My first pocket knife was a Victorinox, bought for me while visiting family in Switzerland. I was definitely too young to have a pocket knife, but either my parents had faith in me or took comfort in the minuscule blade, and so started a life-long relationship with folding knives. I specify the folding variety here not because fixed blades don’t interest me—I have a modest collection of German kitchen steel that features prominently in my will—but because folders posses a particular allure suited to the connoisseur. The pocket knife is the gentleman’s knife.
The variety in folding knives is staggering, but I suppose the broad categories are as follows: the standard folder of unprecious materials; the slender penknife; the Swiss; the contemporary multitool; the custom and rare. I am an amateur, favoring classic French folders, but for the collector, that last category is where things can get out of hand. I borrowed several knives from friends for the photographs below, the last of which is a custom job of Damascus steel, black diamonds and wooly mammoth tusk.
Some might question the reason for possessing, let alone carrying a pocket knife. Some may even find it alarming. These are usually the same people who are genuinely surprised to learn that the soles of your shoes are made from leather, or that the buttons on your cuffs work. Is there a boyish romance associated with having a small knife in an interior pocket? Certainly; not unlike offering a light with a proper lighter, producing a small knife when something needs cutting—a clothes tag, an orange rind—is one of those small gestures that seems to charmingly linger for those who witness it.
Finally, a word on the law; it exists, and should be locally researched before toting anything. Of course my favorites are about as dangerous as manicuring tools (indeed a few serve that very purpose), but rules are rules. Oh, and unless you don’t mind having your pocketknife unceremoniously binned before your eyes, air travel is right out. Which is a pity, because I can almost guarantee that you will stumble upon a perfect pocketknife in some foreign market and have to spend a small fortune shipping it home.