“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. A design is how it works.”
So said Steve Jobs, a man whose name you might have heard mentioned among chatter of his boundary-breaking, benchmark-setting exercises in electronics design.
Although Jobs’ primary concern was rewiring the public’s perception of computers as foes to friends, his assertion rings true whether you’re in the market for suit or a suitcase, a pair of boots or a ballpoint pen.
To that end, we at FashionBeans have put our heads together to generate a list of the design classics no man should be without. From tools to tech, kitchenware to cameras, this is the stuff that looks good, feels good and does good.
Victorinox Swiss Army Knife
Like a well-stocked wardrobe, the Swiss Army Knife is as sharp as it is versatile. First produced in 1891, the classic iteration is an icon of masculine design that lets you do everything from tightening screws to defending yourself in the wild. (Though chances are you’ll get more use out of the nail file.) Missing the corkscrew? Upgrade to the Spartan version.
Pub Quiz Fact: The company is today run by Karl Elsener IV, who took over from Karl Elsener III, who took over from Karl Elsener II, who took over from Karl Elsener, the inventor.
Available at Victorinox, priced from £16.
Anglepoise 1227 Lamp
Ever looked at your arm and thought, ‘That’d make a great lamp’? Of course you haven’t, because you’re not George Carwardine. More than 85 years ago, the British automotive engineer devised the Anglepoise 1227, the world’s first four-spring balanced-arm lamp (which you’ll know either from the opening credits of Pixar films, or that suspiciously similar Ikea Forså on your desk); a mechanism that’s still the gold standard today.
Pub Quiz Fact: Anglepoise also sells giant versions of the 1227 Lamp, originally created for the Roald Dahl Museum, measuring almost nine feet tall.
Available at Anglepoise, priced from £185.
Invented by George Grant Blaisdell in 1933, the Zippo lighter was so-called because Blaisdell liked the sound of the word ‘zipper’, but felt ‘zippo’ sounded more ‘modern’. In spite of the deeply uncool story as to how it got its name, the Zippo lighter has since become one of the world’s coolest designs, earning a fan base that includes none other than John Wayne (who had his custom made) and Christopher Shannon (who collaborated with the brand for his SS16 collection).
Pub Quiz Fact: Each Zippo lighter comes with a lifetime warranty and can be repaired free of charge at the Zippo repair clinic in Pennsylvania, regardless of age.
Available at Zippo, priced £20.65.
Bialetti Moka Pot
There are times in a man’s life when he has to do the right thing, and choosing how to make his coffee in the morning is one of those times. So ditch the palm-itchingly expensive, kitchen counter-swallowing Sage by Heston Blumenthals and Nespressos of the world and go back to basics with Italian inventor Luigi De Ponti’s machinetta, or ‘small machine’.
Acquired by Alfonso Bialetti back in 1933, it’s still capable of producing a cup of joe far superior to one that drips from a machine so pretentious it expects you to go shopping for pods in specialist boutiques.
Pub Quiz Fact: Bialetti’s mascot is a pointy-fingered man with an impressive moustache, designed to look like he is ordering an espresso.
Available at Amazon, priced £21.13.
Sure, your smartphone suffices for amateur endeavours, but serious shutterbugs need something that works as well as it looks. Leica was the camera manufacturer behind the first viable 35mm camera (the Leica I, which changed photography forever) and some of the photographers of modern history’s most iconic portraits (including that Che Guevara shot you had on your wall as a spotty teenager).
Today it continues as the market leader in developing gear that’s as functional as it is beautifully formed.
Pub Quiz Fact: In 2012, a prototype which lead to the first Leica camera sold at auction for £1.9m, setting a new world record.
Available at Leica, priced from £850.
Casio F-91W Digital Watch
Aside from the odd bit of bad press, Casio’s revolutionary F-91W digital watch has proved a stellar success for the Japanese electronics firm since its release in 1991. Why? Because it was one of the first few digital watches to change the game forever: a water-resistant, easy-to-use quartz digital watch with a battery that’s good for about seven years. Plus it costs around the same as your lunch and is stylish (admittedly in its own ironic way).
Pub Quiz Fact: Holding down the right button for five seconds displays ‘CASIo’. Go on, try it.
Available at Amazon, priced £8.90.
Roberts Revival Radio
Yorkshire may (historically speaking) be better known for its rice-based desserts than its trend-setting design, but Mexborough-based Roberts Radio is the noteworthy exception. The Royal Warrant-holding brand’s R66 model – a simple, box-shaped radio with a front-facing speaker, carry handle and top-mounted dials – turned a piece of everyday electronics into a compact and aesthetically pleasing household essential.
Today, invest in the Revival – Roberts’ modern interpretation of the R66, which teams a throwback look with state-of-the-art sound.
Pub Quiz Fact: The original R66 was created by founder Harry Roberts in 1956. It was inspired by the design of a handbag owned by his wife.
Available at John Lewis, priced from £169.99.
Le Creuset Casserole Dish
If you’ve ever eaten a casserole prepared in a Le Creuset casserole dish, then you won’t question our including it here. If you haven’t, then what the hell are you waiting for? This lava orange beauty, invented by Belgians Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, casting and enamelling experts respectively, is a culinary godsend. Trust us: your kitchen is nothing without it.
Pub Quiz Fact: No two pieces of Le Creuset are ever exactly the same, because the sand mould used in production is broken (and recycled) after each use.
Available at John Lewis, priced from £139.
Eames Lounge Chair
When designing the Eames lounge chair (and its companion ottoman), trailblazing husband-and-wife design duo Charles and Ray Eames were said to have taken their cue from a well-used baseball mitt. Thankfully, while it’s undoubtedly as comfortable as one, it’s a hell of a lot better looking.
You can still buy the chair, and ottoman, from Herman Miller, the company the Eames designed it for, hitting one of 20th-century furniture design’s most memorable home runs in the process.
Pub Quiz Fact: Charles Eames and his friend Eero Saarinen entered a prototype Eames Lounge Chair in the 1940 New York Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition, which they won (naturally).
Available at Herman Miller, priced around £3994.
Moan all you like about Apple’s conveyor belt of updates and disappearing headphone jacks, but there’s no disputing that the Cupertino tech giant’s iPhone has taken a sizeable bite of the smartphone market.
First released in June 2007, the modern icon has changed everything from the way we talk to each other to how we pay for public transport in the process. Plus, let’s face it, Androids are ugly.
Pub Quiz Fact: All current iPhone advertisements show the device with the time set to 9:41am. This was the approximate time Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in his 2007 keynotes presentation.
Available at Apple, priced from £599 for an iPhone 7 32GB.
Over the past 100 or so years, there have been many cars that broke new ground with their design – but few did it quite like the Mini. The brainchild of British-Greek designer Alec Issigonis, who sketched the design on a napkin, it is still one of Britain’s best-selling cars ever.
Although today’s are admittedly a far cry from the Mark I, some of the Mini’s hallmarks – such as the ‘moustache’ grille, compact size and punchy exterior – remain.
Pub Quiz Fact: Sir Alec Issigonis hated the concept of windows that rolled up and down and demanded that the windows on the original Mini slide open.
Available at Mini, priced from £14,225.
First marketed as ‘Baby Gays’ (for a reason that, to us at least, remains largely unknown), Q-tips were invented by Leo Gerstenzang in the 1920s and used in everything from medical procedures to make-up application. So while maybe not every man needs a Mini, if you don’t have a packet of cotton buds somewhere in your bathroom cabinet then you’re not only pretty disgusting, you’re also outing yourself as a design ignoramus. Just FYI.
Pub Quiz Fact: Q-Tips were made using a wooden stalk until 1958, when the company bought Paper Sticks Ltd. of England, which made paper sticks for confectionery companies.
Available at Amazon, priced £6.85.