What is a gentleman's knife?

Jul 26, 2013
We've all seen threads about gent's knives, the "show us your gentleman's folders" threads, etc, and many of us have been a bit surprised at just what some people consider (or say they consider) to be a gentleman's folding knife. So, I thought maybe we could just discuss what exactly we mean by the term. Yes, I know that not everyone is going to agree, but at least we can get it out on the table.

First, let's not quibble over what a gentleman is. The original meaning, if memory serves, is a man of "good birth" but no aristocratic position. We don't have an aristocracy here (regardless of what some people think), so that definition is null and void here in the US.

Let us instead start with the idea of a knife you can take to church, a knife you can take to the opera, a knife you can take into a meeting with the CEO. I.e., your pocket jewelry. And no, I don't care how much glitter you slather on it, a Cold Steel Large Espada ain't it.

So, my person definition of a gent's knife is a folder of about 3" (a bit more might be tolerable, and a bit less is perfectly fine), generally a slim blade, wicked sharp, made with exceptionally attractive materials (some people demand all natural, some of us are perfectly OK with a well executed carbon fiber or G10). Personally, I think autos are out. I'm OK with assisted opening knives and some people aren't. I'm also OK with a locking blade (my personal preference, actually) and others say no, only a slip joint; some purists want multiple blades on their slippies. I'm OK with a drop point or a clip point or a Wharncliffe but not a tanto of any sort, nor a gut-hook nor a "skull crusher" nor a built-in meth pipe, whatever. I'm looking for elegance here, timelessness.

Not to hate on any brand in particular, but nothing Mantis has ever made will qualify as a gent's knife for me. :)

To be clear, I'm talking about a dressy knife, not just something that wouldn't get you arrested at the A&P. So, yes, I think the Delica is a very nice knife, but the standard Delica doesn't cut it as a gent's knife, IMO. Now, if you want to talk some of the damascus sprint runs, OK, we can have a conversation.

What I'm looking for here is some conversation, differing but entirely reasonable positions. I'm hoping to smoke out those with a similar way of thinking about these things.
Mar 3, 2013
Personally, a Gentleman's Folder has a narrow niche but within limits inclusive.

It's like when Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

I agree on a 3 inch blade length plus or minus about a quarter inch. Perhaps slimmer / narrower profiles for the overall folder in terms of width and thickness. I think a blade lock is fine and even necessary but not a must. A flipper, automatic or assisted opening can scare some of the "innocent" bystanders. So, either they're excluded or the person operating the folder opens it in a "silent" mode.

The look of the folder can overcome wider folders with thicker blades. Case in point, my LionSteel SR2. The profile of the blade can be intimidating like talon, tanto, etc. Anything overtly "tactical" is out too.

Overall, functional with some aesthetics, smaller and above all NOT intimidating to strangers around you.
Nov 7, 2005
simply put,
a gent's folder is
something that doesn't leave a tell tale and embarrassing bulge
that would make the ladies blush?
it is a refine tool for a fine gent;
use mostly to trim cigars and spread caviar on toast.
it is customarily worn more like jewelry rather than for function per say.
but that was back in the day when most men
practise something called chivalry.
now, even gent's knives are slowly being tacticalized with clips, and quick openings.
i guess, it's inevitable with the way things have progressed.
Jul 20, 2013
To me it is a knife that will fullfill the needs of a gentleman, without looking like a murder-weapon.

Cutting a cigar, slicing a piece of bread, cutting and spreading a cheese, removing the cover over the cork on a fine bottle of wine, opening an envelope or removing a loose thread on a coat would be some of the uses for such a knife imho.

None of the tasks above requires one handed opening, a pocket clip, a tanto shaped tip, exotic steels or a 2" wide blade.

A look at what civilized men wore to church, social gatherings and for a picnic one hundred years ago would be a good starting point.
Again, IMHO.
Dec 6, 2011
I don't think the definition of "gentleman" must remain static, else this would be a conversation about history.
Certainly, gentlemen don't fight with knives, so it should be something unsuited to fighting.
Jewellery, expensively beautiful, elegant, are all phrases that should fit a gentlemen's knife.
No clip, & it should disapear in a pocket without trace.
May 9, 2012
I consider a gentleman's knife something that is elegant and sophisticated, whether that be due to simplicity or something else.

I carry this as my gent's knife when I'm in a suit:



Platinum Member
Jun 29, 1999
A gentleman's knife is a knife that is made primarily to be worn as a dress accessory. It is not intended as a tool or weapon although it can certainly be made to serve as either; and, it need not historically be limited to a slim pocket knife, although that would be the fashion at present. It is a status symbol embelished to highlight the owners wealth, rank or wisdom. In the past it may have taken the form of a dress sword, bayonet, dirk or bowie knife. In other non-western cultures we may see the wearer carry a Scottish dirk or Sgian Dubhs, an Arab Jambiya, a Ceylonese Piha Kaetta, the kothimoda khukuri, etc. Just yesterday I was shown a Malaysian Kris that the present owner was selling for $160,000.00. The piece was finished in heavy gold leaf and decorated with numerous semi-precious stones. I was told that within that culture that knife comes to symbolize it's owner, that it is iconically displayed within the home and that it is so associated with its owner that it may be sent in place of it's wearer to fulfil ceremonial duties.

I don't disagree with your current definition of a gentleman's knife, but we should consider that at other times or distant places such definition will vary, and that ultimately a gent's knife shares a symbolic heritage with the knight's sword.

n2s ‎
May 17, 2013
I would think a SAK 'pioneer' series could be a good 'gentleman's knife' candidate. Personally, I would describe this knife/tool as non-assuming, adequate and practical. Qualities that I would probably use to describe a 'gentleman':

Dec 29, 2012
In my opinion a gentlemen's folder should be a few things.

I think something with around a 3" blade and 7 overall would be ideal.

I prefer polished or satin. in my opinion a coated blade is a no go.
I don't think there is any way to go wrong here, except maybe some of the really weird composites (think C-tek) but that'a just me. :)
I think this is up to the person. I would advise against paracord lanyards because the tend to be bulky (if you really want paracord I think the snake knot is best for this purpose) I do think the traditional leather lanyard is the way to go. :)

Basically I think a gentlemens knife should be small, thin, light, and beautiful. Prime examples being the CRK mnandi and mchenry and williams knives. ~Kirby
Mar 12, 2013
I would love an elegant and thin "mini-boxcutter" with a smooth polished dark wood handle and a mother-of-pearl slider or a black lacquered finish with a jade slider.
Dec 26, 2012

This epitomizes a gentleman's knife, for me. Made of better than average materials, elegantly designed and executed (but still obtainable for the part-time gentleman) and unobtrusive when used in a social situation or when resting in the pocket.
Feb 13, 2006
I consider a gentleman's knife something that is elegant and sophisticated, whether that be due to simplicity or something else.

I carry this as my gent's knife when I'm in a suit:


Which model is that? I have an Eagle with the FFG blade, and even though it has a four inch blade, do not think it would freak anyone if I surreptitiously withdrew it from my pocket and used it to cut my steak because the knife they gave me would not cut it's way out of a wet paper sack. I think the FFG is more "gentlemanly" than a spear point. JMHO

My opinion of a gent's folder would include up to, but not over four inches. As long as it is not a scary looking "tactical" knife type thingy. I mean, even AG Russell sells several different "Gent's Personal Steak Knives" in their catalog, and they approach four inch blade length. I would think AG Russell would know a thing or two about being a gent. ;-)

Dec 2, 2012
Yes manandi.

in my definition it would be an elegant knife without any aggressive shape/blade and offers high quality materials. Not any folder with wooden scales counts as gentleman's knife.

ive seen those threads and many post pictures of regular traditionals or even a sleek tactical.
Jul 31, 2013
When someone says "gentleman's knife" I generally think of thin, small, elegantly-shaped folders one can take to church or to a restaurant without looking like a tacticool nutjob. I agree with the general consensus: no black coating or skullcrushers or gut hooks. Handle scales can be pretty much anything, but the more elegant the better. A lot depends on the person and collection tho. I, personally, carry a plain-jane 940 Osborne as a gentleman's folder. It's lightweight, unobtrusive, and very stylish (to me, at least). I plan on getting a Benchmade Impel or a Protech Godson soon, which will most likely replace my 940 in that role.
Jul 9, 2013
3 inchish blade
no thumbhole , studs or pocketclip
a knife that when you take it out to use it people ask you about it instead or fearing it

i use my masserin consoli as my gent knife , it has green burl wood a razor sharp 2 7/8 inch blade in cpm s35vn and really appealing file work on the blade and spine