The Perfect EDC Pocket Pen

One of the things I carry with me everywhere is a small pen. I use it for jotting things like shopping lists and playlists down in my Field Notes Brand pocket notebook. I use it when a client has to borrow my “real” pen in a meeting. I use it for signing receipts or writing in the margins of my books.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve carried a lot of different writing utensils in my pocket. I used an old bullet pencil that was my grandfather’s for years, but it wasn’t as functional as I needed once I entered a more formal career; you can’t sign documents in pencil. And while it’s better for sketching and doodling, pencil doesn’t write well on jeans, and is limited in the situations its appropriate to use .

I switched to a Fisher Space Pen for a few years because it was compact, had a history, and looked great. My first attorney repeatedly tried to swipe it from me after he used it the first time. There were a few things that kept the Fisher Space Pen from working well for me: (1) I always prefer a very thin nib (usually 0.5mm) and the thicker tip on the Space Pen didn’t feel completely comfortable for me; (2) every ink cartridge I used over 2-3 years eventually ended up leaking in small amounts; and (3) the pen body itself came unscrewed and after several months’ time would become impossible to fully screw back together as the 2 ends wouldn’t make a solid connection.

Years of small frustrations like these led me to begin my search for something else.

My criteria for a perfect pocket pen were:

  1. Truly compact. I didn’t want to carry a full size pen in my pocket.
  2. Handsome and professional. That farm bullet pencil I carried was practical, but it didn’t send a very professional message when I pulled it out of my dress pants to scribble a note in front of a client.
  3. Writes nice. Smooth action ink flow with no skipping or blotting. Those seem like basic requirements for a writing utensil, but I’ve been surprised at how many pens I’ve used that seem to struggle in one area or another after several uses.
  4. Fine point. I always prefer a pen point of 0.5mm as my handwriting seems to look a bit cleaner with a finer tipped pen.
  5. Inexpensive. I didn’t want to spend more than $20. A pocket pen gets beat around a bit by its very nature. I didn’t want to buy something so expensive it would feel precious.
  6. Single piece. I didn’t want to have to remove one end in order to write like I had with bullet pencils and the space pen. I wasn’t worried about the pen feeling small or trying to make it full size to write with. I just wanted a teeny little pen I could use every now and then without thinking too much about it.
  7. Blue ink. This may not be a concern for some people, but I work in the legal field and have become a stickler for having original documents signed in blue ink. While this isn’t a deal breaker, I really wanted to have blue ink, if possible.

After some research, I found NarwhalCo’s wallet pens. At first review, these seemed to check the boxes on my wish list: small, handsome, inexpensive, and one piece. I couldn’t find anywhere that talked about the point size, but at $13 for two (2!) pens, it was obviously worth trying.

The package came as shown with two refills, one black and one blue. Check blue ink off my list. The pens feel substantial and solid. No need to worry about busting this pen if I knock my thigh against the side of the conference room table (inevitable).

You simply twist the pen to extend the retractable point. I like that this will keep my pocket safe from ink and that it’s not a production to get the pen writing ready.

The pen does write really nicely. The tip is medium, but smooth enough I didn’t feel like that was a dealbreaker. I sometimes find myself reaching for my pocket pen instead of my favorite desk pen, the Pilot G2 retractable fine point, because the Narwhal writes so nicely. It really feels like it flows smoothly across the page.

I’m at an age where I’m beginning to demand a bit more from the items I use every day. I am not interested in luxury so much as I want things that work really well at what they are designed for. I don’t want to troubleshoot. I don’t want to tinker. I don’t want things require me to compromise or make adjustments to ensure their utility. I just want it to work reliably and without me having to think about it at all. Just work.

A pocket pen is a small tool. Maybe an afterthought to some or not even a consideration to others. But for me, it’s a tool I need to use consistently though infrequently. I don’t need it to work underwater or in freezing conditions. I have a desk job and I need my pen to look professional and work well when I hand it to my client for them to sign an important document. It’s a tool I carry with me all day, every day, and I need it to be reliable.

I couldn’t be more pleased with my NarwhalCo wallet pen. NarwhalCo is NOT a sponsor of Butc(h)er. I didn’t receive anything in order to write this post, not even a free pen. They probably don’t even know that I’m one of their customers. I simply love their product and wanted to share it.

Every butch has a personal EDC – those items you always have in your pockets. I want every item in my EDC to be something I love and that I look forward to using. My EDC includes a pen and a notebook. My EDC pocket pen is a NarwhalCo wallet pen and it’s the best pocket pen I’ve used in the past 15 years. Grab one yourself over at NarwhalCo.

Can’t Get Enough: August 2019

1. John Mayer – Maybe you only remember him as that goober from 2001 with the silly pop song or the douche from 2010 with the dumb interviews and succession of celebrity girlfriends.  But honestly, have you ever heard this guy’s guitar playing?  It’s fucking incredible.  I had enjoyed his bluesy style pop for the past several years after being converted to a casual fan by his album Continuum. Then my wife got me tickets to see him live for my birthday. Friends, I cannot even find words to say how amazing his music is and how his astounding guitar playing was a near-spiritual musical experience for me. All I know is that I began crying when he began playing. 3 songs later I got myself under control only to randomly feel tears streaming down my face throughout the entire 3 hour, 25 song show. For weeks, he is all I’ve had playing and I implore you to at least give his live album a once through listen to experience the beauty of his bluesy pop with plenty of blues guitar solos.

2. Mad Men reruns. I watched this whole series when it came out and loved and hated and couldn’t get enough of it. A few weeks ago, I put one episode on to keep me company during dinner when my wife had a work function and promptly got slurped right back into the Mad Men world. Before I realized what was happening, I couldn’t wait to get in a few episodes every night after work and before bed. This show is just so damn good. And excuse me for being so fragile, but it’s wonderful to watch a show set in an urban setting and not entrenched in a historic world devoted to war and violence. And, my god, are the men’s clothes on this show incredible, or what?

3. Plain seltzer water. First, to be clear, I am NOT referring to hard seltzer. I’m not talking about club soda. I’m not hating on hard seltzer or club soda. But I’m talking about that most basic of bubbly water – plain, unadulterated, fizzy seltzer water. I’ve been trying to limit my alcohol intake during the week, but there is just something lovely about coming home and having something “special” to drink while cooking dinner. I’m not buying anything fancy – I’m grabbing basic grocery store brand seltzer. I’ve come to love the pop of the can, and fizz of the bubbles into my favorite glass, and the joy of drinking something just a little special every night when I get home from the office. It might be the mildest, but most enjoyable way of “treating yo’self” I’ve discovered yet this summer.

4. Crate and Barrel Hatch glasses. The wife bought me a hatch rocks glass a few years back and it was the glass I grabbed every time I poured my favorite sipping rum. One bad night a few months back, I tripped on my way to the couch, dropped the glass and watched it (and the last of my favorite rum) crash to the floor. My relaxation that night shattered along with my favorite glass. The next morning, my wife ordered me a replacement and bought a companion highball hatch glass to go with it. Now, that, folks, is love. I can feel that love every time I fill my new favorite glass with ice and pour my favorite rum to the perfect 2 (ok maybe closer to 3) finger pour.

5. Sauvignon Blanc. I am WAAAAAAYYYYYY late to the wine game. I’m 36 and I drank my first real glass of wine this month. Let me explain. I had some wine when I was … about 23 maybe. I got instant heartburn from that fine selection from the budget shelf. And I wrote off wine for nearly 15 years. Partly this was because I fell deep into the rabbithole of craft beer. I loved everything about it. And then I found out I should avoid gluten and my romance with craft beer was suddenly ripped away. I tried hard cider as a replacement and, forgive me, but there is no hard cider in the world that tastes like a strong IPA. So began my new journey with alcohol. As the saying goes, “When the alcohol goddess of the universe shuts a door, she opens a hatch to the wine cellar” . . . or something like that. In any case, I have new worlds to explore, alcoholically speaking. And I’ve just found the entrance to the rabbithole of wine. Hot summer days and very cold, crisp, and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is a very promising pairing.

Better Dressed Butch: Belts

I think one of the easiest ways to start dressing better is to put on a belt.  Wearing a belt immediately pulls your outfit together. It shows how you put thought and intention into your clothes. And, honestly, I just think it makes one look more like a grownup. Kids don’t wear belts; grownups do.

I started wearing belts way back in college for the sole purpose of keeping my oversized baggy jeans from ending up around my knees. Before the end of my first semester, I felt incomplete without one.

As my style evolved, my choice in belts changed from that first 2-inch wide, double-holed warhorse. Now picking out a belt is a part of getting dressed every day. I truly enjoy choosing just the right belt to complete my outfit.

Some tips for choosing a belt:

Match the style of your outfit.

If you are wearing shorts, don’t put on a dress belt. Choose a casual belt. If you are in dress slacks, don’t throw on a thick rugged leather belt and call it good.

Match the color of your leathers.

The rule of thumb here is leathers should match. Brown shoes = brown belt. Black shoes = black belt. Match your watch band as well, if possible. This gives your outfit a cohesive look. Try and keep the shade as close as possible. For example, tan and chocolate are both brown, but your outfit won’t look as polished if you have a light tan belt and dark brown shoes. If you’re rocking your classic sneakers, don’t worry about matching the color. This rule applies most to dress and business casual situations.

Not too long.

Does anyone else remember the late 90’s when cool teenage boys wore super long belts and let the extra tail hang down their legs? Don’t do that. Keywords in that first sentence: teenage boys. You do not want to look like a teenage boy. From the 90s. You should be able to use one of the middle holes and have the tail reach the first belt loop on your pants. If the tail of your belt extends more than an inch or so past the first belt loop, cut it off or buy a new belt.

Don’t worry about matching metals.

This used to be one of the rules for belt wearing. Gold belt buckle meant wearing a gold watch. Silver buckle = silver watch. This rule seems to have died. The matching metals police are off duty. No one notices if your ring is silver, your watch is rose gold and your belt buckle is brushed nickel. Take a look at the picture above about matching your leathers – did you notice the silver buckle/gold watch in the bottom left or the black metal watch with the brushed gray metal buckle in the top right?

Skip the clunky/witty buckle.

Unless you have recently won a rodeo, please do not use your belt as a showcase for a giant hunk of shiny metal. Do not give in to the (strong) temptation to display your wit to the world with a clever or ironic buckle. Do not, for the love of all that’s stylish, wear a seat belt buckle for a belt buckle. If you want to wear a seat belt, get in your damn truck.

If you want to start dressing better, wearing a belt is an easy first step. It immediately makes your look more mature and put together. Matching the leathers you wear gives a polished look even to casual outfits. Belts are easy and inexpensive accessories that upgrade every outfit you wear so you can be a better dressed butch.

Featured image by Keegan Everitt.

Outfits: Sharp Casual Monday

Croft & Barrow® Spread-Collar Dress Shirt ($45 but BOGO). NATO Racing Strap ($5). Signature Gold by GOLDTOE Striped Crew Socks ($10 – 3 pack). Dockers® Slim Fit Original Khaki All Seasons Tech Pants D1 ($40). G.H. Bass & Co. Men’s Parker Oxford Shoe ($39). Casio Anti Reverse Bezel Dive Watch ($48).

A Monday after a weekend full of adventure calls for simple clothes that still look sharp. Roll those sleeves up to your elbows to show you’re ready to work. Only you will know that your pants are as comfy as sweatpants. Keep an eye on the days’ important milestones (lunchtime and quitting time!) with your dive watch styled on a summer-worthy NATO. Striped socks and saddle shoes keep things firmly on the casual side of sharp casual.

Summer Capsule Wardrobe: A Week at the Shore

Old Navy Blue Dot Print Shirt ($24). Old Navy Teal Floral Shirt (similar)($19). Old Navy Red Orange Striped Shirt (similar)($25). NIKE SB Team Classic ($65). Zhuanglin Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes ($40). Birkenstock Mayari Sandals ($100). Levi’s Web Belt ($15 for 3). Navy & White Canvas Woven belt (similar)($12). Dockers Slim Fit Original Khaki All Seasons Tech Pants D1 ($58). Chubbies Shorts The Neon Lights ($65). Goodthreads 5″ Inseam Lightweight Comfort Stretch Oxford Short Gunmetal Gray ($24). Goodthreads 5″ Inseam Flat-Front Comfort Stretch Chino Navy Short ($25). Chubbies Shorts The Staples 5.5″ (Stretch)($50). Topo Designs Quick Pack ($69). LOYALLOOK Bracelets ($12). LUENX Aviator Sunglasses ($18). and watch Outplay Flatsea Swim Tank ($55). Abercrombie & Fitch Linen Shirt (Pink) ($23). Abercrombie & Fitch Icon Linen Shirt ($29).

Many of us are headed for a vacation at the beach this summer.  I almost always over pack when heading on long trips because I want to have options with my outfits.  This year, I decided to create a capsule wardrobe that would help me to focus on bringing the right clothes (you know, instead of bringing ALL the clothes).

Capsule wardrobes are simply a way of collecting a small number of individual items that you can mix and match in a lot of different ways.  This means you can create multiple outfits using just a dozen or so individual items by using mixing the pieces in different ways for different looks.  

This summer capsule wardrobe has 16 items which I’ve turned into 9 outfits that cover scenarios from a beach day to a nice dinner out to playing yard games with the nieces and nephews to a long travel day.  As you can see, because these items are versatile, I could create a ton more outfits by swapping out a single piece of any one single outfit for another piece.

The goal with a capsule wardrobe is not to have infinite variety and to wear something new every day. Instead, we use most of the items more than once in order to maximize our wardrobe with a small number of items. We want to look good every day, not entirely different every day.

Even when we add in a few optional accessories for variety, we have clothes enough for 9 days with less than 20 total items!

Let’s break down how to create outfits from our capsule using the week of Independence Day as our vacation.

_______ Saturday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: Travel Day

Summer butch style, men's summer style

A long day traveling in the car calls for comfort first. A long sleeve shirt makes it easy to keep a comfortable temperature by rolling the sleeves up or down and you can kick off the sandals for full relaxation if you’re playing the co-pilot/DJ role.

Ivan E. Coyote – Missed Her. Klean Kanteen water bottle. Nato band.

_______ Sunday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: Exploring town

For a day exploring town, we keep things simple. The water sneakers will go from morning coffee shop to afternoon surrey biking to a sunset beach walk.

Nato band.

_______ Monday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: playing with the boys (& girls)

A full day with all 9 (!) of my nieces and nephews. The sneakers are comfortable enough for miles of walking and playing and the dark shirt minimizes the crisis level of those inevitable spills of food/drink/ice cream from little hands onto my front. The bag has to be light enough to carry all day, but hold all of the gear to handle a variety of situations. My EDC Dopp Kit easily fits in the Topo Designs Quick Pack which can be carried like a fanny pack, messenger bag, briefcase, or sling backpack. I love giving my old rugged/tough camera to the kids to play with – I don’t worry about them breaking it, and they take incredible pictures showing the secret life of kids that I could never capture.

Camera. Nato band.

_______ Tuesday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: Family cookout

With a cookout on the menu, the closed toe sneakers are a must for me. My clumsy self is all too prone to dropping things, and I never want to risk an errant coal ending up in my sandals. The Oxford cloth shorts are the lightest, coolest shorts I’ve ever worn and are perfect for a day out in the sun. This is the time to have stashes of wipes in your pockets. It’s inevitable a mess will be made. Be prepared with Shout Wipe & Go wipes and Handzies so you can save the day (or at least someone’s shirt).

Cornhole Boards. Nato band.

_______ Wednesday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: day trip into the city

Midweek, the wife and I will treat ourselves with a day trip into the city. We will spend all day walking, so again I want my comfiest shoes. The long sleeve shirt can be rolled up or down to account for the huge range of temperatures from chilly museums to the swelter of urban canyons. The navy shorts are the slimmest and most tailored of our options and keep our outfit on the nicer side of casual. If you’re a bigger body, throw some Megababe Thigh Rescue in your bag to ward off the dreaded chub rub. And take some Oar + Alps Cooling Wipes along – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how refreshed you will feel after using these for a quick pick me up.

Nato band.

_______ Thursday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: independence day – July 4th

Avoid the urge to show your patriotism by wearing our flag as your clothing. Stars and stripes are great and can be fun as shorts or a shirt or a swimsuit. But a more subtle approach carries a bit more maturity and gives our “red, white & blue” a more polished sheen. Be the cool aunt/uncle at the fireworks by bringing along some glow stick necklaces for the kids.

_______ Friday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: Picnic and exploration

I love a floral shirt and again our go everywhere water sneakers will take us from marsh trails to the beach to exploring old ruins. A day of exploring nearby parks is a great chance for some photography. Simplify your gear and leave all the extra lenses behind with this Lumix long zoom camera.

Summer Capsule Beach Style: Bonus outfit – Casual Dinner Out

Dinner out in a beach town is admittedly a very casual affair. We can still take the outfit up one tiny notch by wearing khakis instead of shorts. Once the sun goes down, things cool off quickly, making this Isle Bay Linens linen bomber jacket the perfect light layer for the walk home along the beach.

Nato band.

_______ Saturday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: beach day

A long day at the beach gives us a chance to show off with loud swim trunks. No oversize t-shirt and baggy saggy boardshorts for us when there are so many dapper options for butch swimwear. Taking along one of our shirts makes it easy to transition our swimsuit from the beach to the boardwalk or for a run to our favorite local coffee shop.

The Propeller Dune Tote Bag from Bespoke Post is literally made for the beach; its mesh bottom allows sand to fall out keeping your gear clean. Beach time is prime reading time whether you prefer fiction, non-fiction, or a magazine. Put some 80’s tunes on your waterproof bluetooth speaker and let the ocean breeze blow your cares away.

_______ Sunday _______

Summer Capsule Beach Style: homeward

A long week ends with a long drive home. Keep things comfortable with a layered outfit. Keep your mind occupied with a great audiobook: I love Thunderball and the tropical setting will help keep the vacation feeling alive on the drive home.

Goodfellow & Co Lyndale V-Neck T-Shirt ($6).