This is an area of knifemaking that I've always been a stickler about. I just cringe every time I see what is an otherwise well made knife, and has huge, obtuse edge bevels. It might as well be a cold chisel!
So many folks out there view "sharp" as a totally separate thing, rather than an integrated part of the overall knife. Personally, "sharpening" starts when I begin the concept/planning of a particular knife. My goal is to have as close to a "zero" edge bevel as possible for the given blade. In order to do that, I must take into consideration the type of steel, the grind geometry, and the heat treat that will allow me to take the blade to a near zero bevel edge and still "hold up".
I use the term "cutting resistance" to describe why I choose to grind/sharpen the way I do. The less "meat" and the less bevel at the edge, the less cutting resistance a blade exhibits. In many cases a "dull" blade with low cutting resistance built into it, will actually feel sharper, and out cut a freshly sharpened blade that has the wrong geometry (such as those huge, obtuse edge bevels I mentioned earlier).
OK. All that being said, I actually have a couple of different "edges" that I will put on a knife, dependent on the given knife, and it's intended use. To explain, in my mind there are essentially two types of "sharp"...a "using" sharp, and a "collector" sharp. To obtain a "user" sharp, I will set up the edge with a worn out 400 grit belt, then finish it out on a fine India stone. This does not always produce a "hair popping" edge, but rather an aggressive, "bitey" edge. This type of edge will be more aggressive, and last longer when it comes to cutting things such as meat, hide, and other chores that most "using" knives encounter.
The "collector" edge, is what I put on most higher end pieces, that I know will rarely see hard use. I will set up the edge with a worn 400, then a worn 800, then knock the "wire edge" off with a loose buff and Pink No-Scratch compound. This produces that "scary" sharp edge, and will make arm hairs run away in fear.
This allows the owner to impress his/her friends by popping hairs, but that type of edge simply will not hold up well, nor last very long in "using" type situations.
Finally, one more thing that has always bugged me...so many people, who have limited knowledge of knives, are always concerned about "how hard is the steel?" Thinking that they want something super hard, so it will "hold" an edge longer. For the most part, I think we've done a very poor job as an industry when it comes to educating the public/buyers on this aspect of knives. Let's face it, any blade is going to go dull sooner or later, and require sharpening. One of the aspects that I have always tried to build into my knives is to find that "balance" between edge holding, and ease of sharpening. Which is one of the reasons that I have always had an aversion to most stainless steels....their makeup and required hardness levels, make most of them a bear for the average knife owner to re-sharpen. "Sharp" should be a part of the knife from the beginning.....not something that is considered once the knife is completed.