Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Watches, Pens, Pocket Knives

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Just as the advent of the motor car began the demise of the umbrella and hat, and the wristwatches of WWI replaced the pocket watches of the Victorians, the cell phone may spell the demise of the wrist watch. And when it does we will be denied one of the most elegant accessories which a man may still wear.

I’ve noticed several people lately flip open phones to check the time. On a hunch I looked around at my fellow pedestrians and confirmed that the vast majority (they were mostly students and a few younger professionals) were chronographically nude. At least to the eye. Not a wristwatch amongst ’em. But each had a pocket bulging with cell phone and keys or keys dangling from a belt loop (N.B. not a good look.) All carried backpacks or messenger bags and I wonder why they didn’t use those to hold the extra things they carried?

When I was a kid growing up in Europe, I remember seeing a lot of men carrying purses. Not “manbags” or bags in general, handbags. They had little wrist straps on them and a zippered opening. My father’s bag was black leather and had a zippered pocket on the outside as well.

Yes, he too fell in to the habit during off hours when we were traveling. But only after my mother convinced him to buy a New Man denim jacket and jeans “suit.”

It was the 70’s and I don’t know what was going on in the States, but European men were wearing tight jeans. Jeans that frankly couldn’t accommodate the large breast pocket wallets that everyone hauled around to carry the huge European banknotes that were much larger than the American dollar. So the handbag became de rigeur.

After reading another wonderful post by Mrs. Blandings, I decided to come clean. If the contents of a pocketbook can tell you a lot about the owner, just imagine what going through their pockets might reveal.

Men today carry all manner of things with them in all manner of bags. I have a shoulder bag big enough to carry my laptop and a portfolio that I used to carry before the laptop became my portable desk and filing cabinet. But I don’t carry them day-to-day.

No, most of the time I have to carry all the things you see above in my pockets — without bulging at the seams.

This is really when made-to-measure and bespoke clothing shines. You can have pockets built in to conceal all of your gear. A watch pocket carries my pocketknife. A coin pocket can hold my pocketknife or keys or phone (when not wearing a jacket.) The cigarette pack pocket on the left inside of my coat holds the phone, while the inside pockets hold my cigarette case (I keep my cards in it) and my pen. The breast pocket of the coat holds my glasses or sunglasses behind my pocketsquare. The car key and/or house keys can be stashed in the inner coin pocket of the pocket on my coat. The handkerchief and card case/wallet are in the back pockets of my trousers and my money clip resides in my left hand pocket.

If you are buying off the rack, the best brand in my opinion that caters to those of us who carry things on our persons, is Oxxford. The tailors there build their suit coats with pockets that work with the lining, expanding inward. I don’t know how they do it, but it works. There is hardly a ripple visible.

I still wear a wristwatch, though. And I have a landline. I suppose I am beginning to show my age.

14 thoughts on “Watches, Pens, Pocket Knives

  1. I’m in total agreement. I don’t like to carry accessories, or put them in a jacket or trouser pocket. I regularly use a vintage leather briefcase, but am in the market for a new one. Apart from that, I carry a slim money clip with a card or three. That’s it.

  2. Landline and watch… My cellphone doesn’t work inside my house and rather than stand outside to take calls in the freezing cold, burning heat or driving rain, I maintain a landline.

    And I’d die without a watch! I HATE being late.

  3. Chris – I do not envy you having to find a hiding place for all this loot. And you know I would never give up a wrist watch; you simply cannot look chic breathlessly extolling, “Darling, I’m so sorry, but I must dash.” while flipping open your cell phone.

    I adore the term chonographically nude and aim to use it today.

  4. Hello HH, I used to carry my grandfather’s in the top breast pocket of my suitcoat or sportsjacket. Chain running through the buttonhole on my lapel, fob securing it there. It was so anachronistic that it always caused comment. Mostly “What’s that?Cool!” On occasion one can be so out of fashion as to be seen as cutting edge.

    Mrs. B., just uttering the phrase “… but I must dash” might make being late worthwhile. It’ll never happen, though. I an an Army brat after all. Late was frowned upon.

    On second thought, all I really need is a personal assistant. Or in my terms: a gentleman’s gentleman. Then I wouldn’t even have to carry my own umbrella.

  5. I don’t think wrist watches will ever go out of fashion, (in my lifetime); they’re too much of a fashion accessory. Although I carry a mobile (cell phone in Ameri-speak), I wouldn’t know how to check the time with ease, as my eyesight requires me to use reading glasses any function on it! But you have very interesting points about what to carry around on a day to day basis. I tend now to dispense with the wallet, (too thick), and use a money clip for the cashola, and a mini card wallet for a couple of credit cards and ID. Otherwise one’s a*se tends to bulge too much, and that would never do. And when I wear a jacket, (rarely in these climes), I never put anything in the breast pockets, for fear of spoling the lines. Weird, I know!

  6. In the blistering Mediterranean heat, which is sometimes African, I always carry my jacket. I never actually wear it for the entire month of August, but it’s always with me. It’s the gentleman’s version of a lady’s purse. Wallet, car keys, cell phone, pack of cigarettes and lighter (yeah, yeah, enough harping on smokers). I have to literally beg my tailor to allow room for my stuff. He flatly refuses. Heck! I’m only supporting his entire family.

    You know…a gentleman’s gentleman is the only the real mark of a truly elegant man. A man-servant at your disposal can save your life, takes care of your day to day needs, brings you breakfast, fixes things you could do yourself, but wouldn’t dare ruining your manicure for. He answers your phone, avoiding embarrassing moments with the EX or the new girlfriend(s). Prepares your days clothes with the utmost care and taste. He knows exactly how you want your shirts ironed. Helps you with your cufflinks (the ones without the cheater swivel posts). Drives, washes, and maintains your car—admit it, even a Fiat Panda with a chauffeur is pretty damn cool. Let’s not forget, shoe care. He shines them just the way you like. He makes sure you rotate them religiously, brings them to the best cobblers in town, and may even help you putting them on!

    All in all, I am surprised more of you gentlemen, haven’t seriously considered how surprisingly elegant life can be with a personal butler. Your wives may get jealous, but they will be grateful in the end. Just tell her not to pretend any treatment for herself…he is, after all, a gentleman’s gentleman.

  7. I think there’s still hope. i’m 22 yrs old and like brilliant asylum said i feel absolutely naked without my wristwtach … in fact i have a mild panic attack if i step out w/out it .

  8. I own a Safety Orange Jimi. It is a great wallet replacement. I bought it because I’m in a wheelchair and can’t stand sitting on my wallet all day and needed something front pocket. I also like to support smaller companies and the Jimi is made from recycled plastics, bonus.

  9. Leather Wallets, thanks for reading. I’ve approved your comment and just ordered a zippered key case. If you’re reading this comment, your site didn’t give me the option of colour, but anything in brown tones would be wonderful. Thanks again.

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