Posted in Pens, Stories

The Elegance of Black Pens

When my daughter was purchasing a new car, the dealership mocked her trade-in because it’s color wasn’t a traditional popular color (red, blue, white, green or black). The dealership’s point “people like basic colors.” Recently after I read a blog post by Deb Gibson (of Goodwriterspens) relating to “Black Pens,” and I got to thinking about how I’ve approached the color of pens and how that has changed. Keep in mind, black isn’t a primary, secondary, or tertiary color. In fact, black isn’t on the color wheel at all because it isn’t considered a color – shows you how much the dealership knew.

I would venture it is safe to say the average pen buyer prefers a colorful, artistically stimulating pen, whereas a solid black pen is not going to catch their eye. This has not always been the case. Even after the introduction of colorful, flashy celluloid pens and up to the rise of the ballpoint, black pens have out sold the colorful pens – but why?

Why, because, “black” is a real sensation, evoking both a positive and negative response. Focusing on positive associations, personally, the sensation of black stirs up the feeling of attractiveness, elegance, classy and sophistication. That’s why people choose to don black clothing when attending a fancy event or think of the formal status associated with a “black tie” event – in short – luxurious.

Dress for success

Traditionally, business men of the 20th century avoided color in their attire until the rise of the “power tie,” and the “power socks.” Most sticking with a black or grey suit, black hat, black shoes, white shirt and a conservative tie. Contemporary formal business attire still hasn’t changed much, in addition to the black and grey options it now includes dark blue suit, and light blue shirt. It’s only natural that business men would chose a black pen. Bright, colorful celluloid patterns might present an unprofessional demeanor, inappropriate for professional business men.

Today, many a Montblanc, Lamy, Pilot and Sailor pen are available in black, then there is the Esterbrook Jr. available in “Tuxedo” as their black color option. Black ink is not offered, instead they offer ebony.

Recently, I was conducting a scientific study (yeah right) on eBay related to black pens vs nonblack pens. The study ended with me “accidentally” buying a couple black pens, but more on those in a future post. The results generally speaking; black pens were shown less interest and sold for less than the colorful celluloid models, irrespective of their shape. Bucking the trend were vintage English pens, especially those with eyedropper filling systems.

There are collectors who will focus only on black pens, as they believe them to be the best example of the model without the distraction of colorful patterns. I can appreciate the focus but for myself, I am interested in the pen’s uniqueness and how it writes. I am as happy with black vintage pens as with pens made of cool colors. I admit when I first developed an interest in pens, I was drawn to the colorful patterns. Only later did I appreciate the beauty of a chased black hard rubber pen (I’m also a super big fan of mottled pens). In part, I believe this is rooted in my sentimental self and the habit of imagining the history a pen has been through. I feel that is especially true with “boring” vinatge black pens.

What’s your thoughts on black pens? I personally find them gorgeous. Don’t be shy.


I'm a loser as my wife likes to tell me, I enjoy researching dead cousins and playing with fountain pens.

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