Zebra Pen, expanded

Modern Man’s Pen

Let me start by saying that having a great pen neither makes the writing great nor legible. That said, that wonderful writing instruments seem to be more of a collectible item than essential seems a shame.

The great pen has unfortunately taken a beating over time, both on the technology front as well as the fashion front. Granted, with computers, smartphones, and tablets to capture whatever it is we need to note, it would seem that the necessity for pens has certainly diminished. Today, we are just as likely to sign for a purchase with our finger than an actual ink-carrying instrument.

Men’s fashion has not exactly been any kinder. With most work environments going even more casual, even on their non-casual Monday through Thursday, work-at-home/remotely, and just the general decline of men wearing jackets—a moment of silence for yet another sad tragedy—in general, men are simply less inclined to even think to carry a pen.

Admittedly, carrying a pen in a shirt pocket, assuming the shirt has one, tends to tread on the less-cool side of geekery, and I’ll confess it has always felt a bit odd to carry one in a trouser pocket. I can only assume (humor me here) that other men have felt this same way and so abandoned carrying one entirely.

But that needn’t be the case.

Prior to a trip several years ago to Italy, I picked up a 2-pack of telescopic, or collapsible if you prefer, pens and a small, pocket-sized spiral-bound notebook. My requirements at that time were minimal…it needed to function and it needed to be compact. Ironically, I actually wore a jacket most of the time on that trip anyway, but I did want the ability to shove said notebook and pen into a jeans pocket.

The pens, made by Zebra Pen, turned into a wonderful find that has been with me ever since. In fact, one is still clipped to an equally small but nicer notebook that I carry in the door compartment of my car, and the other lives in, of all places, my wallet.

The pen I carry in my wallet has been especially useful over the years. In fact, I probably pull it out at least once a month on some random occasion when it once again proves its weight in gold. I may have replaced the ink refill once on one of the two pens, though I don’t recall for sure.

What I truly began to appreciate in this pen was that it served the purely functional requirements that I had, especially the compactness part, which was certainly not typical of most pens, but that it also had the makings of a great pen…weight. When it comes to finding a great pen, it is all about the hand or feel of the pen as much as its functioning.

This pen, while compact, did not succumb to being a mere image of a pen, some micro toothpick that may just as well come out of some child’s playset. Even more importantly, it has some weight to it that makes it respectable, as if you are wielding a substantial writing instrument rather than a light-as-air plastic stick of ink that needs to be chained down less it blows away with the slightest breeze. They truly struck a nice balance between light and portable and the heftier weight of a fine, brass-weighted pen.

I don’t know if they existed at the time when I purchased these pens, but at least now there does appear to be a category of “micro” and “wallet pens.” Apparently, Zebra Pen still sells these today as “Telescopic pens,” and it appears little has changed. Amazingly, you can still pick these up for under $10 a pen.

Perhaps there is still hope. The fact that these pens are still being produced and are available, years after I purchased mine, and there appears to be an entire category of pens designed for being carried in a wallet is reassuring.

Men especially should take note. There aren’t a lot of things in the way of accessories that we can appreciate and set ourselves apart from one another. A man’s pen has long been one of those accessories and hopefully will continue to be so, even if only for dramatic gesturing in this digital world. The fact that it can expand and contract at a moment’s notice, well…