There are a few relics of old-school sophistication that can be tough to bring back. Signature style flourishes like Bear Bryant’s hat and the mid-morning Rusty Nail commanded an air of manliness for an entire generation, but replicating them in modern times runs the risk of coming off a drunken poseur. Other, subtler ways of paying homage to a bygone era still exist, however — for one, a good set of stationery. Amid a sea of emails and impersonal texts, a finely engraved card or handwritten note packs a punch now more than ever. Keep the content sincere, simple, and captivating, and spend a little time and money on any of the quality stationery below, and you can call yourself a true man of letters.
Best Stationery for Sophisticated Snark: It’s important to note that besides a sharp wit and an expletive-laden attitude (which he actually may have trademarked), Terrapin Stationers’ Ted Harrington is running a 100-year-old New York City family operation that has supplied letterhead to luminaries from Richard Nixon and Cyrus Vance to Bob Weir, Ben Affleck, George Lucas and Ian Schraeger in the ‘80s, and many in between. Terrapin is one of the few remaining steel engravers, and after almost going under during the recession, came back to life with the creative use of four-letter words. Whether you’re in the market for a polished, simple custom set, or need a supply of lighthearted insults, richly delivered, Terrapin is your one-stop shop.
Best Old-school Stationery: If you’re itching to go classic, Thornwillow injects an extra nugget of character — which might seem out of place, considering the company was founded in 1985 by then-high-school-student Luke Ives Pontifell. Pontifell started binding books at his kitchen table, spending summer breaks from Harvard perfecting his craft. Now, his company makes stuff that lasts, and their stationery has become some of the most sought after in its class. If a vintage race car or martini glass seems a little too overtly Bond-wannabe, other icons like an acorn crown, etched maple tree, muskets, stags, a bald eagle or a lightning bolt balance slick and subtle. The possibilities are numerous, and if you want to go a little oddball, you’ve got options — a golden bone or a golden spider, maybe, The White House, or a griffin all convey their own message.
Best Stationery for a Heartfelt Missive: Calligraphy may conjure up an image of old, intricate cursive, but Bryn Chernoff puts an easygoing (though no less exquisite) touch on her line of hand-penned stationery. You can opt for printed or letterpressed custom cards in a selection of styles varying in simplicity, or pick up bold-font book plates and custom rubber stamps. The pièce de résistance in Paperfinger’s repertoire, though, is Chernoff’s love letter transcription service. For prices starting at $200, you can rectify the age-old pitfall of maring a solid sentiment with serial-killer handwriting (or simply drive home the magnitude of your gratitude in true style).
Best Stationery for Going Bold and Rich: Connor is an affiliate of Barneys New York, and their collection of powerful statement stationery is fittingly luxurious. Their card sets bear some of the usual motifs, but for the confident man we like the black horse in action, and a bright, copper-embossed rendition of Jupiter. Go to Connor for custom suites, too — minimal, masculine block fonts on cardstock so luxurious it’s sure to convert anyone into a disciple of paper goods.
Best Stationery for the Minimalist: Ontwerpduo consists of partners Tineke Beunders and Nathan Wierink, who studied together at the Netherlands’ Design Academy in Eindhoven. Their aptly named “Unstationary” is a set of utilitarian set of writing paper, cards, notepads, envelopes, and sturdy cases; it’ll keep your desk stocked with supplies and let your words speak for themselves. They bring an unexpected balance of imagination and reserve to graph paper, keeping things clean and orderly (in white, and in muted shades of green, apricot, and blue) and toeing the line between clinical smarts and intentional style.
Up Next: Write a Letter Like Steinbeck
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