Beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter, what does a man really need? Clothing, to be sure. An income is not only nice but needed. A comfortable place to sit and rest and a moment of peace and quiet, especially after a year like this one. These are indeed things a man needs.
While many items are seen as classically manly — the cigars, the axe, the fast car — may be enjoyable, they are hardly necessities. What a man really needs are things that will improve his quality of everyday life; things that make tasks easier to tackle, that bring genuine joy, and that are made well enough to last for years.
Listen, a good cigar is a fine thing, and you can’t beat a great axe 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 cigars, hatchets, or fast cars to live a life of class and pleasure. But you do deserve a few fine items, and here are 20 things every man should own.
1. A Good Watch
Every man should own at least one good men’s 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.
2. Well-made Blazer
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, t-shirts, 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.
3. Nice Socks
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.
4. 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.
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.
5. A Pocket Knife
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 pocketknives since 1884 and is still going strong today. Whether you choose a limited-edition 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.
6. A Multi-Tool
You don’t have to spend much to get a decent, reliable multi-tool, 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 multi-tool in your car or briefcase — and make sure you tuck one in with your camping gear, too. Take that, unexpected survival ordeal.
7. Quality Luggage
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.
8. A Decanter
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.
9. Whiskey Glasses
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.
10. Our Picks
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.
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.
12. Music Player
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. You can go for a soundbar that can amp up your TV-watching experience, a Bluetooth speaker, or a vinyl setup.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. A Grill
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.
16. Quality Cookware
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 the house and starting over with a complete set.
17. 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.
18. Comfortable Mattress
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.
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.
20. Classy Belts
One of the small details of your quality wardrobe, good belts made of real leather are like dress socks and good shirts. When you don’t have them, people notice, especially if you’ve taken the time to have a suit tailored. One or two belts will stand you in good stead and last for years.
Like those other small touches, belts are a necessary investment that all adult men usually make.
We’ve reviewed the best belts for men here.
21. Cast Iron Skillet
You can cook everything in this—all the things! Properly seasoned skillets will last more than a human lifetime and transition well from kitchen to campfire. It’s hard to overstate the usefulness of this single pan, and you really should be excited about it, because it makes being an awesome adult that much easier.
You could easily have only this and perhaps a saucepan for soups in your kitchen, and you would be set. It really is that simple. Plus, recipes for this particular pan are easy to make, located everywhere, and can motivate you to expand your culinary skill. Also, bacon.
A good choice is this 12-inch skillet from Lodge, which comes pre-seasoned.
22. A Tailored Suit
Hey, remember that new friendship you formed with your local tailor? This would be why. Every adult man has at least one really nice looking suit of clothes that fits properly. This can be for formal occasions, such as weddings or parties. However, it can also be the perfect calling card if you’re looking to move up in the world—a.k.a.
The Interview Experience. Hiring managers for non-service industry, salaried positions pay attention to these things.
23. A Wool Pea Coat
Not only is this item a classic manly wardrobe essential, it’s also warm and versatile. Real wool is water-resistant enough to keep you dry on your dash through a sudden downpour. As well, if you actually do get a thorough soaking, it’s still warm.
Pea Coats of any length—whether you elect to purchase the classic Navy style coat or go with a shorter, modern cut, will stand you in good stead from slightly chilly springtime weather to blizzard conditions.
24. A Signature Scent
Having a signature scent is a part of building the complete man idea with the people you meet. It doesn’t have to be flashy or bold. You can choose an understated fragrance that speaks mildly of lemons, herbs, or even leather. This will take some shopping around, so don’t just snag the first one you try.
Take time to experience what’s out there and find one that is uniquely you.
25. A Garden
Even if it’s just a little bonsai and a few potted herb plants on your windowsill, having a garden changes you. It requires you to notice something beyond yourself and to make provision for the care of something that is alive. Plus, watching bulbs or seeds put up the first green shoots in the spring offers perspective.
Watching a garden come to life, growing and changing on a daily basis is a reflection of persistent self-growth in many ways. Plus, many herb plants are easy to grow and super-tasty in the food you cook for yourself.