I’ll never understand how women can wear high heels with such frequency and aplomb. Wedges, stilettos, those little tiny heels the size of a Tootsie Roll – the thought of wearing a heel of any kind renders me awestruck, and I mean that sincerely. The idea of wearing heels to me has always been so Herculean (who was the female version of Hercules? Xena?) because it must be so…difficult. Balancing between the ball of my foot and what at the end of the day really amounts to a stick is mind-boggling, and commands from me the deepest respect. It’s impressive. Purses are another remarkable female feat. They may be extremely handy sometimes, but it’s got to be such a physically demanding chore to lug around a huge bag full of, well, everything. I stand wide-eyed and panicky every time I watch a woman literally dig through her purse for minutes at a time trying to find the one hair tie or pen or stick of gum. It’s an amazing skill.
Like high heels, there’s no way I could ever maintain a purse. But unlike high heels, it’s not that a purse would be too much for my fragile male condition to handle; au contraire, a purse simply wouldn’t be enough to get the job done.
The difference between a woman who carries a purse and the hypothetical, purse-carrying me is that I would need a purse roughly the size four gym lockers in order to take with me everything I’d want. You see, what I have is “gear.” These things I have? Not stuff. Not gadgets. Not junk. Gear. And I wager that, given the chance, most men would have enough gear with them on a daily basis to justify the use of a Sherpa to even get out the door. As it turns out I don’t have a Sherpa, nor do I have gym locker-size man purses in which to haul my gear. Even if I did I wouldn’t make it far in NYC. (However, I bet I could get a seat to myself on the train – fur-clad mountain climbers probably don’t always smell that great, and no doubt disperse commuter crowds with ease.) No, instead my gear is relegated to my apartment, my pockets, or in a small messenger bag when the occasion permits (it’s NOT a purse, so don’t even go there), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of gear. Instead of quantity, I have strategy: my gear has to be multi-use, pocket-slim, or just classic enough that there’s no way I could do without it. If you’re a gear guy like me, check out this round of must haves for any man in the city.
The 5-ounce, 6-inch long CRKT Tool is perfect for a man who needs to do a little fixin’ around his city abode from time to time, and it’ll step up to the challenge even if he steps out into the urban (or real) wilderness for heftier work. Columbia River Knife and Tool is an Oregon-based company that’s been selling unique, innovative knives and tools since the mid 90s. When I was a boy I had a great CRKT knife that I used for whittling and other utility knife-duties boys are wont to do, and I’m a big fan to this day. The Tool is the first non-knife CRKT offering I’ve had the pleasure to use, and it’s come in handy a great deal. There is a 2.5-inch blade that locks into place (it’s literally sharp enough to shave with – don’t ask), and a surprisingly sturdy saw blade that also locks in place (though NYC Parks & Rec wouldn’t take kindly to custom hedges in the botanic gardens). There are two spring loaded screwdrivers that flip out for one-handed use, and a set of driver bits that fit over the Phillips head appendage; a clever wire-stripper tool machined into the grip; and a bottle opener/box wrench slots. Clip it to your pocket or belt, or use the ballistic nylon belt case that is included, and forego a toolbox. This one fits in the palm of your hand. Available online: http://www.crkt.com/CRKT-Tool
Dave Zuverink is a man after my own gear-laden heart. Or rather, my wallet. Or rather, I’m after Dave’s wallet – the SlimFold wallet, to be precise. When I was maybe eight or nine I had what every boy in the early nineties remembers as his ‘first wallet’ – nylon and Velcro cobbled together in the most radical color combinations. I started with a dark gray wallet with black detail, and then upgraded to an entirely neon orange number. Oh man, I can still hear the riiiiiiiip of the Velcro as I opened ‘er up, nudged aside my Jelly Belly Fan Club ID Card, and dug out my five or six bucks for the latest Batman action figure. Sadly, that orange wallet is long gone, and so are the days when I could use it without sporting a waxed mustache and ironic T-shirts. These days I need to carry some cash, a MetroCard, two credit cards, an insurance card, receipts, business cards… the list goes on. I’ve also recently developed this ‘thing’ about having a wallet in my back pocket. I don’t like it anymore. It’s so… nineties. For a long while I’ve been carrying loose cash and cards in my front pocket, a space that is often compromised by my phone, and tends to get bulky right quick. What EVER is a guy to do? This is where the brilliant Dave Zuverink comes in.
Dave has a wallet story too: Years ago he received a credit card that arrived in a Tyvek sleeve, and that sleeve outlasted several wallets. It was indestructible. If you’re familiar at all with Tyvek, you’ll know this is almost literally true – Tyvek is used in everything from parcel shipping to home building because it’s super lightweight (think a slightly waxy paper), nearly impossible to rip, and waterproof. So Dave took the credit card sleeve concept and ran with it. (This concept should also be familiar to anyone who has ever quipped, “If the little black box is indestructible, why don’t they just make the planes out of little black boxes? HA HA HA.”) Via the popular online storefront Etsy.com, Dave sells his laser cut Tyvek SlimFold wallets in a variety of colors – black like the one I picked up, gray, white bamboo (all sold out!), and… orange. (I opted for black instead of childhood orange because I didn’t want to be emotionally traumatized every time I bought coconut water at a bodega.) Tyvek is made up of 25% post-consumer product, and is also recyclable. He uses leftover Tyvek scraps to print package inserts, and the ink on the wallets is environmentally friendly. And they’re only 20 bucks! (This absolutely shocks me – something this great being so affordable is rare.) The SlimFold is organized so that cards don’t overlap, which keeps the profile slim enough to slip into my front pocket; and the SlimFold will expand to carry oversize checks and a great deal of cash. That’s good – Batman action figures ain’t five bucks these days. Make your wallet a little lighter (double meaning!) at http://slimfoldwallet.com/.
One of my favorite moments in the movie “As Good As It Gets” is when Jack Nicholson’s obsessive-compulsive jerk of a character storms into Greg Kinnear’s hotel room, panicked and yelling, only to find Simon (Kinnear) in the middle of laying out his clothing on the bed in perfect, folded symmetry next to his semi-full suitcase. In the middle of his tirade, Jack stops and very genuinely says, “Nice packing.” I like that moment because I’ve found that there are few human qualities more deserving of respect and celebration than the ability to skillfully and strategically pack a suitcase. For the uninformed, allow me to explain the process. Think through your itinerary: how many days, how many changes of clothes (swimming? coat and tie?); grab a few extra boxers and socks and tshirts; fold gently, lay out in rows; then place in suitcase – shoes on the bottom, then pants, then heavy sweaters and jackets, then shirts, then underclothes; then place your gear on top. And herein lies the problem: how do I contain my gear in an organized and classy enough fashion to live up to the hype that is the layer cake of packing perfection beneath it in my overnight bag? Until recently, I honestly didn’t have much of an answer. Razors and toothpaste and prescriptions went in whatever pockets were available, and remained in disarray for my entire trip. But then I came across Tom Bihn.
I’m not saying the Tom Bihn sells the only gear totes on the market, but I can definitely say they’ve got just what you need: laptop sleeves, backpacks, suitcase inserts, the list goes on – just name it. What I needed first and foremost was the perfect toiletry bag. I need something sturdy and resilient, but also something that wasn’t too bulky or heavy, and of course it had to be attractive. I got my hands on a Tom Bihn Kit and never looked back. The Kit is smaller than most men’s toiletry bags, but that’s good – it saves weight and cuts down on all the excess you don’t need (leave room for extra undies, trust me) – and it’s perfect for, say, a toothbrush, toothpaste, electric razor, meds, a small face wash and moisturizer, and some lip balm. The ballistic nylon is durable and cleans easily, to boot. So go order one! But hold on a moment. What, you may ask, happens when you get to your destination and need a place to keep your change, your phone, your glasses, a pen, and all that other gear? If you just thought to yourself, “Self, I bet Tom Bihn has the perfect solution,” then you said the right thing to yourself. I always find myself at a loss for a central ‘gear spot’ when I’m on vacation, but I found a solution with the Tom Bihn Travel Tray. The Travel Tray is a totally collapsible nylon bucket-type container that’s the perfect size to prop on your nightstand at night in an effort to contain your pocket detritus. Better yet, if you want to keep said detritus together when you pack back up, fold the sides up a little farther, tighten the drawstring, and throw it in your suitcase next to the Kit. Now that’s some nice packing. Find these products and everything else you could possibly need to tote your gear at http://www.tombihn.com/.
How many times have you stopped to think about how ingenious the original Swiss Army knife is? Think of all the separate tools that one tiny godsend makes irrelevant: knives, scissors, files, screwdrivers, saws, tweezers, etc. Now think about how many tools you could end up with if you properly outfitted yourself to groom your face and head: shaver, trimmer, clippers, various clipper guides, smaller trimmer for more precision… Where would you keep all of that? (Now, maybe you country folk have some sort of, I dunno, barn for all your grooming tool needs, but I have only one half of a medicine cabinet I share with very tidy roommate who likes her space, so bear with me.) If you’re savvy like I am, you’d keep it all in one spot, and it would have a relatively minuscule footprint. On the charmingly Lilliputian bottom shelf of my medicine cabinet lives the Norelco StyleShaver Pro. Admittedly, there is an additional charging stand and two swappable trimmer guides, but those can be kept elsewhere, contained inside the bonus travel pouch. The StyleShaver Pro packs more into its svelte, handsome form than your barber could ever hope to cram in that top drawer at his station: A full-size trimmer, precision detail trimmer, zoom wheel (for adjusting both trimmers), a beard comb attachment, a detail comb attachment, a precise and smooth foil shaving head, and a charging stand with smart charging adapter.
The trimmer ends can be rinsed under running water, and there’s even an electronic travel lock to keep the TSA from powering up the StyleShaver Pro for the entirety of your next cross country flight. The folding charging stand cradles and displays the StyleShaver Pro, which stops the smart charger from over-juicing itself when the battery is full. I’ve used the StyleShaver Pro to maintain the rugged, traffic-stopping stubble I normally keep, and I’ve shorn my face clean to the surface with its foil shaver end. Both ends do their respective jobs swimmingly – I trimmed my beard to the right non-height without a fuss, and the shaver smoothes out my five o’clock shadow as if I’d just wiped away my beard with the magic wave of my hand. The StyleShaver Pro is a great choice for a man who needs to save space on the regular, and/or for one who wants to precision-groom himself on the go. It’s the multi-tool of shavers, so don’t (Swiss) miss out! Check out the Norelco StyleShaver Pro at Bed, Bath & Beyond and online at http://www.Amazon.com.
“Gear” can refer to any number of other subsets – accessories, stuff, things, gadgets, tools, toys – but at its essence, gear is what you need to get the job done. Real gear is rough and tumble, hardy, capable. This concept is nothing new. Millennia ago shepherds used staffs, and over the centuries native people have fashioned obsidian blades and leather goods, sailors used their telescopes and astrolabes, frontiersmen and prospectors their compasses and sieves. Now of course we have iPhones, USB thumb drives, cloud storage, and apps, but that doesn’t mean gear of yore is irrelevant; in fact, some of it is timeless. Stanley was founded in 1913 when William Stanley Jr. first came up with the idea to replace traditional glass insulation with his all-steel vacuum design. Thus, the way was paved for a century of manufacturing that has culminated in the arrival of the Stanley 100th Anniversary Vacuum Bottle. It’s a well-known sight: the tall, green and stainless steel bottle that working people, campers, hikers, and all manner of folk have toted around for decades, keeping their hot or cold coffee, soup, water, et cetera…well, hot or cold. The formula has worked since our grandfathers tossed their Stanley vacuum bottle in with the rest of their gear, and after a century-long life that included tenure in the military and saw environmentally friendly innovations and ubiquitous popularity, there’s no sense messing much with a good thing, and there’s every reason to celebrate.
My Limited Edition 100 year Anniversary Stanley Vacuum Bottle is big – well over a foot tall – and its weight and texture feel good to hold. The tapered, stainless steel cup/screw top and bottom cap bookend a ‘vintage green’ middle section, making the bottle resemble a huge nostalgia bullet. On the side is the “100 Years” emblem, which keeps prodding my mind to comprehend what 100 years actually means, especially 100 years of simultaneous constant innovation and unwavering heritage. There isn’t much today that will remain so steadfast for the next century, but some stuff just has the right stuff from the very beginning, and as far as the Stanley Vacuum Bottle goes, I’m glad to give it a home with the rest of my gear. Insulate your goods the new-old fashioned way online at http://www.shopstanley-pmi.com/.