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Welcome to The Esquire Endorsement. Heavily researched. Thoroughly vetted. These picks are the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.

Keyboards and screens may be necessary evils, but a great pen is an underrated joy. It turns the mundane (taking notes, keeping lists) into something genuinely enjoyable. And while I respect all the design and craftsmanship that goes into luxury pens—same with cars, watches, and fashion—I’m not going to buy one for a long, long time. I know my financial limits. Those limits are as follows: mid-twenties with a state school education’s worth of student debt, New York rent that’s too high, and all a journalist’s salary. Truthfully, I already spend too much money on clothes.

I also think more people should become everyday-carry guys. You feel a lot more put together when you carry a nice pen, a nice lighter, and a pocket knife with you every day, everywhere you go. So what’s the amount of money I can reasonably spend on a pen? About $20. Until I get a big salary, become an investment banker, or give up and try law school (all unlikely), there’s only one pen I’m going to keep on me every day. It’s the Parker Jotter.

a pen on a blue surface


It’s got the Bond seal of approval.

The James Bond film series has long been a treasure trove of product placement. The spy himself has been a model for plenty of watches, Champagne bottles, and, of course, pens. But most of the time, those items are true luxury pieces. I can’t think of any Bond-approved product that is more affordable than the Parker Jotter. If this is news to you, I’ll break it down: The Parker Jotter appears in GoldenEye (1995). Q (Desmond Llewelyn in his third-to-last Bond film) gives Bond (Pierce Brosnan in his first Bond film) a C4 bomb disguised as a Parker Jotter. Three clicks to arm, four-second fuse, three clicks to disarm. Bond manufactures an escape with the pen, and now we’ve got a classic 007 symbol that we can buy for next to nothing on Amazon. (To be fair, though, Parker has slightly changed the design on the pen’s clip. So if you really care about collecting the exact one, you need to buy vintage.)

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a silver pen on a blue surface


You can’t buy a more beautiful item for this price.

Speaking of buying and using this thing, in 2024, there’s a valid question to be asked: Why do you even care about carrying a nice pen? The answer is simple. It feels nice to use nice things. When I’m opening a package, even if there are scissors around, I’d rather use the pocket knife I got from my grandpa. When I want to light a cigarette or a candle, I’ll always prefer my engraved brass lighter over a Bic one. Things like these used to be more common, and we here at Esquire believe in brining them back—even as gifts. Are we the only people who care about beautiful things?

And when it comes to beautiful things, there are few that compare with this pen. It’s sleek, with a two-piece, stainless steel barrel. The clip is engraved to look like a feathered arrow, and the geometry of it gives the whole thing an art deco look. It’s not a heavy pen, but it’s more substantial than some disposable ballpoint from a multipack. The click is satisfying. The look is satisfying. Everything about it makes me glad I’m not holding a plastic pen.

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a jet flying in the sky


The joy of a sleek pen.

Speaking of not carrying a plastic pen, let me expound on that thought. There’s no everyday-carry item that makes you feel as good as a nice pen. I carry this one around constantly, and a pocket Moleskine is usually somewhere within arms reach as well. Everything I do then feels more professional, more considered.

I’ve always got something to scribble down my thoughts with. Everything—whether it’s consequential or not—feels more important. I’m more likely to take notes in a meeting, because I’m not dicking around on my phone. And when I am dicking around doodling, it looks like I’m actually listening and taking notes. My days get running themes now as I jot things down. When it comes time to write something important, like a letter to a loved one, I’ve got a tool that feels up to the occasion. I’m about to sign a rent check that’s way too much for my tiny apartment, but you know what, at least I’ve got a nice pen.

That’s the value of the pen, in my mind. It’s like a suit. Our culture is moving us away from it toward cheaper alternatives—screens and iPhone notes, polyester pants and hoodies. But every time I throw on a tailored jacket or pull out my little Parker Jotter, I feel like a million bucks. I can’t think of any other $13 thing that does that for me.

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Photography by Joe Lingeman. Prop styling by Heather Greene.

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