In Defense of Stationery: Why You Should Give a Damn

Guest bloggers Seth Putnam, Cam Niederhauser, and Jeff Kieslich of The Midwestyle share fashion tips every week this month. This week: tips on customizing stationery.

Guest bloggers Seth Putnam, Cam Niederhauser, and Jeff Kieslich of The Midwestyle share fashion tips every week this month.

It must have been like pulling teeth, but my mother would be damned if her kids didn't learn how to write a proper thank-you note. And when I got a card this year from my nephew Hank, I knew my sister was doing battle with her own kids. This makes me unspeakably happy—because in the days of email, emoticons, and text-speak, attentive communication usually flies out the window.


Alexander Woollcott's letterhead.


Anchor cards with bandana-lined envelopes from Terrapin Stationers.

Done well, a handwritten note trumps all other forms of appreciation. It's inherently thoughtful, and it has a permanence that emails and texts never will. It turns out, though, that there's a startling lack of design resources available for guys who want to commission their own stationery. So I enlisted the help of Ted Harrington, owner of Terrapin Stationers, and got his five suggestions for what a guy should be thinking about when going custom:

1. Like clothes, stationery is really about presentation.

It's an extension of your reputation, and it makes an impression. Make sure it's sending the right message. "What would you think if someone sent you an envelope lined with gold foil or if the edges of the card were sprayed in magenta?" Harrington says. "Too. Much. Going. On."

2. Keep it simple, clean, and classic.

"Do something that's tasteful," Harrington says. "Something you can use to thank someone for a gift, or to insert with a bottle of wine for dinner." Companies that nail the aesthetic: Hammerpress in Kansas City, Missouri, American Stationery in Peru, Indiana, and Terrapin Stationers in New York City.

3. Personality is in the embellishments.

Harrington suggests something quirky, like camouflage or a bandana print, as a manly accent for the envelope lining.

4. Put some thought into fonts.

For my money, I'll probably go with something clean and type-driven, like Paul Newman's letterhead or Eddie Vedder's or Alexander Woollcott's.

5. Consider a logo.

It could be as simple as an animal or as elaborate as a precisely designed monogram. For a little inspiration, check out these 60 examples from

For more insight from Seth and his cohorts, start following The Midwestyle.

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