More often than not you will read about pocket knives that lean more toward the “tactical” or “outdoorsy” niches. However, we would like to dedicate some time to the classic, and classy, gentleman’s folder. A pocket knife right at home in the pocket of a suit or tux. A blade that is not going to freak people out if you open it up in a Starbucks. So get ready to take a break from the fixed blade hunting knives and enjoy something a bit more refined.
Why should I consider a gentleman’s folder?
Assisted openers and pocket clips are great for some EDC or knocking around town on the weekend. However, there are times when something a bit more formal is in order. For instance in the office or social gathering. A gentleman’s folder is sharp-looking, mature, and exudes confidence. While you’ll look quite confident deploying the blade of an assisted opening Benchmade, doing so in the wrong setting can be unsettling to bystanders. Think James Bond; not Dwight Schrute.
How can I spot a gentleman’s folder?
Look for clean lines and a smaller profile. Smooth, polished surfaces and rich wood accents are fairly common. There are some variations here and there, but for the most part a gentleman’s folder embodies the following traits.
Formal attire and formal gear pair nicely. Like we said, tactical knives can be intimidating. Look for something smaller with a less aggressive style.
2. Streamlined and Lightweight
A bulky knife looks terrible in slacks or in the pocket of a nice jacket. The last thing you’d want is the huge and heavy knife flopping around whenever you take a step.
Our top picks for your first (or next) gentleman’s folder:
1. Boker Plus Urban Trapper
Trapper and gentleman might not be terms you would expect to find commingling in any scenario. However, as soon as you lay eyes upon Boker’s titanium framelock flipper, any questions about the knife’s name fade away. Just reading the specs are enough to impress. Titanium frame, cocobolo scales (handles), and a VG-10 blade. Combine those impressive details with a sleek and elegant knife design… oh and did we mention it’s very affordable?
Packing all of that awesomeness into a value priced 1.8 ounce package does require you to forgo bragging about where it was built and by whom. And while Chinese knives may have spotty quality control and a less than stellar reputation, we think this model is an exception. Holding it in hand it feels like a pretty high quality piece of gear. However, don’t take that to mean it will match the quality of other gentlemen’s folders in this list. We just think it’s a great value. Take a look at the price. You’ll be as surprised as we were.
|Locking Mechanism||Liner Lock|
|Blade Style||Plain Edge Clip Point|
|Handle Material||Cocobolo, Carbon Fiber, Metal Scales, G10|
|Pocket Clip||Deep Carry Pocket Clip|
2. Shun Higo-No Kami
The Higo-No Kami is based upon the design of the first Japanese pocket knife. Shun’s take on a 150 year old design oozes elegance. The Pakka handle is is polished to a beautiful matte finish while low profile 3.5″ VG-10 blade presents a razor sharp edge. Handcrafted in Japan, just like the original Higo-No Kami that inspired Shun’s classy gentlemen’s folder.
|Blade Material||VG-10 (61 HRC)|
|Locking Mechanism||Liner Lock / Friction Folder|
|Blade Style||Straight / Steak Knife|
|Handle Material||Ebony PakkaWood®|
|Pocket Clip||No Clip|
3. Al Mar Eagle Ultralight
The Hawk and Eagle from Al Mar are a great gentleman’s folders. However, we prefer this version; the Eagle Ultralight. The polished black linen Micarta looks classy while reducing weight and adding a bit of increased durability. Like other Al Mar knives this model’s 4″ blade is made from AUS-8. It’s also made in Seki City, Japan.
The Japanese built and hand finished knife does however have a few quirks. The most prominent may be the AUS-8 steel. Granted it’s a fine material for a blade, but at this price point we would like to see a more modern steel like VG-10. We’re also not in love with its lock back mechanism, located near the blade. However, taking a step back to consider that this is a gentleman’s pocket knife the two minor quirks will go unnoticed by 95 percent of those who purchase the Eagle.
|Closed Length||5 “|
|Blade Length||4 “|
|Locking Mechanism||Lock Back|
|Blade Style||Spear Point|
|Handle Material||Micarta (Black)|
|Pocket Clip||No Clip|
If you’re comfortable carrying something a little larger and love the style of the Hawk Ultralight be sure to check out the Eagle Ultralight. It’s a little bigger but comes with a pocket clip and the same great features of the Hawk.
4. Chris Reeve – MNANDI MACASSAR EBONY
If you’re a high-end watch wearing, exotic car driving, fine scotch drinking gent… this is your classy EDC knife. It’s gorgeous and insanely well made. With rare wood, titanium, polished surfaces, and a true super steel blade you can’t go wrong with adding this fine knife to your collection.
If there is a benchmark for classy knives… this is it. The price tag is the only thing that scares those operating on a tight blade budget – like us.
But, if you have that disposable income this Idaho-made knife is outstanding. Everything about it screams “I know knives, and value quality above all else.” And, if you really want to dress things up… add the Damascus blade for a $200 upcharge.
And just in case you’re wondering about the name “MNANDI.” It’s Zulu for very nice. And we couldn’t agree more.
Oh and it comes with a beautiful calfskin sheath to keep it pristine and in place in the wallet of that $$$$ suit you’re wearing.
|Blade Material||CPM S35VN (59-60 HRC)|
|Locking Mechanism||Frame Lock|
|Blade Style||Clip Point|
|Handle / Frame Material||Macassar Ebony / Titanium, Carbon Fiber / Titanium|
|Pocket Clip||Deep Carry Pocket Clip|
5. Benchmade 319 PROPER®
When you think of a proper gent’s knife, Benchmade knives probably aren’t the first to come to mind. But with their new 319 “Proper,” that’s all about to change. It’s Benchmade’s first take on a classic slip joint folder. It’s a non-locking folding knife with a ton of character, crafted by one of the best blade makers in the USA. It’s significantly less aggressive than Benchmade’s usual offerings thanks to the blade size, shape, and handle materials, but it’s every bit as capable for EDC.
Instead of the cheap carbon steel you commonly see on slip joints, the Proper uses a corrosion-resistant, American-made CPM S30V steel on its 2.86” blade. Its sheepsfoot blade shape is ideal for a variety of cutting and slicing tasks, thanks to the large belly and distinct point. In keeping with the traditional slip joint design, the Proper comes with scales made of either red contoured G10 or a dark green micarta resin that both give a unique tactile feel and extra grip. It opens and closes with a nail nick and the slip joint mechanism keeps it firmly in place. There’s no pocket clip, but there is a lanyard hole so you can easily grab it from your pocket.
If you’ve been wanting a knife of Benchmade’s caliber but prefer less tactical knives, the Proper is an excellent place to start. Pick up this modern, soon-to-be-classic from Benchmade via the link above.
|Blade Material||CPM-S30V (58-60 HRC)|
|Open Length||6.69 “|
|Closed Length||3.85 “|
|Blade Length||2.86 “|
|Locking Mechanism||Slip Joint (non-locking)|
|Blade Style||Plain Edge – Sheepsfoot or Clip point|
|Handle Material||Micarta or G10|
|Pocket Clip||No Clip|
6. Victorinox Cadet Alox
If there’s ever been a more non-threatening knife… we can’t recall seeing it. And, that innocent boy scout like world wide familiarity makes this our final pick for the best gents knife.
|Blade Material||Krupp 1.4116 Stainless|
|Locking Mechanism||Slip Joint (non-locking)|
|Blade Style||Plain Edge|
|Handle Material||Aluminum Alloy|
|Pocket Clip||No Clip|
Granted… there are a ton of other options that trump this little guy in terms of utility, quality, and even beauty. But, the Alox Cadet just has a classy quality that isn’t going to surprise anyone when you pull it from your pocket to put it to work. What other knife can you picture a scout, pastor, lawyer, doctor, or soccer mom wielding with confidence. There’s even a Nespresso edition Alox. If that doesn’t scream non threatening… I do not know what does.
A gentleman’s folder might just be the best edc knife for people who work in an office environment. They’re non-threatening, often their appearance is less menacing than a letter opener. For those of us who do not work in an office; a adding a gentleman’s folder to your collection is an excellent way to give your tactical folder or well worn everyday carry blade a well deserved break.
These classy knives are wonderful for myriad reasons, but perhaps the best reason is that you can never have too many pocket knives. If you have any suggestions or think we missed out on a beautiful gentleman’s folder, let us know. We’d love to take a look, conduct a bit of research, and maybe add your favorite to our list of awesome gentleman’s folders.
Classy Knife FAQ / Q&A
1. Pocket Clip or No Clip?
This is a huge personal preference. However, when we’re wearing slacks or a suit the last thing we want people to see is a clip hanging out of our pocket.
On the other hand… on longer knives it can be nice to have a pocket clip to keep the knife vertical in that trouser pocket. A long slender knife looks pretty odd when it drops horizontally to the bottom of your pocket. Similar to the way a pen can ruin the look of a pair of dress pants.
Another option is to wear a jacket or blazer and use the clip on the inside pocket. That way you’re probably not going to “print” the outline of the knife. As long as its sleek and thin.
So, ultimately it’s going to come down to trial and error and your personal style. If you wear heavier pants (jeans, khakis, etc.) it’s going to be less of an issue. If you wear a suit or dress pants you might have to get creative or switch out knives as you change your outfit.
2. Do Slip Joint Knives Suck?
Slipjoint knives get a lot of slack in the knife community. They are a little weak in the blade locking department. However, some locations (countries / counties / cities) require that a concealed knife must be of the “non-locking” variety. Thus, in those locations we’d say that a slip joint is a great option. It has just enough “lock” to make it fairly stable, but not too much “lock” that you’re prohibited from carrying the knife as an EDC.
Also, slip joint knives are pretty common. They’ve been around since the 1600’s and work well in the classy knife / gentleman’s EDC role. A.G. Russell has a pretty cool little article about why slip joints are still relevant and incredibly common in the States and abroad.
As long as you’re not piercing, drilling, or making a penetrating cut you should be fine. Just make sure that the force you’re exerting on the blade is in the correct direction, and unexpected closures will not be an issue.
3. What should I avoid when shopping for a classy blade?
The big things you want to avoid are large blades, bright colors, and aggressive blade deployment. Basically you want something that you can pull out in a high-end steak house without triggering any anti-knife / weapon type onlookers.
That’s a big reason we included the Shun folding steak knife. It’s an excellent example of a classy tool that isn’t going to make coworkers, family members, or strangers infer anything negative about you as a knife owner.
When you’re shopping for a gentleman’s knife think about how and where you’ll use it… A bright orange Spyderco Endura isn’t low key. It’s awesome… but it’s an attention grabber. Knives like assisted open Benchmade’s are also a little too intimidating in some settings. Clueless passersby might think “hey she’s got a friggin switchblade.” They’d be wrong… but better safe than sorry in mixed company. Finally, those beefy tactical knives are just too big and cumbersome to blend into those trouser pockets. If you’re knife is as big as an old Kyocera stick phone… it’s not ideal for those freshly pressed slacks.
Other sites are completely entitled to their own opinions on what make a knife classy or worthy of a gentleman (or lady). So as we researched this article we took a look at the competition to see what advice they’re handing out to shoppers like you.
Some of the recommendations are pretty good… others (from the big general review sites, and some offshore review for revenue factories) are a bit questionable. So taking that into consideration we thought it would be cool to briefly lay out their picks and offer a bit of our insight.
We aren’t going to call anyone out by name here… but if you’re scouring sites in preparation for your next knife you will recognize a few. So here we go…
1. Great Eastern Cutlery Tidioute Boy’s Knife & Oregon Trapper
Not bad choices by any means. These two knives are handcrafted in the USA and exhibit a great deal of craftsmanship and attention to detail. However, in our humble opinion the styling on both knives are a little dated for the crowd we’re targeting in this article. But, for some the old school look might be an outstanding option.
2. Kizer Feist
This is a great looking knife. And, in many ways it checks all of the boxes. However, there were two reasons we opted to leave it out of this guide. First… despite it’s impressive blade steel and sleek appearance… it is a Chinese sourced knife and for the price we think that the Boker Urban Trapper really ticks those boxes a bit better for half the money.
3. Buck 505
Here’s another one of the more old school looking choices we came across. And like the GEC’s we mentioned above… the 505 isn’t a bad pick by any measure. It’s just not the aesthetic we had in mind when we assembled our selection of knives.
4. Anything Spyderco
We’re huge fans of Spyderco. The Delica, Endura, and Paramilitary are benchmarks by which other knives are measured. However, for us the thumb hole makes Spyderco knives a little too tall in the blade for those trying to stay low key in the scenarios we covered above and in the FAQ section. Spyderco’s are incredible, but at the end of the day many of their designs might be a little intimidating to easily triggered people you may encounter.
5. Fantoni Dweller
We forgot about this knife, but it is a nice little Italian made slip joint knife that definitely looks the part. Unfortunately they are discontinued, hard to find, and maybe a little overpriced if we’re being brutally honest.
6. Benchmade 940
These are such sweet knives. In fact we’d put them in a list of the best EDC’s of all time. But, the styling seems a little too edgy for us… at least it did when we sat down and started defining what is… and what is not a gents knife. If the styling doesn’t skew a little too tactical for you we highly recommend picking one of these up. They’re awesome.
7. Opinel No. (Anything)
We always wondered what the draw was on these affordable classics. Then we bought one to review. After using it as a general purpose camping and utility knife we have to admit Opinel is growing on us. However the handle shape when paired with dress pants looks like you’re stowing a dry erase marker in your pants. In other words, it’s a bit too thick for our taste.
I actually gave these out as groomsman gifts before my wedding. They’re gorgeous knives and offer a great value. Unfortunately after carrying mine and talking to the groomsmen over the past 5 years… it’s not a knife any of us reach for when we’re dressed up for work or a night on the town. For me – they have a strange mass to size ratio that flops around in my pocket. In jeans it’s not as noticeable, but in slacks it’s just annoying.
It’s a great knife to give as a gift and an excellent addition to any collection… but for me (and my groomsmen) it’s just not a day to day favorite.
9. Kershaw Leek
Another great knife that almost made the cut when we assembled this article. It’s a great value price option, but there’s just something about the way it looks that we didn’t feel is a solid example or a true gents knife. Sorry Ken Onion… forgive us.
10. Boker Mini Kwaiken
Cool knife with Japanese styling at a great price point. If we didn’t already have and prefer the Urban Trapper – this would have been in our list.
11. GROVEMADE Pocket Knife
This is a great example of a knife that will dominate every list that you’ll encounter on a site authored by generalists. By that I mean it looks cool, it’s elegant, and that’s about where it ends. It’s great for magazines and top ten lists you see advertised on Social media. However, there are some big shortcomings… especially when you look at how much these things cost.
So what’s the problem here. First, the stubby little stud makes deployment… difficult. Next, in person the fit and finish is a little off the mark at this price point. Another issue; they come pretty dull – especially if you’re used to high quality factory edges.
Then there’s the pivot point… kind of sloppy and gets worse with use. And… if you browse knife threads in the forums and Reddit you’ll see that knife nerds aren’t impressed.
The good… it looks amazing. And Elmax is a great blade steel, but we don’t know enough about the treat and hardness to say anything overly redeeming. It’s also made in the US… according to some critics of the knife “hipster” knives are rarely made in “the states.”
12. Deejo Knives
These are pretty cool looking knives that seem pretty elegant and fit the bill from a looks perspective. We’ve seen them in stores… but on paper they don’t look all that impressive.
They aren’t a total rip off or anything… we’d just rather have something like a Kershaw Leek or something from Gerber at the <$50 price point.
We appreciate the effort and unique styling, but they just aren’t up there with the top knives in this list.