While researching the topic of the status of men’s shoes for one of my posts last week, I came across GQ’s web site. It featured a section called 10 Essentials, which turned out to be ten celebrities’ opinions of 10 items that are “essential” to a man’s possessions. So, I figured, “Hey, I’m a legend in my own mind, why don’t I develop my own list of 10 essentials?”. Here it is: Steve’s 10 Essentials (featuring photos of my personal choices for each item):
1. A good mechanical self-winding watch
No batteries. Waterproof. Shockproof. Winds itself. Lasts forever. Can be passed over to the next generation. Used to be great value for money (bought mine new for $185 in 1971)…not sure if that’s still true since most of the best brands have become “luxury” goods. Buy the best you can afford even if it means a financial stretch (1971 Rolex Air-King Date).
2. A double-edge razor (DE)
Nothing shaves better. Cartridge razors do their thing by tugging at the beard and cutting it above the surface of the skin. A DE shaves the beard at skin level taking a micro-thin layer of skin cells with it. Women pay big bucks to do this every day with all kinds of fancy-shmantzy products (It’s called exfoliation). DE shavers get it for free. Supposed to keep your skin looking younger too. Who knows? Feels better than cartridge shaving and leaves you with a real sense of accomplishment in addition to a better shave (Edwin Jagger Chatsworth razor).
3. A comfortable work chair.
My friend Jens used to say, “A man should spend the most money on the two things in which he’ll spend the most time: His mattress and his shoes”. I’d add a chair to that list, since most of us will spend 6-8 hours a day sitting on our duffs. Fully adjustable, reclining so you can put your feet up on the desk, firm and supportive in the back and thighs. Contoured to fit. Available in different sizes to accommodate different sized bodies and butts (Aeron Chair by Herman Miller).
4. And speaking of shoes…at least two pairs of great classic leather shoes (two because you should never wear the same pair on consecutive days).
Goodyear welted. Leather uppers and soles. Keep them in cedar shoe trees so that they can dry back to their natural shape. Polish occasionally. If you can afford it, get one pair in cordovan leather (horsehide). Take reasonable care and they will last your lifetime. Take really good care and your son will be wearing them once he “wakes” up somewhere around age 30. They will be supremely comfortable and always look great (Alden Genuine Shell Cordovan Model 975).
5. A Leica M camera.
Look I could have said “A good quality camera” but why beat around the bush? There are cameras and then there is the Leica M. If you’re a serious photographer you owe it to yourself to own one in your lifetime. Life is short. Cut back on other useless shit. It’s a lot less expensive than psychotherapy and much more effective (Leica M9 full-frame digital camera).
6. A badger shaving brush.
Boar is great too. Either way, a good shaving brush will prepare and set up your beard for an amazing shave. And the sensual pleasure of the brush is just so much better than slathering on gloop from a spray can (Dan Capshaw brush in Cocobolo wood).
7. A handmade leather bike seat.
Once your butt breaks it in it will be the most comfortable seat you’ll ever own, allowing painless riding for many hours. Like a great pair of handmade leather shoes, a bike seat like the ones Brooks makes, will last a lifetime (or more), and will link you to a past when things were made by craftspeople who cared about their work and things lasted forever rather than being disposed and filling up the landfill sites (Brooks B-17 Titanium).
8. A custom made bike.
Fitted to you like a bespoke suit. The bike feels like an extension of your arms and legs. Amazing pleasure. You could ride forever. Lasts for generations. As current today as the day it was built. Timeless (1981 Leonard set up for winter on a Tacx indoor trainer).
9. A fountain pen.
I’ve owned a few, including a couple of Mont-Blanc, but none come close to my Dad’s iconic Parker 51. Still in pristine condition although it’s actual manufacturing date is 1948 (from the date code). It writes with a smoothness that puts roller balls and even felt-tipped pens to shame. You may only occasionally use it to sign your name to some important document, but it will make you feel far more important than you really are. Like MacArthur accepting the Japanese surrender. No wonder it’s in the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection and has a whole book written about it. A couple of years ago, Parker reissued a commemorative version of the ’51. Garbage. Like writing with a chicken’s foot. The good news? There’s thousands of original ’51’s on the market in great shape. Just be prepared to pay a hefty dollar (Parker ’51 with blue diamond clip).
10. A patient and long-suffering wife with strange hobbies of her own (Alpaca for spinning and weaving).