Ah, the pen. Said to be mightier than the sword, and yet most of us don’t give it a second thought in our daily lives. One always seems to be lying around except when needed and waitresses always seem to have an abundance of them in their aprons. I mean, really, other than having to endorse a birthday check from grandma, when did you last need a pen?
It’s quite sad for me to know this argument so well. You see, I work in the pen industry so I’ve heard it all. But I’m here to tell you that pens are the most overlooked accessory in a man’s life. Instead of thinking of them as a simple tool to be used, we should be thinking of them as a wardrobe staple, with some fit for different occasions. I mean, you wouldn’t wear slippers to the gym, so why are you using a BIC at work?
What to Look for in a Good Pen
So what makes a good pen, you ask? It’s hard to say exactly. It’s a lot easier to answer the question, “What makes a bad pen?” First of all, cheap ones. Think of the aforementioned BIC, those ubiquitous stick pens with flimsy caps. They’re meant to be economical, but have no personality, no leeway in ink flow, and tend to force your handwriting down to its level. Ink flow remains a top indicator of a good pen. Whether one picks a fountain, ballpoint, or rollerball, having a steady, wet ink flow makes the writing experience best for any use. You’ll also hear me speak about balance in the below list. This means that the pen itself has an equal distribution made for when you’re holding the pen, whereby you aren’t conforming to the pen’s handling, but the other way around. All of these matter for a good writing experience and even some of the cheapest pens on this list (such as the Pentel) have it.
Below I’ve compiled three of the most common categories of pen use and broke each one down with three suggestions. They vary in price for every budget for anyone on the lookout to freshen up their desk a bit.
The Best Pens for Everyday Use
The Budget Pick: Pentel Energel
The Pentel Energel is a bit pricier than other economy-level rollerballs but it’s because they just work. A super easy flow and a wider point give this pen bonus points for me, as I like to be able to scribble my daily notes without having to really scratch the paper as I would with a traditional ballpoint.
The Splurge Pick: Big Design Ti Arto
A lot of times when people say they like a pen, it’s actually the ink they like. Luckily with Ti Arto, you have a near-limitless ability to find the right ink for you. It’s the first pen on the market that has the ability to use a wide variety of ink refills, making its interchangeability desirable for those who take lots of notes and need some differentiation between pages.
The Luxury Pick: Sailor 1911 Standard
A classic design, the Sailor 1911 Standard has a cult following for a reason. It’s just an incredibly beautiful pen. Being a fountain pen, it may not be on everyone’s list (don’t worry, there are less expensive ballpoint versions as well), but it’s a pen that begs to be used simply for its beauty alone. With a Japanese nib, you can expect a finer point with an easy ink flow, making this a dream to write with and giving you some of that old-school flair many of us so desperately crave.
The Best Pens for Traveling
The Budget Pick: Kaweco Sport
The perfect starter fountain pen, this little guy is easy to use and has that bit of German flair that looks good against any EDC or clipped into your breast pocket. It’s easy to use and, while plastic, has a good feel in the hand. The Sport model gives you the ability to take your work on the commuter train or your notebook on a flight without having to compromise on what you pack on your trip.
The Splurge Pick: Esterbrook JR
Esterbrook’s JR model line is a resurrection of a popular silhouette from the brand in the 1940’s. Reimagined for the modern writer’s needs, it’s made of a colorful acrylic and an updated mechanism for more durable use. This small-sized pen is considered a pocket pen, meaning it’s great to throw in your bag and go. And with a brand dating back to 1858, you know you’re in good hands.
The Luxury Pick: Aurora Optima Mini
A high price point shouldn’t deter you from this option. Like the larger Optima cousins, this Aurora has all the bells and whistles of a larger pen but is a great alternative for your on-the-go life. Aurora is an Italian pen brand, so you can expect a more luxurious feel to the pen with each component a considered approach to design that Italians are known for. Something tells me this pen will transition from “on-the-go pen” to “everyday pen” once you start using it.
The Best Pens for Work
The Budget Pick: Fisher Bullet Space Pen
Something about astronauts still fascinates me and, unless I win a ticket on Elon Musk’s spaceship Willy Wonka-style, this is probably the closest I’m getting to be one. The Fisher Space Pen has been a marvel for nearly 70 years and it’s easy to see why. It can write underwater, in zero gravity, and upside down. Now, you probably won’t encounter any of these at your desk job, but it’s a fun pen to show off at the watercooler with a nifty design to boot.
The Splurge Pick: Parker IM Rollerball
Polished and professional, Parkers have been in the pocket of businessmen for over 100 years. The IM rollerball is one of those pens that’s easy to use right out of the package and can look good on a desk or in a jacket pocket. Coming in a variety of colors at a reasonable price point, it’s a great entry point into more luxury-style pens.
The Luxury Pick: Montblanc Meisterstück LeGrand Fountain
Even if you’re not a pen guy, you’ve probably heard of Montblanc. It’s pretty much synonymous with luxury. The Meisterstück LeGrand is one of those pens that will get you noticed. Like watches and shoes, a luxury pen is a magnet for compliments. And, not only that, but Montblanc’s just write really well. It’s not all hype with this one, the LeGrand has the perfect among of give in its nib to allow for a pleasant writing experience and the balance of the LeGrand feels solid in your hand. I can’t tell you to blow your next bonus on a Montblanc, but I’m also not not saying it, either.
Bonus: The Best Pens to Gift Someone
I am often asked what a good gift pen is. Of course, it depends on the occasion in which one is giving the gift, so I’ll go in a bit blindly with these recommendations. All are considered luxury brands and vary in price point, but they’re sure to give you a leg-up above the competitors who settle for gift cards or another Air Fryer the couple-to-be doesn’t need.