style.

    Reply
    • Stephen Clay McGehee says:

      My thoughts exactly. A woman who smokes is one I would have no interest in getting to know. Movies make it look glamorous, but reality is far different. I remember, many years ago, meeting a girl at her front door to pick her up for a date. I could smell cigarette smoke on her clothes and knew at that moment it would be our first and last date.

      Reply
      • Bill Brown says:

        I smoke a pipe, and use a fine Dunhill Unique lighter for this purpose. Many times women (even non-smokers) will come over to chat and smell your pipe tobacco. Happens all the time. And, there are many wonderful women who smoke.

        Reply
      • Simon says:

        what you talking about, who cares if she smokes or not… we all have bad habits and probably the 6 beers and 3 brandy you just guzzled are as bad as smoking.

        Give me a hot smoker and I know what to do with her.. at least for tonight… clothing won’t stink as we won’t have any. LOL

        Reply
    • Fred Patton says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I have no desire to be around a smoker, no matter how attractive – it makes your clothes stink until you can get them to the cleaner. Fortunately, nobody I hang out with smokes.

      That said, it’s fun to pull out a nice lighter when it’s time to light candles on a birthday cake, and I love my Ronson Touch Tip just for the sheer cool factor. I’ve been thinking about getting one of those cigarette case lighters and loading it with birthday candles.

      Reply
      • Stephen Clay McGehee says:

        Same with me. I always carry a lighter just because I like being prepared. I carry a “Peanut lighter” made by Maratac. It is a very small cylindrical lighter that screws together with an O-ring. I found that other lighters would end up empty just when I needed it due to leakage and evaporation. These come in different materials and finishes – mine is an old-school looking one of solid brass.

        Reply
    • Claudio says:

      I do agree 100% with LAStyleGuy. I am not interested in a woman whose breath stinks thanks to the tobacco industry. Cigars are overpriced poisoning objects that someone thought (cleverly) to market as something desirable that gives you an aura of distinction; for me is just the symbol of a nouveau riche who thinks is gentleman because he can afford expensive cigars.

      On the other hand, the signature scent is an excellent choice as a note of distinction for a true gentleman; the same goes for the fountain pen.

      Reply
  2. Christopher Hamlyn Long says:

    Re port – traditionally, the custom was to buy one’s son a *pipe* of port – not a single bottle, I mean to say that really is mean! A pipe is the Portuguese name for a type of barrel, containing anywhere between 300 and 600 litres. The pipe is laid down at the child’s Christening, then broached and decanted to celebrate his coming of age. Quite enough there for a good party with a bit left over too.

    Reply
  3. Stephen Clay McGehee says:

    RE: Umbrellas
    While the umbrellas shown in the article are items to envy, my choice is now the Unbreakable Umbrella (unbreakableumbrella(dot)com). The world has become a rather dangerous place, and these are designed to be a formidable weapon in addition to a top quality umbrella. They make both full size and collapsible models (I own both). Consider owning a dual-purpose umbrella – a gentleman has a duty to defend his lady, and having the means to effectively do so is important.

    Reply
    • Fred says:

      I do have a means. It’s a called a gun. Along with my cigars and lighter. I do hope I’ve appropriately upset all the pretentious little snowflakes that complained – how about just leaving each to their own and keeping your self-rightous gibbering to yourselves?

      Reply
  4. Bob C says:

    Agree totally with the other commenters concerning the reasons for dispensing with the lighter. I would also replace the Port with a bottle of Single Malt Scotch. My personal favorite being Lagavulin!

    Reply
    • W.F.B. says:

      It’s hard to believe this gentleman’s “must have” list overlooked the well-cut navy blue blazer. A very urbane friend of mine argues that these days a well-turned-out gentleman can be acceptably attired with a wardrobe that contains nothing more than a good tuxedo and a blue blazer.

      Reply
  5. Gordon Cavanaugh says:

    A woman pushing a baby stroller approached me and asked if I had a light. I responded that I was sorry but I don’t smoke cigarettes. She scowled at me as only a non-smoker could and said she didn’t either she just wanted to light a joint. Times they are a changing.

    Reply
    • Fred Patton says:

      Very little discourages me more than someone willing to smoke around a child, especially an infant – those young lungs are so fragile.

      Agree with the post above. Time to stop encouraging smoking of any sort on this blog. A gentleman has no wish to shorten his time on earth with his significant other by pursuing known carcinogenic activities.

      Reply
  6. Scotty says:

    Great list. Recommended addition, a preferred concealed firearm, e.g. S&W 640 (hammerless, snub nose .357, 5 round cylindrical magazine), Walther PPKS (modern take on Bond’s PPK before he moved to the Beretta, chambered in .380), your 1911. I mean if you own a Mont Blanc, you ought to own a gentlemanly weapon.

    Reply
  7. Roger says:

    If you’re going to have a decent fountain pen, you should probably also have a decent notebook. At the cheaper end, a Moleskine notebook, A5 in black; or at the more expensive end, a refillable Italian leather journal from somewhere like Aspinal of London

    Reply
    • Fred says:

      Moleskine is garbage for fountain pens. Google it / recent “Pen Addict” review. Smythson rather than Aspinal for notebooks.

      Reply
  8. Frederick Michael Javer says:

    The list of items is a bite pricey. In today’s world it is more casual. Yes, I agree a blue sporty necessary. In the 60’s a shirt and tie was the norm. The 80’s 90’s etc casual became the norm. There are a few institutions that adhere to a dress code. In the 70’s. 80’s and 90’s I went casual. I had my own real estate Appraisal Service. If U had to appear in court as a witness I would put on a tie. Today at 80 I do skip chases and exterior inspection on vacant properties. I have a limited wardrobe of casual wear and I will soon be adding a pair of blue swede shoes.

    Reply
  9. Mike Davis says:

    A Swiss army pocket knife is a must have for any man. A nice watch, a family crest ring and a Swiss army pocket knife. Three things we should all own.

    Reply
  10. Paul Beach says:

    Pleasingly I have most of the items mentioned. Smoking paraphernalia is outdated and unnecessary. If a woman was to ask me for a light, I would suggest that she rub two sticks together.

    Reply
  11. K.L. Cannon says:

    I have to say that I agree with the smoking being s turn off; and being that I don’t smoke a lighter just doesn’t make sense to me. I would rather have a nice pair of cuff links instead or a tie bar. Even a business card holder would appeal to me more so than a lighter.

    Reply
  12. Bill Dickman says:

    A quality pocket knife, Swiss, German or good ol’ USA made is a must. It’s daily utility will surprise any non-boyscout.

    Reply
  13. Bill Dickman says:

    I also believe a concealed carry pistol, if you frequent the urban world, has become an unfortunate necessity. My choice is a Sig Sauer P238 Black Pearl Micro (.380 cal.)

    Reply
      • Fred says:

        No, in most of the “civilized” world you’ve given up and allocated more rights to criminal scum than the man about the street.

        We haven’t.

        Reply
  14. Rashi Rosenzweig says:

    Subract from the list? A lighter. There is absolutely nothing elegant or sexy about smoking. Smoking should be banned.

    Reply
  15. Simon says:

    Let’s ditch the ciggy lighter and swap it for a well stocked first aid kit for your car. Hopefully you will never have to use it.

    Reply
  16. Chris says:

    I have to agree that a well-cut blue blazer and a pocket knife should be added to the list. Indispensable. I also use my calling cards quite a bit. They are engraved with just my name, city, and state. I handwrite (with my fountain pen) any other information required.

    Reply
  17. Doug Turrell says:

    I do like the Pocket knife. I carry a small Swiss Army one every time I go out (except flight travel) . Agree w/ the umbrella and corkscrew. I know it was poo-pooed above, but I also carry a Zippo with me when I go out and the possibility of a light is needed, …. and has come handy to light the birthday candles, the tiki torches, the fire pit… I’ve been amazed at times and places a light is needed and nobody thought of matches; to say the least of tailgating and outdoor parties, where cigars are available. Admittedly, refueling and keeping the Zippo ready is a hassle, but I’m sentimentally attached to that brand, since my dad used them, and I have his two engraved ones from his 1962 army unit in Germany. I might add to the list a decent pair of binoculars; come handy for sporting events and sitting deck side at the beach. One more item that has “saved the day” for me and most of all others … very good jumper cables! I’ve been a hero, and offered money, when I was able to get someone’s car started! Oh, yea, one last item… a good well made 8 oz. Flask!
    This was an enjoyable threaded discussion with interesting posts! Thank you Marcello.

    Reply
  18. Leonard says:

    A flashlight… I can’t even count how many times I’ve used my flashlight which I carry every day. Inside restaurants to read menus, at night in the parking lot, and in about a hundred other ways. Mine is about the size and length of a worthy fountain pen, which I also carry. You should also consider a good knife as well.

    Reply
    • Fred says:

      In the spirit of gibbering assumption presented above – you don’t get to carry the knife in England. Absolution of private rights and so forth. Wouldn’t want to actually hurt a criminal now, would we?

      Reply
  19. Michael Trotman says:

    The ‘real camera’ point is highly debatable. There are plenty of phones on the market with full manual control of settings, but more importantly you don’t just buy an expensive SLR camera and start fiddling around with settings thinking that you automatically become some kind of pro photographer. It takes a lot of time, practice and trial/error to know when to adjust what setting and how much. The best camera is the one you have with you to capture the moment.

    I’d add a nice safety razor – as its likely the easiest to transition from an electric/cartridge type razor used currently. And if not those then at the very least good shaving cream, not that stuff in a can. But something like from DR Harris.

    Also, while its shown in the picture but not the list, a good pair of warm gloves.

    Reply

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