A man seeking to make a masculine and powerful fashion statement should carry a walking cane. This smart accessory will mark you out as a gentleman of style. But you must use it appropriately for it to be well received, especially in today’s modern world since the walking cane as a men’s accessory has become less commonplace. To revive this fashion accessory requires following good advice such as which I provide in this article.

It is important to mention there are three types of walking canes as fashion items.

  • Dress Canes
  • Folk Art Canes
  • System Canes

Dress canes are the type of canes used with formal attire, whether it be black-tie or business. Dress canes are typically made from precious wood, with parts made of ivory, silver or gold. They may also have precious stones and gems set into them, too. A subset of dress cane is the presentation cane, which was often given as an award by governments or companies to valuable employees.

Folk Art Canes tend to be made entirely of wood and have unique hard-made carvings on them, and can be worn with less formal clothing. They are still very collectible.

System canes are basically gadgets with secret compartments in them — the most common type of system cane is a sword cane.

A gentleman does not use a walking cane. He wears it.

Until the 16th century, it was common in European society to see men of stature carrying a sword. Through the 17th and 18thcenturies, this was progressively less acceptable and became uncommon. Nowadays, sword wearing is limited to military officers and certain ceremonial events only.

After the 16th century it became commonplace for gentlemen to carry a cane in place of their sword, and this was one of the visible ways you could recognize that a man was, in fact, a gentleman.

Broadly, most people have seen a stick or staff as a badge or sign of authority and power. A King has a scepter (a type of baton, often made of gold and precious stones, which is part of the royal regalia). A bishop has a crozier, the particular crook with the curled end. It was common for military officers to carry a swagger stick, a cane of rattan often used as a symbol of position.  

Men have been using a staff as a tool to demonstrate who they are and what status they have in society. Walking canes were not only a functional accessory to assist people with walking long distances (which was more common in the past before the invention of cars and public transportation) but also pieces of art, sometimes even encrusted with jewels. Therefore, carrying a cane communicates to others that you, too, are a man of substance.

You should know that there is a difference between a cane and a hiking stick. A hiking stick is often carried in front of you and may reach chest height. You would typically see a person using this type of stick when going up a hillside or mountain. By contrast, a cane is generally held in your hand and to the side of the body. A cane will typically be about the length from your hip to the ground. An older person might use a cane to lean on and assist with walking, but for most men a cane is an accessory, not a walking aid. This is especially the case with younger men.

A walking cane is an accessory for formal dress attire, and as a fashion item, will not be carried by a gentleman when he is in casual clothes or sportswear. As a general rule of thumb, a walking cane is for outdoor use only and is worn with outfits that include a coat. In past years a man would also wear a hat with his coat and cane, although hats have become less commonplace among current generations of men for outdoor attire, even when wearing formal clothing such as a sports jacket.

Some canes we recommend purchasing that can work for multiple occasions are linked to below.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that when the weather is very rainy, a walking cane can be substituted for an umbrella.

Can you use a walking cane for a black-tie event?

Yes, while en-route to an event, and when wearing evening attire and, wearing a top hat and a black cane is very much part of the image. For this black-tie event occasion, your walking cane should be highly polished, maybe silver-handled. A stylish walking cane of this type makes for a smart accessory, the type that film star Fred Astaire was known for.

You should be aware that when arriving at a black-tie venue, it is common that you will surrender your cane with your coat, gloves, hat, and scarf to the hat check desk when you arrive at the venue. Having the correct cane here will make this a very stylish look for you.

Should you wear a walking cane to work?

Whether you should wear a walking cane to work depends on your position and the type of attire that is standard at your workplace. 

If you work at a fast-food restaurant or grocery store as a cashier, it’s probably not a good idea to use a walking cane unless you have a mobility disability. It would be unusual for you to wear a stylish cane with such a uniform.

However, suppose you work in a business office as a manager or work in entertainment in some fashion, then yes. In that case, you can wear a walking cane as a fashion accessory. Now it may not necessarily be a polished black cane for this setting; ideally, you would wear a brown colored cane. Gentlemen in the heyday of cane use as fashion would have several types of canes they owned for different dress codes, matched to different outfits and activities they participated in.

How about wearing a walking cane to a formal wedding?

Yes, this is another highly appropriate occasion for a cane. 

One thing to keep in mind is that some canes can be very gimmicky, such as collapsible canes and so on. These models should be avoided as they are not sophisticated, and with fashion, you want to have a cane that presents itself as a luxury fashion item. 

Should you use a sword cane?

Today, sword canes are commonly sold to sword collectors, especially in the United States. However, these items are illegal in almost every country as they are considered a concealed weapon by local criminal codes. These sword canes are primarily constructed to be collectible, not to be functional, and tend to not be able to support any amount of weight or be useful for wearing as a cane as a fashion item. For these reasons I don’t recommend that you purchase a sword cane as a fashion accessory.

Still, sword canes are a historical fashion accessory. Because men started to use canes in place of swords, they sometimes had a blade concealed inside the body: Users intended these to provide a weapon for defence in the event of threat or danger. Gentlemen of the period were still routinely instructed in swordsmanship, so it was a handy arms-length weapon to have available, but disguised to look like a simple stick, it was not as threatening as carrying a sword.

Over time, manufacturers adapted canes to have other concealed features. The handle of the canes can detach and reveal a corkscrew or a small flask for liquor. Some canes might even have a small umbrella hidden within. There were even models made where the cane contained a single-shot pistol.

Having said all of this, my advice on gimmicky canes remains the same. You should not purchase an unusual cane that will likely be deemed as a concealed weapon and get you into trouble. Instead, you should purchase a walking cane that is made for functional use as a fashion accessory. A cane is a classic and smart item to be seen carrying and will be your badge as a gentleman.


Carey Martell is Editor in Chief for The Millennial Gentleman. A thirty something modern man who is politically independent, non-religious but a firm believer in ideals of chivalry and traditional family values. Carey lives his life as a vagabond digital nomad traveling and living life to the fullest while managing his businesses remotely with a laptop and internet hotspot connection.