There are a thousand reasons you should be carrying a knife with you every single day. And, if you ask some folks, there are just as many reasons not to carry one — a sentiment we most certainly disagree with. In fact, we’re of the mind that many of those reasons can be mitigated with the right knife. For instance, if your fear is that you’re not ready to carry a bulky, tactical, 8″ blade around like you’re Crocodile Dundee, we’d simply suggest something a bit sleeker and smaller.
Perfect for city living, gentleman’s knives (while an ill-defined category) are perfect for anyone who wants a compact and stylish cutting tool. They’re often beautifully-made, uncomplicated, and built to last. And while there are a lot of options that fall under those general guidelines, we’ve got a number of favorites that we believe really exemplify the category. And we’ve rounded them up on the following guide to the best gentleman’s knives for everyday carry.
What Is A Gentleman's Knife?
Sleek, Stylish, & Simple
Unlike some other factors in the world of everyday carry, the idea of a “gentleman’s knife” is fairly ill-defined — even within the knife community itself. And while trying to pin it down definitely opens up the potential for debate, there are a few factors that are generally agreed-upon. The most important of these is that gentleman’s knives are made to be easily and discreetly carried — necessitating a relatively slim and sleek format that can easily fit into a pocket, no matter how otherwise crowded. There are some who might say that they’re intended as a fashion accessory first and little else, but we disagree — a knife is a purposeful instrument that should always be able to perform required cutting tasks. But they most certainly need to be easily carried.
Secondly, gentlemen’s knives are typically uncomplicated in regards to both their styling and functionality. For instance, a highly-tactical automatic switchblade with sci-fi styling would never qualify as a gentleman’s knife. Similarly, Swiss Army Knives — while classic and iconic in their appearance and purpose — offer too much in the way of complications to fit into the category. It’s not a requirement for gentleman’s knives to be completely free of accouterments, but they are mostly very simplistic — even to the point that they often don’t even feature locking mechanisms, relying instead on friction or slipjoint deployments.
Lastly (and most complicatedly), these blades need to have some measure of timelessness about them, whether that’s because they’re built from beautiful and rare materials, have iconic styling from a noteworthy designer, or otherwise. As mentioned, it’s hard to pin down exactly what a gentleman’s knife is and not everyone will agree, but we believe these factors do help clarify the somewhat murky category.
Opinel No. 8 Folding Knife
Opinel has been making folding knives for over a century and they’re one of the most trusted brands in the world to this day thanks to their iconic styling. And while not everything they make necessarily qualifies as a gentleman’s knife, there are a number of their blades that do. For instance, their No. 8 folder is available with upscale handle materials — like black oak and ebony. Pair that with their Sandvik steel blades and instantly-recognizable silhouette and these blades do not disappoint.
Steel: 12C27 Sandvik
Handle: Wood or Fiberglass-Reinforced Polyamide
Blade Length: 3.25″
Named for the Melanesian spirits of destruction, the Douk-Douk friction folding knife dates back nearly a century. Used by French legionnaires for literal generations, this iconic and remarkably simple blade is a beautiful workhorse with little in the way of flourish — apart from the stylistic etchings on the blade and handle. If you’re looking for a classic blade that has been virtually unchanged since its inception, this is it.
Steel: Carbon Steel
Handle: Folded Steel
Blade Length: 3.125″
Deejo 37G Folding Knife
When it comes to minimalist folders, you can’t get much more pared-down than Deejo’s skeletonized offerings. Saving tremendously on weight without sacrificing style and functionality, these folders boast stainless steel bodies with your choice of wood on the handle (or carbon fiber, if that’s more your thing). They also offer versions that are solely stainless steel and the brand runs an online customizer, so you can build the exact blade you wish to carry.
Steel: 420 Stainless
Handle: Stainless Steel, Carbon Fiber, Or Wood
Blade Length: 3.75″
CRKT Swindle Folding Knife
While Columbia River Knife & Tool specializes more in the realm of the tactical, that doesn’t mean they aren’t completely lacking when it comes to more stylish cutting tools. Take their Swindle, for instance. Envisioned by legendary knife designer Ken Onion, this ultra-sleek blade has an instantly-recognizable silhouette, but it’s marred by overcomplicated styling cues. Even its frame lock is seamlessly integrated into its form. A bit more complicated in its construction that most other gentleman’s knives, we still believe this one qualifies.
Handle: Stainless Steel
Blade Length: 3.2″
Nagao Higonokami Friction Folding Knife
Crafted by the same blacksmiths who used to build swords for the samurai, the Japanese Higonokami is one of the most classic and iconic pocket knives in the world. And it certainly falls in line with the requirements of a gentleman’s blade — boasting a manual opening, no locking mechanism, and little else. With a reverse-tanto blade built from blue paper steel, these blades are offered with both brass and iron handles. And they’re guaranteed to serve you well for years and years. You might even pass them down to your children as a family heirloom.
Steel: Blue Paper Steel
Handle: Brass or Iron
Blade Length: 3″
Boker Plus Kansei Wasabi Knife
Constantly underrated, Boker actually offers quite a few blades that fit into the box of gentleman’s knives, but their Kansei Wasabi might just be their best. This slipjoint knife boasts unmistakeable Japanese design cues, but their subtlety is also evident. Furthermore, the 440C steel blade mates beautifully to a gorgeous cocobolo wood handle — helping to elevate the knife even further. Like a samurai sword for your pocket, this blade is hard to beat.
Handle: Cocobolo Wood
Blade Length: 2.875″
Shun Higonokami Folding Knife
Under the same umbrella as Zero Tolerance and Kershaw, Shun is actually most well-known for manufacturing superb kitchen cutlery and chef knives. But they’ve also flexed their everyday carry muscles when they made their own version of the Higonokami. Discreet and slim, this non-locking friction folder hinges on a VG-10 steel blade and beautiful PakkaWood handle. And while it doesn’t have a pocket clip, it does come with a handsome leather sheath.
Handle: Ebony PakkaWood
Blade Length: 3.5″
Quiet Carry The West Knife
Proof positive that a gentleman’s knife doesn’t have to be something you found in your grandfather’s attic, Quiet Carry’s West slipjoint knife takes the style and updates it for the modern world. Featuring a high-end D2 tool steel blade mated to a solid titanium handle, this non-locking folder is about as clean as they come. This 6.7″ knife also has the benefit of an ambidextrous thumb stud deployment and a handy tip-up pocket clip.
Handle: 6AL4V Titanium
Blade Length: 2.8″
Benchmade 318 Proper Knife
Oregon-based brand Benchmade has always had one foot in the tactical realm and the other on the more stylish end of the spectrum. So it shouldn’t be a shock to see them make this list — especially after taking a look at their slipjoint 318 Proper Knife. Available with either a red G10 or green Micarta handle, this knife boasts a manually-deployed CPMS30V steel clip point blade, has a lifetime guarantee, and was made here in the USA.
Handle: G10 or Micarta
Blade Length: 2.28″
The James Brand County Knife
One of our all-time favorite knives, the James Brand’s County magnificently blends the style of old with modern sensibilities. Extremely compact, it boasts a 2.5″ blade mated to a handle made from stainless steel and your choice of wood, G10, or titanium (for an upcharge). It also has a lanyard slot in case you want to strap it to your backpack, features a non-locking slipjoint mechanism, and looks superb.
Handle: 416 Stainless Steel & Wood, G10, or Titanium
Blade Length: 2.5″
Kizer Lundquist Feist Folder
Justin Lundquist is undoubtedly a revelatory knife designer, which is more than evident in his Kizer Feist Folder. Sleek and minimalist, this blade looks clean from any angle, but it’s actually packed with an impressive number of features. For instance, it has a flipper opening for quick deployment. It’s also equipped with an integrated frame lock. And the high-end steel blade mates perfectly with the titanium handle.
Blade Length: 2.875″
Fallkniven Gentleman’s Pocket Knife
If you’re looking for a gentleman’s knife to add to your EDC but you’re not fond of modern, minimalist interpretations, then this Fallkniven offering is perfect for you. It’s got a no-nonsense format marked by a beautiful cocobolo handle, high-end stainless steel blade, and even boasts a simple-yet-sturdy liner lock.
Steel: Lam. CoS
Handle: Cocobolo Wood
Blade Length: 3.07″
Spyderco Vallotton Folding Knife
While Spyderco’s Vallotton — named for designer Butch Vallotton — certainly pushes the limits of what we might call a gentleman’s knife, it’s definitely a bit more refined than their other, more stylized, tactical options. And by all accounts — with its CPM-S30V powdered steel blade and sleek G-10 handle — it’s a superb folder that anyone would be lucky to carry.
Blade Length: 3.75″
Benchmade 781 Anthem Knife
Admittedly, the chevron-style flourish of Benchmade’s 781 Anthem borders on excess, but it makes up for it with the fact that the super-slim handle is made from a single piece of billet titanium. Mate that to the signature AXIS lock, CPM-20CV drop point blade, and account for the USA-made construction and lifetime warranty and it’s hard to pass this one up.
Handle: Billet Titanium
Blade Length: 3.5″
Chris Reeve Impinda Knife
We could have blindly chosen any of Chris Reeve’s knives and they would have fit in with the rest of the knives on this list. But it’s hard to ignore just how on-the-nose the slipjoint Impinda is. One of the South African designer’s newest offerings, this blade is beautiful in its simplicity, but still has the superb construction we expect from all his knives.
Handle: 6Al4V Titanium
Blade Length: 3.123″
15 Best EDC Knives Under 3"
One of the biggest benefits of most gentlemen’s knives is their compactness. But if you’re looking for something with a similar size, yet different styling, you’ll find it on our list of the best EDC knives under 3 inches.
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