With age comes maturity, and usually a little wisdom. By the time a man hits thirty, that wisdom should be apparent in the company he keeps, the deeds he does, and the things he owns. ManMade advocates for those that are built to last; we oppose the culture of disposability. Here's our list of things worth owning.
This post is brought to you by Murphy-Goode Winery, a California winemaker that has supported us in creating great original content, like last summer's outdoor entertaining guide, our holiday gift guide and our guide to simple gift wrapping techniques any guy can use. This year they're celebrating their 30-year anniversary, and they asked us to come up with 30 things guys should try to own by the time they're thirty.
We're sharing items 1-20 below, and the rest on the Murphy-Goode blog. Cheers!
1. An amazing pair of boots: Make the investment, and they'll last for decades, continually molding to your feet as they develop a perfect patina. Look for a USA-made pair with all leather uppers, and a classic, rugged style that work equally well with a pair of jeans or with a suit. Be sure to protect them with regular care and proper dressing.
Pictured: Murphy-Goode Terra a Lago Cabernet Sauvignon
2. A proper set of wine glasses: It's no longer cute to drink wine out of mixed juice glasses and jelly jars. You're a grown-up now, so find a set of wine glasses you can be proud of. A wine glass enhances the aroma and flavor of your vino and gives your guests – or your date – a proper tasting experience.
Recommended: We like the Riedel Vivant series, which offer a great combo of crystal quality, refined style, and sturdiness. A large-bowl red is the most versatile, and would match the Murphy-Goode Snake Eyes Zinfandel or the Poker Knight Cab perfectly.
3. A serious flashlight: It's one of those things you don't need until you do. And then you need a good one. We opt for a heavy-duty, water-resistant model for the nightstand or the garage, and a light-weight option for camping and your glovebox.
4. A stylish pair of sunglasses [that fit your face]: Long gone are the disposable, gas station sunglasses of your 20s. You'll never regret investing in a good pair that complement your face-shape. “But I'll lose or break them!” you cry. No, you won't. It's those cheap models that snap, or aren't worth keeping track of. Buy a good pair of shades, and you'll be surprised how motivated you are to take care of them. To find a quality, but relatively affordable pair, check out The ManMade Guide to Sunglasses: 5 Stylish Pairs Under $100. Alternatively, check out these $10 sunglasses we think are just awesome.
5. A great pocket knife: They say the best camera is the one you have on you, and the same thing applies to the pocket knife. If you need a bunch of screwdrivers and magnifying glasses, get that one. If you need a slim and simple lock-back design, that's the way to go. Just get one made of a high-carbon steel that fits nicely in your pocket or go-bag, keep it honed, and it will last for generations.
6. A cast iron skillet: They're versatile, nearly indestructible, and equally at home on a gas burner, electric stove, in the oven, on the grill, or a top a campfire. Here's my diatribe on the subject, if you're not convinced. If you are – but don't own one yet – hit the thrift store or flea market.
7. A quality briefcase, daily backpack, or messenger bag: As in most things, we say, spend a little more, invest in quality materials and craftsmanship, and go for a design with a timeless look that's appropriate to your career, and you should get at least a couple of decades out of your everyday go bag. Check out recommendations here.
8. A proper cutting board: We'll get into knives below, but hear ye this: the bigger, the thicker, the better. Look for end-grain butcher-block-style boards, or edge grain blocks, at least 1.25″ thick made of hard (rock) maple or cherry. Flexible plastic cutting mats are great for messy, staining ingredients and raw protein, but otherwise, avoid plastic, glass, or marble. The latter two aren't great for your knives, and plastic provides too much drag and slows down chopping and dicing tasks.
What size? Measure your longest chef's knife, and add four inches. This will be the minimum diagonal measurement of your cutting board. 20×15″ or 18×24 are good places to start.
Note: Since this is ManMade, we want to be sure to note that a handmade butcher block makes a great beginning woodworking project, and you can build something that will last for decades from a $40 piece of 8/4 maple.
9. A complete socket wrench set [that stays organized]: This household essential beats the pants off adjustable wrenches, and saves your knuckles in the process. Get a good set made of the highest quality steel you can afford, in both metric and SAE sizes, with a sturdy carrying case (check the latch! look for something that won't snap off a year from now).
Then – keep them organized! They make little tools to help you with this at the hardware store. They're not super inexpensive, but boy are they worth it. Or, there are lots of DIY options out there to keep everything arranged by size. Use them.
10. A legit wool blanket: For warmth, wool is king. It also repels odors, resists dirt and stains, and, if you ask us, looks rugged and hella cool. Properly cared for, a wool blanket will last a couple lifetimes (I still have and use one my grandfather owned), so find a design you love made by heritage American and Canadian mills like Faribault, Woolrich, or Pendleton.
11. A simple way to make coffee: Dump the electric drip machine – they take up too much space anyway. Even if you don't drink coffee, your friends and guests do; and if you do drink coffee, then you probably want to make some at home.
There are several great ways to go about making a perfect cup in your own kitchen, but we recommend one of the following, all-analog methods:
- Press pot: Bodum French press
- Aeropress: Coffee and Espresso Maker
12. A compass: Yes, even in the era of smartphones and GPS, you should own a compass. More importantly, you should know how to use it. They're surprisingly simple tools, which makes them affordable. Look for something with a rotating bezel ring, orienting lines, index degrees and line-of-direction (red orienting) arrow.
Oh, and if you don't know what declination means, start researching.
13. A set of stories worth telling over and over: You know, your go-to cocktail party chatter or group event ice breakers. A story that you know is a failsafe people-pleaser and allows others to get a sense of your style/interests while also being entertained. You don't have to be a great raconteur or the life of the party – just develop a few that you know will work, and you'll always have something to say.
To develop your collection, you simply gotta read and listen to interesting things. BrainPickings.org is a good place to start, and we like the Dinner Party Download radio show and podcasts for interesting facts, history, and alternative news events. Oh, and everyone needs a good campfire story that doesn't involve hook hands or calls from inside the house.
14. A serious tool box: Regardless how you store your tools in the shop, you'll still want to invest in a serious tool box you can take anywhere. You'll need it when helping others with projects, or when carrying a collection of tools around the house or yard.
What do we mean by serious? Not plastic. Yes, they're lighter, but plastic boxes have very little structure and flex and rack easily. They take damage from sharp cutting tools poorly, and simply don't last as long.
You can buy new steel toolboxes, but we say hit the thrift store or flea market for vintage models. You can find huge ones (again, heavy) for less than a new bright yellow plastic box from the home center. Look for something that can fit your most-used tools (i.e. can it hold your drill and a backup battery? Does a quick-release clamp fit in there? How about space for random screws/washers/bolts?).
That said, Im also a huge fan of canvas and leather tool bags for carrying hand tools, and they're plenty easy to repair or patch.
Recommended: A secondhand metal toolbox or the Klein Tools 5102-18 Canvas Tool Bag, 18-Inch
15. A notebook and favorite pen/pencil: Sense a trend here (see: compass, above). Yes, even in the digital era, notebooks are essential, especially for creative guys. They can be a journal, if you're into that, but even if you don't keep a diary, notebooks serve as a record of what you were thinking, making, and dreaming up. I don't use one everyday, but when I take on a big project and have to remember measurements and parts (so I can write them up as ManMade posts) or need to plan out Thanksgiving dinner, a Google doc just won't do.
I'm a graph/gridded paper and mechanical pencil guy, but you may prefer a rolling ball and sketchpad, or a fancy Mont Blanc and college ruled. Find something that works, and use it when you need it.
Recommended: Leuchtturm Medium Notebook, Squared
16. Something Private: A man needs a place in which to store to items of great import. Get a sturdy box of some sort (storage tote, old lunch box, what have you) and put the little things you care about most in it. Hide it in the back of your closet or a dresser drawer, and don't let other people know about it. And when your kids eventually come across it, make sure they never find out what's inside … or that it's not all that scandalous in the first place. A little mystery is a good thing.
17. A baseball glove: Please allow me to quote myself from a year and a half ago:
… for me, it's an American-made leather baseball glove. Not cause I'm good at baseball (I'm not) but because there's an ease to a game of catch: a lilt, a conversation. It's not much exercise, and that's the point. You're not gearing up for an aggressive, sweat-soaked run, or an organized team competition. It's just you and a friend or two, doing something next to each other that allows you to do more than just sit and look into each other's eyes. Plus, it's a baseball glove – it's a handmade piece of craftsmanship, it'll never go bad or need to be replaced if you care for it, and it's just something every guy should have.
Yeah. I still believe all that. Look for second-hand models at flea markets and antique shops. They can be brought back to life with a little care and oil.
18. A solid duffel bag: Cause sometimes, a guy's gotta carry stuff around. You want something that works great for a weekend away. Canvas is best here, and no special pockets. Just a place to throw some jeans, a book, a couple shirts, and a bottle of something special, and get outta town. Try the Rothco 19″ Canvas Shoulder Bag
19. A proper shaving routine: Every one has different needs here, but the point is to find a way to turn the task of dealing with your facial hair into a ritual, not a chore.
You don't have to go the whole mug and brush route, but if you're looking to move from cans of blue gel and $2.50-a-pop cartridge blades, we recommend a safety razor, particularly the Merkur 33C. It's the archetypical chrome safety razor, and it's a pleasure to use. The blades for these guys cost around 10-12¢ each, making each shave cost pennies.
Plus – you can actually see the blade, unlike cartridge razors. So, if you're trying to clean up your neck around your beard or a few stray hairs on your cheeks, you can create a sharp, straight line without any chunks missing.
20. A tent: Essential for weekend getaways, and, if you're a dad, backyard campouts. There are the enormous multi-person mansion tents, flyweight backpacking models, and everywhere in between. The right one for you depends on your style of camping, but whatever you get, keep it stored properly and make it easily accessible (always air it out before packing it up), so it'll be ready when cabin fever strikes.
Wait, there's more!
For picks numbers 21-30, head over to the Murphy-Goode blog (including my tips on the only knives you need to own).