If you think that traditional aesthetics cannot be applied to a non-traditional life, what about a guy who makes his living wearing Ivy clothes when he isn’t a singer/songwriter with an earring who tells stories about mental health maintenance and how his 6 year old daughter saved his life? Still, things can always get more Ivy, and I have decided to make resolutions this year designed to bring more Ivy in.
I write three handwritten pages every morning first thing, but the search for the right pen has been a distraction. Last year’s find was this:
No more. I refer you to (and I am going to get them to advertise here if it kills me, write them and tell them to) The Goulet Pen Company. This is their website. The founder, Brian Goulet, is a pen guy’s pen guy, but he eats and breathes fountain pens. I have watched his videos for years because they drip authenticity. He is a trad guy, he may not know it yet, but he is. His company is service and quality-oriented, and if you respect companies like Duck Head or J Press or St John, you are gonna LOVE Goulet. I am going to try to interview him for the site.
I have spent a ton of money on pens over the years but like umbrellas and hats (hey J Press, I need a Columbia baseball cap and am coming into town tomorrow, if I call with my card can I get one?) the money is lost at sea when I lose the pens, at sea. Here’s a $2,860 dollar pen (for sale right now at Sotheby’s) that I lost, the Agatha Christie Montblanc.
Forget that. I am working on building the Ivy Style brand and also staring down the barrel of a kid’s college, there is no longer $3,000 to throw around. AND, there is no longer then need to. I picked up these pens, at Goulet, the most I spent was $20 and I am telling you, sure as I am sitting here, they write well. More importantly, they look like I care about what these pages are that I haul myself out of bed to do every morning. Here:
Ivy Resolution Number One: Only write with a fountain pen for the whole year.
I wear a tie to work every day, even when I am working from home. Still, I pair them with khakis most of the time. And a sports coat sure, a vest always from Thanksgiving to March 1, but because I loosen the collar (#Degage) while it looks dressed up to everyone else, it really isn’t. This year, I am going to wear a suit at least once a week in an effort to lift things up even further. It is going to cost me (I only own four suits right now, and one of them has a pre-Covid waistline and not much room for negotiation). If wearing a tie when you don’t have to adds gravitas and focus to the pursuit of excellence and makes a statement about self regard, then wearing a suit when you don’t have to is going to further change my countenance. Who doesn’t want the countenance their change? (see what I did there?)
Ivy Resolution Number Two – Wear A Suit At Least Once A Week And Church Doesn’t Count
The third resolution is a continuation of last year’s but with more focus. Last year I resolved to listen to an album a day. Not put it on in the background, but really pay attention to it, mostly while I was walking the dog. It made a huge difference, even just the discipline of selecting music, but then some erosion occurred. I started liking some of what I was listening to and started making playlists. Which are great. Wait, here is a link to the Ivy Style Playlist on Spotify as created by all of us:
This year I am going to force myself to listen to an album a day and not allow playlists so that I experience the entirety of what the musician intended and wanted to represent. My album is coming out this year and I can tell you there is effort and deliberation in assembling and curating the content, the order, and the entire package. I am unknown musically so that is even more important, but it has given me a real appreciation for the body of work that is an album as opposed to just a song or a playlist.
Ivy Resolution Number Three – Listen To An Album A Day
I am going to do three more tomorrow, would love your suggestions in the comments if you have any. Finally, I would like to leave you with this gift. The greatest living guitar player is not who you think it is, unless you think it is John Butler. An Australian musician, Butler is the world’s greatest living guitar player not because of speed although he is amongst the fastest (speed is nearly irrelevant as a guitar player criteria but man, he is amazing to watch) and not because of his diversity (he plays every kind of guitar), but because of his articulation and composition. There are no missed notes, no mud or buzz, when Butler plays. Yes, he is a rock star, but that is by accident. He is the world’s greatest living guitar player. Here, Exhibit A:
Fascinating read! A good pen is always a signifier of style and taste. I have a few different pens which I choose from depending upon the occasion…. I try not to use anything too ugly! A usual for me is a Sakura pigment pen in one of several different pen tip styles; theyre not too hideous, and have a very fine ink layout with each stroke, and various nibs as well as a brush tip. Aside from those, I use various caligraphic pens.
I love those too! I write so much though that I tear through them. Have you ever messed with Stabilo? I am emailing you, the plans are almost set. Now that I can stand up again 🙂 – JB
Thank you for the tip! I’ll check out these pens. My wife is a huge fountain pen fan/user, so there might be something just right for her. I prefer various Cross ballpoints.
Sound idea on the suits. I too wear one once a week. Sometimes twice. Usually on a Monday. And yes, ties Monday through Friday even when working from home. It helps the “work” mindset to make things happen and get things accomplished in a way that pajamas or cords and a Rugby top just don’t.
My own resolution is to practice and encourage greater kindness (to family, acquaintances, and strangers) through small, daily acts.
That’s a great resolution. One upper. 🙂 – JB
I am a fan of Goulet Pens as well. I have several fountain pens but being a left-hander they are difficult to work with. I do like the look, though. I also have a Montblanc ballpoint pen that was given to me during my internship many years ago, and it’s still a pleasure to write with.
I think Goulet has other pens as well, not as many as they used to, but they are such a good company, I try to throw my money their way when I can.
As far as pens go, I keep at least 3 Parker Jotters at the ready at all times. They’re not super fancy but I have always loved them.
Fountain or gel or? The Jotters are great pens!
Excellent. We must preserve handwriting. It is personal. This goes for music as well. Music written with a pencil on manuscript paper has more soul than that written with Finale or whatever software.
I can hardly wait to begin wearing a suit more often than only to church. The Press charcoal sack and the necktie they paired it with is gorgeous. One suggestion. Made to measure. Ask them to straight cut (no taper, or at least, less taper) the trousers from the knee to the hem. This will eliminate “cloth puddles” as one astute I-S contributor once referred to them, and make for a beautiful crease from the beltline through the cuffs to the top of the shoe. The front crease should meet the shoe, with very little to no break, where the vamp meets the lace stay (the piece with the eyelets, where your tarsals are). If they break on the lace stay as in the photo, it makes for an unnecessarily sloppy, imported, department store look, i.e., cloth puddles.
Do you like Stanley Jordan’s playing? He is a Princetonian. I saw him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He has a mesmerizing left hand technique.
Oh man, Stanley Jordan is a genius. There is this thing where percussive players or people that play two necks, that kind of thing, are considered better guitar players because they are doing something new. Gimmicks don’t make you better. BUT. Stanley Jordan PLAYS the gimmicks – and has a great sense of improvisation (duh, jazz, but still). And THANK YOU for the tip on the pants, I am SO gonna do that. – JB
I like the look of the Goulet pen! I have used Lamy fountain pens for years and also highly recommend.
I encourage your suit-wearing resolution, J.B., and the charcoal flannel from J. Press is an excellent choice. They still have my size too, which is a temptation that I am now struggling with, thanks to you.
I used to wear a suit 5 days a week, plus Sundays, but now tend to wear sport coats more often. Still, I don a suit at least a couple of days during the week, and very much enjoy the feeling of being dressed up even if I often have literally no place to go aside from my home office or perhaps the grocery store.
As for pens, I used to use fountain pens, but could never completely master them. However, my travel agent, back when there were such things, gave me a Tiffany ball point that I have carried for the last 25 years or so. It takes Cross refills and, if perhaps not a stylish as a fountain pen, it suits me just fine and never makes a splotch on the page.
I’m a huge fan Goulet Pens! Brian and his team work really hard, and the customer service that I’ve received has been fantastic over the years. I too use the Uniball Air, and when I use up the ink, I re-fill them with fountain pen in colors I like. I wish Uniball sold blank and made a stainless steel version.
There’s really no going back to ballpoints after you’ve made the leap to fountain pens: it feels like trying to shave with a butter knife. The Mont Blanc JFK model has a good Ivy look, but a Parker Metropolitan is a decent low-key pen and lets you exercise the very Ivy virtue of thrift.
The more expensive the pen (or sunglasses, reading glasses, etc.) the faster I lose them. And of course it is impossible for me to lose the real cheap ones. It only took me 50 years to accept my absent-mindedness.
Good pens are good pens. Mine are rollerball. I have five I use every week e.g. Aurora, Montegrappa. They’re insured. I’ve only lost one, replaced it then found it a year later in the car.
The Goulet options looks okay, but may I suggest the BIC Cristal?. Yes, I am serious. They are durable, simple, subtly innovative, inexpensive and readily available. They are the white OCBD of pens. They are a French company, but their U.S headquarters is in Connecticut. I had a pen crisis a few years back, and I came back to the old standby after realizing the perfect solution was there all along.
I suppose there are better overall options if you are willing to spend the cash, but you can buy a 10 pack of Cristals at CVS for $3 or so. I feel similarly about Aqua Velva aftershave; there may be some aftershave with marginally better performance, but AV delivers on value big-time. As value is one of the cornerstones of the ivy mindset, these products fit right in. Or at least they fit right in with the mindset of this parsimonious Elm City-born nutmegger. Cheers!
Like my Timex T20501 wristwatch , my Parker Jotter ballpoint pen has been my favorite for years. Both are the epitome of minimalism, and of New England thrift.
Another Parker Jotter fan here. One blue and one red, and a bunch of refills in both ballpoint and gel.
I also lose expensive pens and sunglasses, but have not bought either in a long time.
Can’t imagine ever buying anything other than Jotter and cheap 10 packs again.
Then again, I work primarily with numbers rather than words for a living, if it were otherwise I might get fancy with a writing implement.
The Parker .7 GEL is a wonderful refill for my twenty plus year old Porsche Aluminum P3120.
Nice. Very Ivy thinking.
Y’all’s taste in ink pens is much more highly developed than mine, but I do have my preference for the Paper Mate Profile-slim in various colors. I put red ink in the red pen for grading papers, and black ink in all the others. And I can only use the medium point.
I hope that one resolution is to arrange for G. Bruce Boyer to make a contribution to this blog. He’s one of the few style writers that connects clothes to culture, and can talk about classic men’s style in a way that doesn’t sound pretentious.
I don’t know pens but American Trench has one with an interesting look. Happy holidays.
I dearly miss the yearly writers conference that was scheduled near the East Texas community where I live that has been cancelled for the last two years due to Covid. The gift bag is always filed with some comfortable and efficient pens. I sense you are a bit more of a Jazz fan but if you want to give a listen to something more in the Rock and Roll category, I would suggest the last album by Grace Potter. Beautiful lady and a talented musician and song writer.
Some strong Fogey vibes at work here–
— and I like it.
Yes to Mr. Boyer’s contributions. A gentleman, to be sure.
I’ve tried fountain pens galore–I return to an older Pelikan M1000. Broad nib. Smooth, just enough resistance.
George Will made the move to this pen after decades of faithfulness to an older MB 149 (Diplomat).
I own a few and keep them tucked away. Like the older Rolex Explorers and the old Mercedes i6 (“straight six”), they’re luxe workhorses. Not everything luxurious is by definition/necessity ostentatious.
* the Pelikan, like the MB, is a piston filler. Very easy. Requires about a minute or maybe two. And because the larger pens hold lots of ink, refills are a once-a-week thing (for me–and I write a lot). And you can have some fun (the trad kind) with ink(s).
I have looked at the Pelikan, I will get one and review it. Thanks!
Thanks for the tip about the goulet pen site. I’d already overbought presents to myself for Christmas, but thanks to you, now I have a new fountain pen and inks arriving this week. Maybe I should call it a New Year’s present.
My FP is a pilot. I buy both blue and black cartridges and rotate them. I write with it every day and will forever. At a minimum, I wear a suit and white shirt every Monday. This sets the tone for the week. Work is series, what we do has consequences, act and dress accordingly everyday, but especially on Monday.
I thrift and rescue discarded items, not that this is relevant to the post, it’s just a thing.
Hear, hear for pens, and penmanship. Absolutely adore writing notes on personalized notecards and putting them in the mail – U. S. or interoffice. [As the esteemed David McCullough has observed, the great archives of history will cease to continue for those in the current generation who write only by email and text message.] And there are few things more disheartening than getting an email in response. Well, getting no response is more disheartening. A blessed 2022 to everyone.
I also love the Parker Jotter in Bond Street Black with Chrome trim (JFK’s pen for signings). I’ve had a Waterman fountain for some time and it serves well but the the Parker 51 looks terrific https://www.parkerpen.com/parker-51-pens.html. For paper the preferred is Crane; 100% cotton and made in New England. Ivy if ever there was!