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What’s In YOUR Old School Pockets?

Posted by on August 8, 2011

While you’re here, do the Old Man a favor and “like” OSR on our Facebook page.

Do you know what EDC means? It means Every Day Carry. It’s the stuff you carry every day. Yes friend, we actually have arrived at the point in western civilization where we have an acronym for something so mundane.

Yes, we have.

And there are websites — many, many websites — ranging from survivalist-themed to personal-accessory-themed, that have people dumping out their pockets to show their booty. (That’s booty in the pirate way, not the… other way.) Haven’t we reached the end of the internet when people are prattling on about what’s in their pockets? I am tempted to end this post right here, right now, to walk away, utter some sort of Gary Cooper “yup” and ride off into the sunset even though it is 1:42 am.

But it IS 1:42 am, I’m awake, my six week old little boy is finally asleep and I don’t have a horse to ride off on, so brothers, because prattling is the prime directive of blogging… let my prattling begin…

I’ve realized from day one that writing a blog about Old School Rules is inherently oxymoronic. It’s not the message that’s the problem. It’s the mediumOld School smarts (like what a man should carry in his pockets) were typically transfered in Old School Ways — father to son, brother to brother, friend to friend, through example, conversation and companionship. Virtually every thing I carry every day, uh, excuse, I mean virtually my entire personal EDC was chosen that way.

An Old School Rules Every Day Carry

(That’s OSR-EDC wink-wink)

To keep this post under 10,000 words, I’m confining the discussion strictly to pocket EDC.  What’s in a backpack, car or elsewhere is a topic for another day. Then I’ll talk about the first aid/field surgery/xray machine that fits in an Altoids tin, my zombie killing (trust me) 12 gauge with flame thrower and laser scope and my kindle-based Necronomicon (What was that phrase?  Klaatu barada nihmmmmm…)

If you’re living in the wilderness and killing grizzlies everyday for meat and clothing, you’ll probably think my opinions and tools are pretty wimpy. But if your lifestyle is fairly similar to mine (live indoors, not fighting super villains, want to avoid seeming weird) we will probably be on the same page and you’ll want to click on the few recommended items. Here’s my EDC.

Keys, iPhone in Incipio case, Saddleback Leather wallet, handkerchief, Leatherman CS4 multi-tool, deck of cards in Porper clip

So what’s in YOUR wallet pockets?

Let’s start with the ordinary (wallets) and take it to the ninja (tactical pens and other Batman-like gear). Some of these items I carry myself. Most I don’t. Those that I do I’ll talk about in a little more detail.


I carry a Saddleback Leather Wallet Bi-fold LargeBought one because that was the only way to stop my buddy Keith from raving about his. Seriously, he wouldn’t shut up☺. Finally the wallet I had, like they all eventually do, wore out and started to fall apart. So I got a Saddleback wallet. Keith was right. Saddleback products are full grain leather and guaranteed for 100 years. Unlike most leather products, Saddleback leather is stiff when new because the leather has not been beaten into softness through over-processing. That’s what you, the owner, do. After a few weeks of use it mellows, softens and conforms into a supple yet very durable wallet. I’m sure my Saddleback wallet will eventually wear out and look shoddy, but it won’t be my problem because my great grandchildren will own it then. Initially, it’s not the cheapest wallet I’ve ever purchased, but considering the quality of it, I’m sure it will be the cheapest in the long run.The above Old School Rule doesn’t refer to seeking the “best” to be elitist or trendy issue referred to earlier. It refers to the Old School common sense principle that by wisely spending more money in the short run you spend less money in the long run.

Cell Phone and cellphone case

My iPhone is covered with a Incipio case for iPhone 4. More than happy with it. My selection criteria were simple: it protects my phone, is inexpensive and doesn’t look like it came out of Lady Gaga’s purse. But for the most “manly” EDC cellphone case selection (at least according to several EDC sites), you must choose the OtterBox Universal Defender Case. From what I can tell from the pictures of the case it more than DOUBLES the thickness of the phone. I can only wonder, what are these people doing with their phone to need this kind of protection? But if you want the toughest, the Otterbox Defender Case is the way to go.


I don’t know why men stopped carrying pocket handkerchiefs. Not knowing that, I still carry one.


One of Dad's pocketknives

Knives and Multi-tools

The practice of carrying a pocket knife was a big part of why this blog was started. A friend of mine, Scott, had this exchange with an older man at church.

Scott: “Tim, do you have your pocketknife with you?”

Tim: “I’m wearing my trousers, aren’t I?”

That exchange made me laugh. And then it clicked with me because I realized there is an entire generation of men who just wouldn’t get it.

Knives I’ve seen in other pocket dumps look a little louder Tim’s pocketknife. Knives like the Spyderco Tenacious G-10 Knife (That even sounds mean). I know “louder” isn’t the exact adjective one associates with knives, so let me explain. Yesterday I was over at a friend’s house. He’s what you might call a gentleman farmer. He wants to show me the inside of potato variety he’s growing. He takes out his pocketknife and the potato flesh is a rich purple. I’ve heard of these potatoes before but had never seen one up close and it was pretty nifty. Because he had cut the potato with a pocketknife that looked like the one pictured here, my reaction was to think, “That’s a cool looking potato.”

If he had used a louder, more “tactical-looking” pocketknife my thought might have been, “Whoa, brother! What’s up with the shank?”

I carry a multi-tool instead of a pocket knife because the additional tools — pliers, screwdrivers — are useful. Specifically the Leatherman Juice CS4multi-tool. Leatherman makes great multi-tools, ranging in size from about two inches to nearly five inches. I chose the pocket-size CS4 because even though the bigger tools offer more options, if it’s not in my pocket it doesn’t matter how good it is. Just guessing because I don’t keep track of such things, I probably use it a five to ten times a week. Sometimes much more. Look for a future post about this great tool.

Reading glasses…

… because I ain’t getting any younger. Usually resting on my nose or my head.


On the survival side of EDC you’ll find flint fire starters and on the accessory side you’ll find lighters, mostly Zippos. I confess, if cigarette smoking were amongst my vices, I hope I’d be Old School enough to carry a Zippo.


Not much to say about the keys themselves, although the EDC sites had many interesting things to say about other things to carry on your keychain, things like…


While I can see the practical uses of having a flashlight on my keychain, the added weight and bulk means I won’t do it. So here’s what I do have — a great iphone ap and it’s free. It uses the camera flash on your phone.

Paracord or 550 cord

I don’t carry paracord in my pockets, but apparently it is big in the EDC world. Parachute cord(also paracord or 550 cord) is a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope originally used in the suspension lines of US parachutes during World War II. Uses? Apparently just about anything, from a rifle sling, improvised outdoor shelter (with a tarp), to shoe laces and a clothesline.

A popular way to carry paracord is a Paracord Bracelet. A paracord bracelet like the one on the left can pack ten to twelve feet of paracord. I don’t think I would ever carry paracord on my person, but having learned about it, I think some of it is going to find its way into my vehicle for those few times when I need cord to secure something in place.

First Aid

While you’ll find a variety of mini-first aid packages, the reality is even a small first aid package takes up a fair amount of pocket space. (And remember, this list is about pockets, not backpacks or “man bags”.) I worked as an emergency technician for several years and here’s my two cents. The best first aid package is not carried in your pockets but between your ears. Knowing what to do and being able to improvise is much better than having tools and not knowing what to do with them. The one compromise I make with this is carrying a band-aid or two in my wallet.

Tactical pens, other weapons and nefarious tools

It’s a pen. It’s a weapon. (It’s a floor wax and dessert topping, too.) It’s a tactical pen — a pen that is built to be used as a defense weapon in addition to writing. They are heavier and much sturdier than a normal pen and are assumed be able to get past security rules that would not allow guns or knives. To carriers of tactical pens, the pen is mightier than the sword because it can get past a mall guard. For 99.99% of the world, I just don’t get these things.

Guns You’ll see a number of different handguns in online pocket dumps. Some viewers will be happy to see that. Some will be disgusted. Most will realize arguing this point is usually wasted time, so I won’t. In most cases any responsible civilian who carries a firearm should do so discreetly; discreetly carrying a firearm prevents these arguments from starting. Using discretion in no way infringes upon someone’s second amendment rights. It’s not a constitutional issue. It’s a wisdom issue.

The solution? A pocket holster. Unlike a belted holster, a pocket holster offers sufficient concealment in virtually any clothing. The gun is placed in the holster and the holster and gun are placed in the pocket. The construction of the holster prevent the guns shape from showing through (called “printing”) the trouser pocket.

credit card lock-pick set. This screams Wild, Wild West. (The awesome Robert Conrad series, not the lame Will Smith movie.) It’s a lock-pick set that fits inside a fake credit card. James West’s set would have fit inside an ace of spades. As a mature(?) adult I have no use for this, but as a teenager I think I would have sold my sister for this. Practical? No. Legal? I’m not sure. Geeky cool? In its way, yes.

Finally, just me (and people like me)

A deck of cards in a Porper card clip. This metal clip keeps the cards from bowing while in pocket. I carry them because of my day job. If you knew how much practice it takes to do some of things I do I’d feel embarrassed about how I’ve spent a good chunk of my life.

Two Observations About The EDC Sites…

#1 The Ninja Superhero Fantasy

I have confession to make. I’m not proud of this, but it’s something you should know. I don’t like admitting it, but the time has come. I’m not Batman.

Only Bruce Wayne is Batman. There are many people who apparently aren’t aware of this. I say this because if you take a look at some of the EDC supply sites you’ll see they are selling stuff that would make Batman’s utility belt burst (or at least he’d need to get some Bat-suspenders). If you’re carrying a lock pick set, 20 feet of paracord (EDC folk love them some paracord), a flashlight, a tactical pen, and a bandana printed with first aid instructions, that doesn’t mean it’s smart EDC. It just might mean you should consider moving to a safer neighborhood.

Understand me, there are some people or situations where carrying 20 feet of paracord, a tactical pen or a bandana printed with first aid instructions would make perfect sense. But I suspect that most of the people that carry this amateur ninja gear are pretending they’re some sort of survivalist* Batman. Pretending to be Batman is Old School Boy but definitely not Old School Man.

*Important qualifier: Because it’s well beyond the scope of this post I do want to clarify one thing about the “survivalist” mention. That word has a many meanings ranging from someone with tin foil on their head to someone that likes to have a month’s worth of food in storage at his home and a back-up generator. Preparedness (which will be discussed in a future post) is very, very Old School.

#1.5 The emphasis of toys over skills

Batman was Batman because of skills, not toys. Carry all the paracord you want; if you don’t know an overhand knot from a half hitch it won’t help.

#2 The Vanity of the “Best”

In C.S. Lewis’ classic work, The Screwtape Letters, Lewis shares a series of letters written by an older demon, Screwtape, to a young demon, Wormwood, concerning the most effective ways to tempt a human. The literary contrivance of these fictional letters offers an all too factual glimpse into sinful human nature. Here’s an insightful line from letter #8. Screwtape is giving Wormwood advice on how to appeal to the vanity of the human, here referred to as “the patient”.

You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the “important” books.

The internet only exacerbates this. If you were to sit around with a bunch of pals and incessantly babble about how important it to have the best Moleskin notebook for the right situation, it (hopefully) wouldn’t be long before one tried to set you right by saying, “Brother, I’m trying to watch the baseball game.”

And you’d reply, “But it’s winter and we’re in the car. There is no ball game.”

“True, but an imaginary ball game in my head is better than hearing you discuss paper thickness.”

The internet isn’t a bunch of pals. It is just you and the nonjudgmental computer that is willing to let you have your inner dialogue of incessant babbling about the best items for as long as you want.

With all of this in mind it’s really easy for a gadget-loving guy to cop an elitist, “only the best” attitude about this stuff and about all other stuff, too. The few recommendations offered here are, hopefully, not made from an attitude of Screwtape’s “best, right or important” but the the feeling of “one beggar telling another where he found some really good bread.”

An Old School Man simply wants to have the things with him he’ll need to make him more effective and competent. Nothing less and nothing more. “Less” would leave him without a needed asset. “More” would slow him down.

Keep it Old School my friend,

The Old Man, Chris Dixon

Unless you want Batman to tie you up with paracord, do the Old Man two favors:

#1 Don’t forget to “like” Old School Rules blog on Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed, too.

#2 Spread the news about Old School Rules to your friends and encourage them to “like” us on FB and subscribe to the RSS feed, too.

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