Beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter, what does a man really need? Clothing, to be sure. An income is nice. A comfortable place to sit and rest.
While many of the items so often seen as classically manly — the cigars, the ax, the fast car — may be enjoyable, they are hardly necessities.
What a man really needs are those things that will improve his quality of life; things that make tasks easier to tackle, that bring genuine joy, and that are made well enough to last for years, offering true value.
Listen, a good cigar is a fine thing, and you can’t beat a great ax for chopping wood. However, not every man enjoys a smoke, and some men live in homes without fireplaces. While lovely, you don’t need to own stogies or hatchets. Or Maseratis. But here are 20 things every man should own.
Every man should own at least one good watch. You don’t need a $5,000 Rolex, but you should probably spend at least $500 or so on your finest chronometer. At that price point, you are assured of a watch that will work well for years and you can find dozens of watchmakers producing gorgeous timepieces in that range. As for the size of the face, the type of band, the function, the features, and so on, pick a watch that suits your style, but don’t go cheap; you’ll have a great watch until the end of — wait for it — time.
Even if you wear a formal jacket all of once or twice a year, you should have a fine dress coat at the ready so you can always look your best. A great blazer can dress up a pair of nice jeans and blend seamlessly with fine slacks. You can wear blazers with ties, tees, and anything in between. You could easily spend a couple of thousand dollars on a lifetime purchase or you can get away with spending a couple hundred.
A good pair of socks will keep your feet comfortable all day long whether you’re hiking, strolling, or manning a desk. They can also provide that pop of personality when they sneak out down there between foot and cuff. Good socks are an affordable luxury to which you will quickly grow accustomed.
Recommendation: I recommend Nice Laundry because they offer everything from crew socks to no-shows to running socks to dress socks to monogrammed, personalized socks. All of them are not only supremely comfortable but well priced, too.
Comfortable Dress Shoes
You surely have several pairs of dress shoes, likely covering the bases in brown, black, two-tone, laces, loafers, and so on. But until you have at least one pair of very nice and very comfortable shoes, your wardrobe is incomplete. You need a pair of dress shoes you can wear from morning to night, at the office or on the go, without blisters or soreness. Be prepared to shell out some change here.
Recommendation: Try Wolf & Shepherd’s large catalog of “Ridiculously Comfortable Dress Shoes” or go right for Wolverine’s 1000 Mile Split Toe Oxford. Here’s everything you need to know about the different styles.
Me? I try to run five times a week and I own more athletic shoes and apparel than I can wear in a month. It’s a bit of a problem, really, but I just keep finding new brands and soon enough I have more shorts and shirts and headbands and so on. However, you don’t need all that gear to get in a good workout; you do absolutely need at least one very high-quality pair of running shoes. Inferior shoes do you a great disservice, potentiality leading to injuries both chronic and acute. If you run often, plan to get new shoes at least annually; better yet, get two pairs (at least) and alternate.
Recommendation: If you run on varied terrain, consider a pair of hybrid sneakers designed to work both on trail and street.
When I say pocket knife, frankly I’m only talking about one brand: the OG, the Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox. The brand has been making pocket knives since 1884 and is still going strong today. Whether you choose a 2019 Alox Limited Edition in a striking Champagne gold finish or the classic red Swiss Army color for your pocket knife, you’ll be getting a tool that you will never again want to be without. (except in a TSA line). With the right knife, you can slice an apple, open a bottle, saw through a branch, scale a fish, or file your nails. Choose the configuration that’s right for you and cherish it for life.
You don’t have to spend much to get a decent, reliable multitool, but you do need to get one of these combination pliers/blades/screwdrivers/etc. tools. You have a complete toolkit, you say? Well, then leave the multitool in your car or briefcase — and make sure you tuck one in with your camping gear, too. Take that, unexpected survival ordeal.
If you travel all the time, great luggage is a must. If you are only on the road a few days a year, you should still treat yourself to fine luggage, as it will then last for years.
Recommendation: OGIO makes some of the most logically designed roll-aboard suitcases I’ve ever used, with the Alpha Convoy 522 Travel Bag being a prime example of durable, intuitive luggage. As for a backpack that can serve as a briefcase, overnight bag, or even a light-duty hiking pack, the Cotopaxi Nazca 24L Travel Pack is the top of the line.
Whether you like wine or whiskey or you even just want a fancy way to serve water, every man should own at least one good decanter. Don’t assume the only option for a fine decanter is a classic cut crystal vessel with a glass stopper — there are a wide variety of options available.
Recommendation: High Camp makes the stainless steel Firelight Flask that can hold 750 ml of liquid (aka a standard bottle of wine or spirits) and that comes with drinking glasses magnetically attached to each end. It looks good enough to sit on your bar beside your other fancy glasses but is rugged enough to bring along on a camping trip.
Don’t pour a finger or two of good whiskey into an improper glass. (Nor should you pour any other fine spirit into a middling receptacle, either.) A good set of whiskey glasses will enhance the whole sipping experience and look great on your bar when you’re not enjoying a dram or two with friends or with the company of a good book.
Recommendation: The Old Fashioned set from Marquis by Waterford.
A man should have at least one piece of artwork in his home that he’s damn proud to show off and loves to look at. It doesn’t have to be a famous masterpiece, and it doesn’t have to be large and eye-catching. It doesn’t matter if it’s a painting, a print, a sculpture, or what have you — every man’s home should have at least one object that serves no purpose beyond its own aesthetics and the feelings it inspires.
Recommendation: If you’re not sure where to start your collection, go with UGallery. The company offers original paintings from artists of all levels of acclaim and price point. You can customize the art-buying experience in myriad ways, from subject matter to canvas size to style.
A man needs a way to crank out tunes (or listen to a podcast or NPR or whatnot. Even if you’re not a diehard audiophile, you need at least one good way to play the music the mood calls for, whether the mood is rocking out with friends, romancing that special someone, or holiday cheer.
Recommendation: Whether it’s a sound bar that can amp up your TV-watching experience, a Bluetooth speaker you can play anywhere, or a combined record/cassette/CD/radio/Bluetooth combo, you should have a decent sound system through which you can pipe some music.
A Few Great Books
If you don’t have at least a small collection of books in your home — and preferably on subtle display — then sir, you’re doing it wrong. If you need to jump start your book collection, go with a great coffee table book, a classic collection of short stories, and a few novels that stand the test of time.
Recommendation: Consider The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
High-Quality Hygiene Products
With a few great personal grooming products, you will look and feel your best. Don’t settle for a soap that claims to clean hair, face, and body — you’re worth a few extra dollars for high-quality products that keep you clean and fresh in the short term and help preserve the youth and vitality of your skin over the years. Not every brand works for every man, so shop around some.
Recommendation: I’ll say that now, well into my 30s, I’ve become partial to Rugged + Dapper. The facial cleanser is indeed rugged, with plenty exfoliating power, while moisturizers seem to be keeping my crowfeet and forehead lines at bay.
Good Set of Towels
Perhaps a bathrobe is the more commonly thought of manly post-shower linen, but you don’t actually need a bathrobe. You will, however, use a towel almost every day of your life, so you owe it to yourself to procure a few fine towels.
Recommendation: Personally, ever since I started using Casamera towels, I haven’t looked back. Made from Egyptian cotton, they really are “softer and more plush than your favorite stolen hotel towel” as the site says.
Grilling is the quintessential manly method of cooking, but gender doesn’t much matter here — everyone should have a great grill. Grilled food is simply the best of food, especially when you’re talking meat. And even if you live in a smaller apartment, if you have a patio, balcony, or anywhere you can get outside, you have room for a fine grill.
Recommendation: Traeger’s Ranger Pellet Grill will fit in your closet when you’re not cooking but has a 184-square-inch cooking surface when set up, letting you grill six burgers at once.
If you cook frequently and enjoy culinary pursuits, you probably already have a fine set of pots and pans. If not, you should own one anyway. You never know when a significant other or friend may hope to whip up a fancy meal even if you’re not much of a cook yourself. You also may find that with the right tools, you develop a sudden love for cooking. If your pots and pans are a mishmash of brands and quality, consider cleaning house and starting over with a complete set.
Recommendation: With this 10-piece Calphalon set, you’ll be in good shape for years no matter how much (or how little) you cook.
Great Chef Knife
Yes, you should spend well over $100 on at least one great kitchen knife, a blade perfect for chopping and slicing, for meat and veggies, and for all sorts of cuisine prep.
Recommendation: If you make it the eight-inch WÜSTHOF CLASSIC IKON Cook’s Knife, you’re doing it right. Just a public service announcement first: WUSTHOF knives arrive shockingly sharp.
It’s hard to overstate the value of a superlative mattress. A great mattress will last the better part of a decade. Let’s assume eight years, though — that’s 2,922 days, assuming two leap years, meaning a $2,500 mattress will cost you less than a dollar a day. Or hey, go much cheaper, but not too cheap — great sleep is priceless.
Recommendation: Sure, an MLILY Fusion Luxe will cost you about $2,500 for a queen-sized unit, but it might also change your life. (Actually, if you’ll take it from me, it will.)
You’re not going to put those threadbare old sheets on your brand-new top quality mattress, are you? If you value comfort and sleep quality, you need to spend a few (dozen) dollars and get high-quality sheets that’ll last for years.
Recommendation: The Lofton Organic Sheets from Saatva Dreams are cool and breathable, helping your body maintain an even thermo-regulation all night long.