My grandfather was a farmer by birth and a woodworker by trade. Because of this, one of his favorite sayings was, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” I can still hear him say this in the background of many of my childhood memories on his farm, Tanglewood. For instance, when the television would static during his favorite Western. Or when his Ford would take a second to start up. It was always the same: They don’t make ‘em like they used to.
I think for many people who are interested in beautiful things, we often have an innate nostalgia. Somehow, products just aren’t as good now, whether it’s due to cheaper supply chain options or shorter consumer attention spans.
But that innate nostalgia extends to other parts of our lives, too. For instance, I have recently been watching old Hollywood movies. The black-and-white ones. The good ones. Here, too, I echo my grandfather: They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Gone are the Marilyns who have been replaced with Kardashians. Gone, even, are the epic love stories of that era. Now replaced with franchise and franchise, money-makers with no spirit to the work anymore.
And then men, even them. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Gone is the gentleman in the leading actor sense. The debonair, the charming. The transatlantic accent and the handsomeness. The faces of men today can’t match up the men of Old Hollywood, when the promise of mid-century America was written in their smirks, grins, and laughs.
So, I am trying to correct two problems now. One, to bring back the forgotten leading man and give him due space on this site. And two, to bring you stylophilic analogies to modern-day pens. I’ve matched five leading men with five luxury pens in the market today. If nothing else but to defy my grandfather and prove, perhaps, that, for the right price and right brand, they make them better than ever before.
Paul Newman & S.T. Dupont D-Initial in Shark Blue
We’ll start with my favorite actor of the time first, Paul Newman. Newman’s career saw him on horseback, in racing cars, and on the canals of Venice. Something so effortlessly classic about Newman’s personal style has transcended nearly 70 years of fashion and he is still considered an inspiration today. The same could be said of S.T. Dupont’s fountain pens. Traditionally handsome with a touch of grace, the D-Initial has the ability to fit many consumer’s lifestyles, changing costumes as quickly as Newman from one of his blockbusters to the next. Plus, take one look at a colored photo of Newman and tell me his piercing blue eyes aren’t reminiscent of the lacquered Shark Blue barrel of the D-Initial line.
Steve McQueen & Montegrappa F1 Speed
Steve McQueen is next on the list and it’s almost impossible to separate McQueen from his passion for racing. The Montegrappa F1 Speed perfectly encapsulates the lead foot of this legendary actor. Inspired by the aerodynamics of Formula 1 racing, the contours of the F1 Speed fountain pen, its 24-karat nib, and the racing red finish, create a holding experience that’s more akin to being behind a steering wheel and not at one’s writing desk.
James Dean & Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Calligraphy Fountain Pen
Though gone too soon, James Dean is considered an icon of the era and captured the Zeitgeist of the American subculture of the 1950’s. There was a great range in his acting abilities, while still holding a distinct glimmer of talent that had never been fully realized. I am struck by a similar feeling of reserved talent in Montblanc’s Meisterstück Solitaire pen. Hand-applied gold leaf scattering across the lacquered barrel gives this pen a bit of danger, while maintaining its artistic roots as a calligrapher’s pen. A mixture of bad boy and disaffected artists all in one. Much like Dean himself.
Laurence Olivier & Aurora Green Internazionale
Having a penchant myself for English country houses and interwar England, I was immediately drawn to the marbled green Auroloide of this Aurora Green Internazionale. With gold accents, one can be reminded of bygone days at the Ritz in London. Laurence Olivier encompasses the great talent that came out of that period in English history quite well. With this suave approach to acting and his almost aristocratic good looks, his longevity in acting extended from theatre to screen to television. One can easily dream of this Aurora, with its own aristocratic appeal, to lazily be sitting on a script of Baron Olivier’s in his drawing room.
Carry Grant & Visconti Homo Sapiens in Ember
Dashing, handsome, a bit irreverent. Am I talking about the Visconti Homo Sapiens Ember or Cary Grant? Trick question. I’m speaking of both. The leading man and heartthrob of the Golden Age earned that title due to this classic good looks, impeccable comedic timing, and all-around acting abilities. Much like Grant, this Visconti has all the trappings of style, while being able to take on any role that’s thrown its way. A compression molding technique of carbon and copper create a distinct pattern that would have looked amazing clipped to the pocket of a tweed jacket for Mr. Grant.