Some of the most frequent kinds of questions ManMade receives are inquiries like, "I just graduated college and finally have a real income and I'd like to start investing in some long-lasting goods..." or "my fiancée's birthday is coming up, and I'd like to buy him something every guy should have..." In 2013, I've been giving my take on those essential items, offering a new collection of ten each season: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Some of these you might already own, some of these you might need to upgrade to a quality version, and most of these apply to women and households too. Please let me know what you think, and what you'd add or take away in the comments below.
1. A pocketknife or multi-tool: [pictured above] For most of my adult life, I wasn't a pocketknife guy. I had some, but reserved them for camping or backpacking trips, and I always kept a small Leatherman in my "go bag" (except when flying) as well as one in my car. But, over the last few months, after inheriting several pocketknives from my grandfather, I've taken to carrying a small one along with my other daily items, and, my goodness, it's useful. I don't know that I use it everyday, but I'm certain it's employed at least four or five times a week, and on those days I forget, I always seem to need it. Give it a shot. For more, see 20+ Ways to Use a Pocketknife
2. At least one living plant: Spring is the time when stuff grows, and it's important to have that ish inside your house. There's a certain zen that comes with caring for a plant - whether it's a single succulent that needs to be watered once a month, or a full-on farm. Those of us with gardens or lawns to manage are covered, but urban apartment dwellers or renters? Get. a. plant. And don't let it die. Put in on your kitchen table, in your office, build a window box, grow your own wheatgrass, whatever. Green thumb or no, it'll make you a better guy. If you want to really incorporate some into your home decor, check out our How to: Make DIY Wall-Mounted Succulent Shelves
3. A library card: Even in the era of the internet and eReaders, your local library is still a major gift to any community. It's full of media...that you can get for free. For free. Especially in the era when most video stores are closed, your local library remains one of the few places you can just browse for movies older than six months. And they have books! And magazines! And all kinds of interesting programming, and film series, and free classes. Libraries are awesome, and it'll be a serious shame if we lose them. I love discovering new music on the web or browsing Netflix, but there's still something special about finding a physical piece of media on a shelf, and making a commitment to checking it out. Go pay off your fines, and patronize your local library.
4. A weekend getaway bag: You have months of cabin fever built up, and there's just something good for the soul about spending a weekend away from home. Don't over-think it and grab a piece of luggage and three pairs of shoes and a garment bag full of suits. Just snag your toothbrush, a filled flask or growler for when you get there, a magazine or two, and a jacket and your favorite pair of jeans. Spend a weekend with a buddy in a neighboring city. Go see your parents. Take your sweetheart somewhere special. Just hit the road. For some multi-use solutions, check out our roundup of Five Awesome Gym Bags to match any style. (Just make sure it smells okay)
Pictured: J. Crew Harwick Backpack - $98
5. A bicycle: This might be a controversial one, especially for those in small spaces, but I'ma say it: every guy needs a bike. The world just looks different from two wheels. When we were kids, your bike meant freedom, and that isn't lost when you grow up. They're a great form of exercise, especially as we age and our joints can't always handle the impact of jogging. You can ride it for fun, for transportation, for fitness, to save money or gas. Bikes are awesome, and a solid one will last you for the rest of your life. There's no reason to plunk down a bunch of money on a new carbon-fiber racing frame. Used bike shops and co-ops abound in every major city, and you can get a perfectly useable older road bike for around $100. Just be sure to get one that fits, and make sure the tires and brake pads are in good shape. For more, see our Skillset post - How to: 5 DIY Bike Tune-Ups Every Man Should Know
6. A regular appointment that has nothing to do with your job - Those with kids will laugh at this, but we should all have at least one place we're committed to be during our off hours. Especially in the era of telecommuting, startup culture, freelancing, etc. Ideas? Take a class. Play a team sport. Volunteer with a local organization. Join a book club or discussion group. Attend a lecture. Take part in a community garden. Routine isn't everything, but it helps a lot of us living the creative lifestyle to have some balance.
7. A great pair of sunglasses: Not an expensive pair, but something better than the stuff you can find at the gas station. Why? Sunglasses are stylish, but they also are good for you and your health. From our ManMade Guide to Sunglasses:
Unfortunately, many men consider sunglasses to be mere fashion accessories, and therefore "not manly," but there are actually several health benefits to wearing sunglasses, particularly polarized lenses, when spending a day outside: they protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and blue light, as well as protecting the skin around your eyes and preventing wrinkles and "crow's feet." Furthermore, they allow you to see better when outside, helping you to better operate a car, motorcycle, bicycle, boat, lawnmower, backhoe, grill, etc.
8. A notebook, sketchbook, or journal: I regularly use digital tools to help flesh out designs and my phone to keep track of inspirations, but there's some magical about putting a pencil on paper and sketching or outlining ideas. No matter what you do, make, or like to think about, there's a case to be made about doing it away from a screen. I keep two notebooks, a small pocket-sized one that I try to keep on me, and a hard-bound graph paper book for designing projects and planning measurements. Currently, I'm using a Leuchtturm1917 that I got at Powell's, and I like it even better than the [no longer available] Picadilly books I used for years. See the comments section here for more ideas: How to: A Quick and Easy Way to Reattach a Book or Notebook Cover
9. A solid umbrella: Look, don't be tough. Sometimes you just gotta be outside when it's raining, and if you need to be professional (or comfortable), it doesn't make any sense to get soaked. Like most things, I suggest spending a little more and getting on that'll last for decades, rather than buying a bunch of plasticky discount store models. Plus, the potential to be a gentleman here and keep some nice old lady on the street or your cute neighbor dry? It can be good to be the guy with the umbrella. Pictured: Davek Lightweight Mini Umbrella - $49
10. A wristwatch - I have no idea when guys decided there was no reason to wear a watch once we all started carrying cell phones. Maybe that'll work for a casual work day, but wristwatches do so much more than keep time you the time. They're style accessories, and important ones at that. You don't need anything flashy or expensive. Just a piece that's solid, classy, and timeless. (Um....) I vote for having at least two - one for dress and one for casual wear, perhaps with a few easy-to-switch band options. Plus, when you're out on a date and need to make a movie or show, or at a business meeting, you don't wanna be pulling out your phone to check the time. Watches, my friend. Watches. Pictured: Timex Weekender Slip Through - $45.00