Revisiting the Paper Mate Flair

The Paper Mate Flair is a classic of the pen world. Love it or hate it, the Flair has been around since the mid-1960s and is still a top performer for Paper Mate. I hadn't used a Flair (or any felt tip pen) in a long time. I remember as a kid, my brother and I weren't allowed to have markers at our grandparents' house, but Grandpa had all these Flairs we would doodle with. Back then they had ridges, so there was a little tactile feel to them. I also went through a Flair phase in college, when I learned Quentin Tarantino used the Flair to handwrite his screenplays. Well, I'm writing stationery reviews instead of snappy dialogue, so we all know how that worked out. Of course, if the tools were what made the art, there'd be as many modern Hemingways as there are Moleskine users.

Having not used a Flair in some time, I thought maybe I had remembered incorrectly, that maybe it was another brand that had the ridges, but when I looked it up, lo and behold, I was right. Apparently, when they moved production from the USA to Mexico, they stopped doing the ridges. I liked the ridges, but I can imagine a lot of gunk building up in them. The ridges also stopped just short of the end of the pen and it stepped down instead of the full taper it does now. The white cross in the cap is still there, though it doesn't spin as freely as I remember. I used to sit there and twist the pen and watch the cross spin as an absent-minded habit. Now I can barely get one of the five (the red one) to spin just a little.

Writing sample.

The pack I bought at Target had black, blue, red, green, and purple. They don't sell the 5 pack on Amazon, but here's a standard 16 pack.  I really want a dark green and an orange single.

The current Flair is what I remember, but maybe a little bit cheaper in the plastic department. The current plastic shows what I first thought where fingerprints and oily-ness, but turns out it's minor scratches or flat parts in the barrel "finish". The plastic is somewhat matte but anytime it comes into contact with something hard-ish, it will make that spot glossy and therefore look greasy or like fingerprint gunk. The tip guard used to be white plastic and, along with the ridges, added to the aesthetic. It is now clear, which makes the tip look a little awkward. The tip, however, does write better than I remember, and it is less squeaky in the aural feedback department. Could be I'm using better paper these days, but somehow the tip seems firmer upon initial tests...but let's be honest, I'm not going to subject myself to writing with this thing for a week to see when the felt tip finally breaks down and mushrooms out.

I would stack the Flair up against any broad point gel pen. They can leave a thick line without taking forever to dry. That's one reason I've always liked the Flair, and because they're cheap, they're easily tossed when they dry up. It's also a great signature pen and the choice of the true autograph hound, because as long as they aren't dry, they will write the first time, unlike a ballpoint, and when you have 5 seconds with the star, it has to write...not that any of that matters now as selfies are the new autograph. The feathering and bleed through is non-existent, except when you happen to draw over the same spot again and again, when the Flair takes on marker tendencies and saturates the page.

Overall, these little cigar-shaped marker pens are a classic. The design has changed very little since they were released in the mid-1960s, and for good reason: it's simple, effective, and minimal.


I came across a few old Flair commercials on YouTube (here's the whole Vintage Paper Mate playlist), and I felt like I wouldn't be doing my duty if you didn't get a chance to see them too. These are hilariously retro...and awesome.

Flair Fi Fo Fum

Flair Ultra Fine

Flair Set

NEW Flair Guard

Started Lunch Table with all his jackass friends. Owner/operator of Hagan Design Co. Blogs about all things stationery over at Lead Fast