Craft / July 2019

The Write Stuff

Writing may become a lost art, but as with other craft industries, with adversity often comes appreciation, and the writing tool industry is no different.

There are things we hang on to and sometimes use long after they’ve been superseded: folding maps and typewriters, rotary phones, camera film, vinyl records, FM/AM radio. Some have aesthetic or nostalgic appeal, others a certain something in their use - a tactility, an authenticity - that is hard to describe but hard to let go of. Their use can imbue an action with meaning. 
You may have one one in your pocket. When treaties and other important legal documents are signed, it’s typically done not with a ballpoint but a fountain pen - despite the former’s obvious technical advantages, from lack of clogging to lack of weight. But it’s precisely that weight, and the necessity to focus on the act of writing - and so what that writing signifies - that gives a fountain pen its appeal. It may, on rare occasion, ruin your shirt - but that’s in exchange for giving a touch of romance to every word written with it, even if that’s to sign a cheque, a will or divorce papers, or some other unappealing necessity. Perhaps those are precisely the moments when a proper pen should be used. Such pens are ceremonial, their utility more psychological than practical.
Just such a pen - typically a fountain from the likes of Caran d’Ache and Yard-o-Led, or a rollerball from the likes of S.T. Dupont, though even a humble ballpoint can be given heft and ‘keepability’ by the likes of Graf Von Faber-Castell - is a status symbol of course, akin to a mechanical watch, though less visible and, truth be told, less widely appreciated. Surely this only adds to its allure. 


Josh Sims

Josh Sims is a writer on menswear, design and much else for the likes of Wallpaper, CNN, Robb Report and The Times. He's the author of several books on menswear, the latest 'The Details', published by Laurence King. He lives in London, has two small children and is permanently exhausted.