When summer comes around I hate carrying my leather wallet around in my pocket. Not because I have to shell out three bucks for a tasteless overpriced cone of vanilla swirl from every Mister Softee ice cream truck I encounter with my son, but because in the sweltering heat it chafes my thigh and my thigh chafes it. So for many years I have switched during the summer months to canvas wallets that have worked well to protect my oh-so-delicate skin, but not much to protect its contents from the inevitable condensation that occurs on hot days. Until a few months ago when I ran into an old acquaintance and we decided to grab coffee (just like in the movies) to catch up. We went to pay and I noticed he was about to use his subway map as currency. I remembered that he was always a bit weird in school, but this was definitely out there. Luckily, he pulled a couple of bills out of the map that turned out to be a wallet – a Mighty Wallet to be exact.
I had noticed them before, but since it was within reach I asked and he showed me. The wallet felt like paper that has been shellacked with something akin to wax after it is buffed (I know, I know, that doesn’t help much, but that’s what it feels like). It has two top slots for currency and two internal spaces for cards (it can take quite a few I have found out). The current version has been around since 2008 and the variations are staggering (and very cool) and the concept is actually quite simple. The wallet is made from Tyvek which as the Dynomighty Design website explains is the same material used to make express mail envelopes. This makes the wallet “tear-resistant, water-resistant, expandable and recyclable… [these] wallets resist tearing because of thousands of interlocking plastic fibers spun in random patterns, giving them incredible strength.” The wallet is actually stitch less and is made like origami using one sheet of Tyvek.
So after my first encounter with the Mighty Wallet, off I went to get one for myself (I settled on the classic Airmail version). What I have grown to love about this wallet is how light it is and how water resistant it is even when walking around all day with it in your pocket under the baking sun.
I have had a chance to put it through several months of testing and I am happy to report that it is holding up extremely well and breaks in very nicely (in the video below you will see right after the water experiment a shot of what the wallet looks like after a year of daily usage). Even my son has tested its endurance by snatching it from me several time and stomping on it, attempting to tear it to smithereens and yes throwing into the bathtub full of water to see it “float like a leaf.” Although not all of the contents have not always survived his vicious attacks I can attest to the fact that the Mighty Wallet did indeed float (I was able to get to it fairly quickly) and is in fact water resistant.
The price and the free shipping are just an added bonus. It is built to last and is a great wallet to put in rotation so that you give that more expensive leather wallet you got last Christmas the summer off.
Summer always puts me in a preppy mindset. It may just be my vicinity to the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard, but with the heat wave coming on after a very long winter I am thinking madras shorts, skull and crossbones cotton belts, straw hats and topsiders. Really for me it is just an excuse to get as close as possible to the water and sand. While I am stuck in the simmering cement heat of the city, though, I like to daydream while sitting on the edge of the playground sandboxes that my son enjoys. To help me I have some visual aids. Two in particular are literally at arm’s length.
The first is my Turk’s head knot sailor bracelets. It is a timeless summer bracelet that I have worn for many summers since I was a kid. I used to actually make my own, but I have grown very lazy and now I get mine from a small shop in Nantucket appropriately named Nantucket Knotworks (it gives it that extra bit of “authenticity”). There are many others that sell them and, of course, if you are not as lazy and I am then you can pick up some rope and make one yourself. You may only end up using it to wipe your brow while walking across the street to your local coffee shop and not because you are hard at work on the deck of a whaler, but it’s the thought that counts.
Along the same lines I also wear another seafaring bracelet that each year seems to find a different iteration, but is always “tied” to the sea. The hook bracelet that has been recently updated by Michael Saiger for his Miansai Hooks bracelets.
With a sterling silver hook and some sailing cord I am again reminded of when I was a kid and with friends we would scour local nautical shops where I spent the summer asking for scraps of sailing chords in vibrant colors to fashion with knots and some matches (to seal the tips) into simple, but fun summer bracelets. The goal, of course, was to offer it to your summer crush and hope she would accept it. I could try to offer it to my wife, but these days I think she would be looking for something with a little more weight to it. Ah, to be young and carefree!
In a former life I used to smoke pipes. I still smoke the rare bowl or treat myself to a fine cigar once or twice a year, but with kids and living in an apartment it really is impractical (yes and of course smoking kills you, there is that too). These days I collect them and, although not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I refurbish them.
It is a soothing affair and one that reminds me so much of the ceremony that goes into actually enjoying a bowl of Cavendish. I say ceremony because unlike cigars and certainly cigarettes, the preparation involved in packing and smoking a pipe is really akin to that of preparing a proper pot or cup of tea – the journey is almost better than the final destination. The way you pack your pipe and char the tobacco at the top, tampering it slightly before firing up the rest of the bowl. Then much like a fireplace you must tend to it, fussing over it to make sure it burns evenly without overheating the pipe itself, burning too quickly or heaven forbid extinguish itself for lack of attention. Once finished it must be emptied, carefully cleaned and then set aside to rest within a rotation of trusted pipes so as not to be overwork lest it become sour. It is certainly trivial in the grander scheme of things for me to glorify the act of smoking a pipe, but I picture it as I buff and polish some of the estate pipes that I come across and add to my growing collection not for want, but for the mere act of daydreaming. It is a much needed mental break in a week of work in the office and at home as a parent. One of those moments that I have to myself during which I relive a fond memory while preserving some mental (and physical) health.
I know, what could be plainer than an umbrella? Five bucks and you can grab one on any street corner when the first drizzle starts and if the wind blows it inside out there is a trash can on the next corner. Could you imagine yourself paying over one hundred dollars for one? I doubt it, but that is due to today’s perception of the umbrella as a disposable item. You just want something that covers your head and fits in your pocket – especially if you live in drier climates that rarely see clouds or precipitation. And yet, the umbrella – the one you imagine when thinking of stodgy Englishmen in bowler hats – is an artisanal masterpiece and one that if kept properly will last you a lifetime. In the end you will probably spend less than if you keep buying the five dollar one on the street corner.
Umbrellas have been around for a long time and many versions have been found and cited by historians in the farthest corners of the globe. The steel ribbed Paragon umbrella frame, the one from which most modern umbrellas are modeled was attributed to the British industrialist, Samuel Fox, in 1852. His Fox Umbrella Frames company was established in 1842 in Sheffield and managed to survive until a few years ago when all the equipment was shipped off to China. As most of you can probably guess China, and in particular its Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, is now the largest producer of umbrellas in the world. Certainly, as did the Japanese with electronics, the Chinese will in the not so distant future create state of the art items that most of us will not be able to afford. I am not sure it will be in the umbrella industry, though, and for now it is still in London that you will find the artisanal masterpieces I mentioned earlier. In particular, James, Smith & Sons, will build you a custom length umbrella from a single piece of wood. You can also get the traditional “Fox Frame” with a variety of crook or sculpted handles. If you are more pragmatic and cannot imagine going through all that trouble for such a simple object then certainly you can find some elegant and much more affordable solutions from Totes and others stateside, much like buying the poster of the painting you like at the museum gift shop.
Growing up I always wanted a Swiss Army knife. Not the simple kind with the blade, toothpick and tweezers. I wanted the one with everything, even what I would never use. I did eventually get one, but not until I was much older. When the family used to go hiking in the Dolomites in Northern Italy we were equipped with an all purpose Opinel knife. Like many French blades it is indestructible (and believe me, my complimenting the French is almost unheard of). I still have it and never needed to do much more than add some lubricant to make sure it opened and closed as smoothly as it did the first day.
Even growing up in a city all my friends and I walked around with a good pocketknife. It was a tool just in case you needed to cut, scrape or loosen anything. Today, your kid will get sent home with a note if they are “caught” carrying one in school because it is no longer considered a tool, but a weapon. The kids are told as much and so the pocketknife in their mind is indeed a weapon. But I digress. For me a pocketknife remains a coveted object that I may not use on a daily basis, but it is there just in case, much like the flashlight in your kitchen drawer.
Of the couple of pocketknives that I do own, other than my vintage Opinel, there is one that I love dearly. There are many ways to call it, but the most common denomination in English is the sailor’s knife. Made with fisherman and sailors in mind, it usually has a hole or loop at the end of the handle meant for handing it from your belt. The shape of the blade, called “sheep’s foot”, was the only one allowed on board boats because there was less danger of its round end causing serious injuries if fights occurred amongst the often-rowdy sailors (as well as for the less romanticized safety reason of using a non-pointed blade in slippery conditions and in choppy waters). Over the years a Marlinspike was added to integrate a useful knot-handling tool and leather hole puncture. There are numerous companies that make such blades, some more traditional (L’Armor Le Sabot) and some more high-tech (Spyderco). There are many other well-known blade manufacturers that have produced a sailor knife at one time or another such as Camillus, Buck, Case, Schrade and Ka-Bar among others. They are just as useful on land as at sea even if you are not hunting Moby Dick and need to cut some fishing line or loosen a wet knot while sailing. When my son is old enough I will enjoy teaching him how to handle one of mine properly and hopefully he will hand mine down in turn.