For me the Opinel pocket knife has become – alongside berets, rabies and battered 2CVs – an enduring symbol of French peasant life. Pablo Picasso carved sculptures with one, pioneering Alpinists have ascended with them and countless French schoolboys proudly sport scars courtesy of their first real penknife. Since the Savoie based Opinel company began 125 years ago over 270 million knives have now been sold in 70 different countries.
Known simply as the ‘French knife’ in the USA it can be bought with a fixed blade or with an easy-action folding blade. In either form its simple elegance has found many fans; in 1985 London’s V&A Museum selected the Opinel pocket knife as part of an exhibit celebrating the “100 Most Beautiful Products in the World”, and displayed it alongside other design classics such as the Porsche 911 and Rolex wristwatch. In 1991 the French knife was also selected as one of 999 items to be showcased by New York’s Museum of Modern Art as a “Masterpiece of Design.” Not bad for something that can be picked up for about a tenner at any descent camping shop.
While a single bladed pocket knife might not be the most versatile tool in the gentleman driver’s toolbox – we will get onto multitools at a later date – an Opinel will always be a welcomed gift for a discerning chum, a classy addition to a mancave’s knickknacks and can be guaranteed to bring a soupçon of peasant-chic to any gentleman’s cheeseboard.
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