After attending Mike Rohde’s Sketchnotes Workshop, I rekindled my love for the PaperMate Flair. When we arrived for the workshop, each student was given a notebook and a PaperMate Flair. I hadn’t looked at or used one of these pens in a decade at least.
The PaperMate Flair is a simple, medium felt tip pen with a conical felt tip. The body of the pen is 100% old school. It has a softly tapered shape — wider at the center of the pen and tapering to narrow flat end at the cap. It doesn’t taper as much toward the end of the pen but the plastic has a matte look and feel. The cap has a slim metal clip.
This design probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. Actually, according to PaperMate’s web site, its only been 49 years! So its really a classic look and I’m so glad it hasn’t been changed.
While I have maintained an on-going love for felt tip pens, I have used mostly fine tip models like Sharpie Pen, Sakura Pigma Micron and Marvy LePen for the last few years. Uncapping the Flair is a trip down memory lane. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed using it after so much time. Its not the most elegant writing tool with its wide soft tip but it writes with a rich black line that makes labelling tags, file folders and other cases where a wider tip might come in handy. The Flair differ from the Sharpie marker in that they are not alcohol-based so the Flair do not bleed as much making them good for day-to-day office/school use.
The soft, felt tip will wear down over time especially on rougher surfaces. However, the Flair pens are reasonably priced. I bought a box of a dozen for about $10. So the shorter life span of these pens are too devastating.
I expect I’ll keep one tucked into each case and bag for writing notes and the occasionally doodle. They are just so classic and offer a writing quality that’s not available in many other pens.
The PaperMate Flair is also available in an array of colors (16, to be exact) and in an ultra fine tip which I’d be curious to find and try.
When left to dry for 10 minutes or so, the ink is fairly water resistant. But I do think it needs a little time to cure.
From the Archives is a series where I dig up old favorites, old classics and long forgotten tools and give them another look. Are they as good as I remember?
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If you are nostalgic, imagine me. I worked for Gillette/ Paper Mate some 30 years ago. The Flair machine was a few feets from my office. I still can tell you the name and speed of the machine. I can hear the rhythmic noise… Plus I also did for a while the water based inks for them
Thanks for sharing!
Oldies but goodies! This post makes me want to go out and buy the “tropical vacation” flairs! Great pens for art journaling, planning, and penmanship! Thanks for the post.
Pretty good for jotting out a postcard too.
I bought a bag of used pens at a thrift store recently, where I found 2 original uni-balls, EF Japan. They both still write great, and I’m sure they are from the 60’s or 70’s! Wish I could post a picture – one is orange and one is lime green 🙂
A couple of years ago I found the ultra fine flairs at Target in a 5 pack. There was orange,purple,red,green, and blue. I saw them still there just a few months ago.
Actually, the design _has_ changed. Some people have commented on the change to the barrel design from textured to smooth, which is only a few years old, but the important changes have been to the tip. The original Flair had a bare fiber tip; some time in the late 70s or early 80s they added a white plastic partial sheath to “protect” the tip, but which actually caused “mushrooming” and shortened the life of the pen. What had been the true original Flair was renamed the “PMOP [for ‘PaperMate Office Products’] 860” in the US and “Nylon” in the UK. Eventually the PMOP 860s were discontinued in the US, and you could no longer get _real_ Flairs in the US.
There was another more recent change, including the aforementioned smooth barrel, and changing the icky white sheath on the tip to a more stout transparent plastic; the UK “Nylon” got the new barrel but thankfully kept the original tip, and was renamed the “Flair Original.”
For those of us who love the _real_ flairs and hate the stupid plastic sheath on the tip, there is currently no option but to order from the UK. I asked JetPens whether they could get them, but apparently not…
Flair pens have changed for the worse
Since the early 80’s architectural and design firms had one thing in common. (Ok two) They always had buckets and buckets of “Pilot Fineliners” and “PaperMate Flair” felt pens. They were the industry standards and both excelled in their purposes.
Sadly the times have changed and while Pilot Fineliners have remained the same great classic product, the PaperMate Flair has become an infinitely more inferior product that pales in comparison to the original. In short do not buy this pen if you’re looking for a Papermate flair of the 80’s and 90’s and pre 2010 ish
When PaperMate introduced the plastic or white point guard they destroyed the best qualities of a once illustrious sketching felt pen.
The original larger all felt tip (without the point guard) allowed for more expressive lines. One could vary the line from bold by using the side of the felt (which you can’t do with the point guard) to a finer line by using the tip. Similar to a pencil this allowed you to sketch with both the sides and the point. By changing the full felt tip of the old design PaperMate changed the superb sketching felt pen of old into a boring writing pen.
The ink load and intensity of this new design again pales in comparison to the original flair felt pens. From the get go they seem dried out.
So like many other of my colleagues we are all looking for other products to take the place of the once ubiquitous PaperMate Flair. Also loved the ability to make a wash with a wet finger.
Agreed on all points, except, as I mentioned in the post above, the original style _can_ still be ordered from the UK – there are a few UK sellers that sell through Ebay and Amazon, or you can order directly from the UK sites (try CultPens.com). Only problem is, they do get pretty pricey with the international shipping…