In a consumeristic culture, an article about items every man should own may seem counterproductive. Still, my goal is to counter the consumeristic mindset with the things I will list below. I want to move past the mentality that everything is disposable or digitally fleeting and recommend you buy four items that will be durable. Though I am probably overplaying my hand, these items speak to some of the values of masculinity of days gone by that have less to do with machismo and more to do with being men of honor. These are possessions that call us back to the lives of our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers to remind us of lives well-lived. A few future heirlooms to suggest our time is fleeting and advise us to use it wisely. With that in mind, here are four items I believe every man should own.
1. A Wristwatch
Every phone we carry in our pocket has a clock on it. As I type this on my computer, I can see the time on four different devices, not counting my watch, but you should still own a watch. A wristwatch says you value your time and the time of others. When you set a meeting or date, it shows those around you that you plan on being there at the appointed time. Pulling out your phone to check the time communicates disinterest and distraction and should be avoided.
There is something else about a watch that no other device possesses. It is a timepiece that, as it ages, reminds us that time is fleeting. An old clock can indeed do the same, but there is something special about a watch. It is more personal. It tells us the owner’s life was comprised of seconds, minutes, and hours filled with experiences and they passed quickly. When you leave a watch behind that you have worn for years, it will remind your children, grandchildren, nephews, and nieces of how short our time is and challenge them to think about how they are redeeming theirs.
2. A Pocketknife
We live in a physical world, and there are some things digital will never be able to replace. Carrying a pocketknife speaks to your utility. It shows that you are ready to work in the physical world, not just the digital one. Many of the things you will use your pocketknife to do, like open boxes and other packages, can be done without it, but not as cleanly and efficiently. Be a man of utility who understands the importance of the right tools.
Carrying a pocketknife also pushes back against the safetyism of our day. There are legitimate times to leave a knife behind. However, in the name of safety, our society would like to remove a man’s ability to carry anything he could use as a weapon. Growing up, I often brought a pocketknife to public school. There were no rules or metal detectors that said I could not. If you are in school now, you will need to leave it home. Years ago, I could even take it to amusement parks, but now I must leave it behind. I recently had a movie theater security guard talk to me because the clip of my small two-inch knife was showing on my pocket. He told me I did not look like trouble, so he let me through but told me not to bring it again.
Our culture’s safetyism has the exact opposite effect those imposing it hope it will. It does not make us feel safe. Instead, it tells us that men are a threat, and you cannot trust them to carry a simple tool. This only increases anxiety and distrust. Two things are true. First, you can trust most men with a pocketknife, and second, some will use their knives for evil. Let the trustworthy men overwhelm the dishonorable ones, and do not tell the honorable men you cannot trust them. Those who suppress the freedoms of honest men are the more significant threat—an even greater threat than evil men with pocketknives.
Life was never safe or easy for those who lived before us, and neither will it be for us. To this day, I still have a small penknife my grandfather used to carry. He was a hard-working man who made money by raising chickens and delivering the eggs to his customers. His knife reminds me of his grit: something every man needs. When you leave yours behind, leave it with a worn handle and a well-sharpened blade.
3. A Quality Leather Wallet
It is now possible to make your phone your wallet when it comes to your money and other necessary documents. Smartphones can digitally store your cards and even pay for your items at the store with a quick tap, but it can also run out of battery. There is no problem with going digital with your wallet. I realize that even though someone can steal your digital identity, they can also steal your physical wallet. Still, a man should own a wallet even if they do not carry it every day. It should be the place that holds the physical documents and a bit of backup cash for times of emergency. It speaks to financial responsibility and stewardship.
The wallet I chose about seven years ago is a minimalist wallet that holds about seven cards and a place for cash. It is full-grain leather with a 100-year warranty. It only gets better with age. The kids will not keep my phone as an heirloom when I am gone, but they may want my old leather wallet. It will have been carried with me every day for years. The personal nature of the item cannot be understated.
4. A Well-Worn Bible
Finally, and most importantly, every man should own a well-worn Bible. Phone apps cannot replace this. Use digital Bibles when necessary but use a physical Bible the remainder of the time. Nothing will speak to your texture and cause you to grow more than this. On the practical side, it will say that you were a man with significant inner life. It reflects that you valued reading and the intellect, and you were established, not blown here and there by every new idea sweeping the land.
On the spiritual side, it will show that you were committed to God—that you lived your life for an audience of One. Get a durable Bible, preferably leather, and wear it out by reading it. Highlight it, underline it, and write notes in the margins. Hopefully, if the Lord grants you long life, you will have a few worn-out Bibles to leave behind, and they will be the most significant piece of personal property you will leave to this world. They will have influenced everything you touched, and your touching of them will impact those who treasure them when you are gone.