A Personal-Meets-Practical Way to Choose Your Everyday Carry

Every guy has a few things he won't leave the house without. Make yours count.

The everyday carry (#EDC) hashtag started out as people emptying their pockets/backpack/purse, arranging the contents, and posting a picture online as a “day in the life” self-expression kind of thing. That was a couple years ago. Nowadays, search #EDC on Instagram and you'll just get photos of guns. A lot of guns. And butterfly knives. Oh, Internet.

Now, just as a public service announcement, if you feel you have to carry a butterfly knife, brass knuckles, and a Glock every day, you should definitely move, because you are living in the most dangerous neighborhood in the world. For the rest of us, there are other really cool, less militant EDC blogs, like the original Everyday Carry.

When this trend started, personal effects hinted at your identity – your occupation, interests, and personality. Today, so much of who we are lives in our phones that the number of items – and the level of personality in those items – has reduced drastically. But you can still express yourself with what you carry. And hey, having a little personality this side of the touch screen isn’t a bad thing, right?

The Personal

As a kid, I remember how my grandfather carried a sizable folding pocket knife and a red handkerchief in his back pocket every day. He was a farmer and mechanic – those things actually came in handy on a daily basis. For a while, I carried the same things, but found I rarely used either of them, and they just made my butt look fat and lumpy.

While personal mementos that tell part of your story are cool, don’t force it. A lot of things that show who we are do live online, and that’s fine. But think about putting a personal touch on the stuff you have to carry anyway.

Wallets and money clips give a lot of opportunity for personality, as do phone cases. Look for graphics or colors that suit your aesthetic, or go the subtle route with your initials embossed onto leather goods or etched into metal ones. The same principle you’ve probably heard about color in your wardrobe, that muted basics can be complemented with the occasional brightly colored item, can be applied to you gear, too.

The Practical

Pocket knives and multitools are two of the most common things you'll see outside of the standard phone/keys/wallet trifecta.

If 98 percent of your daytime hours are spent arranging spreadsheets and updating social media, you'd probably be fine without them. But then again, stuff happens. Your bike chain slips, you get locked out of your apartment, a rumble breaks out in your inexplicably dangerous neighborhood, and you forgot to pack your sawed-off shotgun or ninja stars. So if you want to be prepared for whatever comes your way, a pocket knife – especially a multi-purpose one with scissors, a pick, and tweezers – can be useful, even if it’s just for snipping a stray thread off your suit jacket.

Just be careful to find a slim piece, since as soon as we start talking pocket preparedness, we run the risk of bulgy pants. People will think it’s weird when you pull a backpack's worth of odds and ends out of your pockets while you’re looking for your keys. And they’ll be right.

Even if your life never calls for needlenose pliers or a sawtooth knife during the day, what you carry can be productive in other ways. The fact that most of our writing takes place on a screen means that:

  1. we can afford nicer notebooks, stationery, and pens because they last a long time, and

  2. the relatively unusual act of physically writing can help break up creative or motivational blocks.

Notebooks like Field Notes, Moleskine, or Tanner Goods are handsome, and pens like Kaweco and Faber-Castell make writing a pleasure.

The Vice

Everyone should carry something they could live without, but would really rather not.

A great EDC focuses on quality – not quantity. Each morning, taking only what you can carry means being choosy, and being choosy means having something on hand that’s a luxury. Every day, you probably reach a point where you need a respite from whatever humming problem is flashing in your face. The vice you carry is your escape from that problem. Here are a few we thought of:

The Smoker

A pipe and tobacco pouch are time-honored, everyday tools of pause. Just make sure you know how to pack a pipe.

The Narcissist

Sometimes the only place a man can get away is the men’s room. Splashing some cool water on your face, running a really nice comb through your hair, and refreshing your cologne can make you feel like a new man.

The Shuffler

Sometimes you just need to get kinetic energy out of your head through your fingertips. A deck of cards, for some people, is the perfect thing to shuffle, toss, and reorder to let your mind wander before cracking down to work.

The Drinker

No, not a flask. Instead, a single-packet of high-quality tea gives you a good excuse to leave your desk, take five minutes to steep a brew, then get back at it with renewed vigor.

The Reader

I have never regretted having a book on hand. Especially if you’re trying to spend less time staring at a screen, a ten-minute break with some literature trumps ten minutes on Facebook every time.

The Totem

You know that feeling when you catch a smell that makes you think of home, or when you smile because you remember a stupid inside joke? The endorphins released from those kinds of small, passing occurrences shouldn’t be discounted – they make your day better, rather than worse. If you could get more moments like that in your day, wouldn’t you?

A totem is a small item that usually feels interesting on your fingertips and has some special personal significance. For some people, it’s a good luck charm. For others, it’s just something reminiscent of a pleasant time, place, or person. Examples from Everyday Carry include a beer bottle cap, a silver dollar, a pocket watch, a family ring, a saint necklace, Danish coins, a Zippo lighter, and a tiny Minion action figure.

Let your totem be something just for you, that when you feel it in your pocket, it gives your day a boost, however slight. Let it remind you of what's important.

Even if 90% of your personality lives on a thin piece of glass and plastic in your pocket, the other 10% is an opportunity to tell the world – the real world – who you are. In a lot of ways, you are what you carry, so make it count. Being able to touch small bits of your life in your pocket helps keep you grounded in this life. So go forth, and carry on.

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