For most people, there are many things that go into the consideration of a purchase. That statement carries perfectly into the EDC community. When forming your EDC what you carry tends to mean something and there were several factors that led to that decision. For many people there is an everlasting debate between form and function. Most of the time, it is relatively easy to strike a balance between those two considerations. On the other hand, there are a few cases when you simply can't find a suitable middle ground. Today I want to take a look at one of those areas where it can be hard to make a decision, especially when looking at all of your modern choices.
Why carry a gentleman's knife? Now that can be a bit vague but for the sake of this topic I want to somewhat loosely define a gentleman's knife as a pocket knife that takes a more simplistic design. I specifically only want to look at folding knives as a starting point. They typically have a smaller blade under 3" and frequently lack a locking mechanism. When they do utilize a lock it is most often something like a small liner lock or lock-back. These knives also tend to feature smooth lines as opposed to harder edges on both the blade and handle. One last feature that is common with many classic knives is a more ornate handle material such as bone, antler, or wood, something natural. While this is a loose definition like I said, these are just some of the common aspects of the classic gentleman's knife that we have come to see over the years. Many of us can remember an older relative such as a grandfather with a sleek slip-joint that just felt classy. Many of us even had something similar as one of our first knives. For these types of designs it is not always about the age that sets them apart as many modern companies take their own stab at the genre, its about the feel and how they just seem distinguished. These are the types of knives that just beg to be passed down, which brings me to my first point.
A good gentleman's knife is typically loaded with sentimental value. There is just something about them that typically calls back memories of relatives, friends, or other memories. As I mentioned earlier, many of us received a classically designed knife early in our life from a relative. That could have easily led to many passions in life. Is that knife what led to the collection you are so proud of? Did it lead to a new hobby of wood working that sprouted from idle whittling? Maybe it led to a passion for camping after it helped keep you alive in the woods. Whatever it may have been that knife fundamentally altered the trajectory of your life. Maybe you received a knife from your grandfather. It doesn't matter if it was a new purchase or was a tool you saw him carry and use everyday, that gift meant a lot. Even if the knife is not something directly tied to a memory itself, there are still plenty of knives you could pick up that would bring back memories by sheer similarity. While these knives may hearken back to a different era, they have not been forgotten. Take companies like Case, Buck, Opinel, Victorinox, and Boker that have made a name for themselves by continuing the traditional designs. Also look at more modern companies like Benchmade, Kershaw, and StatGear that incorporate some of these classic designs into their models in order to appeal to a more broad audience. While these knives may be newer they still callback to the legacy they have inherited.
Another advantage to a classic gentleman's knife is simplicity. Many gentleman's knives are single bladed, non-locking, and manually opening. They tend to take everything complicated out of the equation so that they are as bomb proof as possible. While there are obviously plenty of exceptions you could point out, a hallmark of the genre is that there are no extra frills, the knife is a knife. This tends to help as you do not have overly complicated mechanisms that might break on you during use and cause harm. While yes I prefer locking knives most of the time as a safety measure, when I use a gentleman's knife I know the limitations and don't push past them.
Tied very closely to the last point is the legality of knives. Knife laws vary all over the world and it can be a pain for a lot of people to remain in compliance. Many gentleman's knives are going to be legal pretty much everywhere a knife is allowed. As I mentioned earlier, some common features for these knives are shorter blades and a lack of locks. This helps ensure that they are available to more people. While this causes some discomfort when you are used to a more aggressive design, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.
The last area I want to cover is the aesthetics of a gentleman's knife. Chances are if you are carrying a knife that fits the description so far it is not going to be large, tactical, and overly aggressive. Don't get me wrong these features definitely have their place, but so do the classic designs. The natural materials used in the handles combined with the simplistic and subdued design feel classy. When I am in more professional attire, whether it be a wedding, church, or other events, as much as I like my modern knives I prefer a knife that is going to disappear on my person and carry more smoothly. That is the time I want a knife that has as small a profile as possible while still maintaining its utility.
Everyone has different preferences. As I mentioned, I only carry a gentleman's knife under certain circumstances but when that time comes, its what I absolutely want. I just want to ensure that we don't discount the classic designs because they don't look like they could chop down a tree (first of all, don't try to process a tree with a pocket knife unless it is the only thing that would keep you alive, there are tools meant for that). A gentleman's knife has a place in the pocket of nearly everyone at one point or another, whether it is an heirloom or a modern approach. Don't discount it.
Here are a few examples of some options:
Remington Canoe Type