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To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi describing the lightsaber to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, the fountain pen is an elegant writing implement for a more civilized age. Ballpoints, felt tips, and gel pens all have their uses, but none of them can match the fountain pen’s expressive line and analog warmth.
The first pen with an internal reservoir for ink is thought to have been been invented in the 10th century in Egypt. Mass-produced versions, by then known as fountain pens, came into wide use in the 1880s and remained dominant until the 1960s, when they were displaced by ballpoint pens. Though fountain pens are still available at multiple price points, they’re generally thought of as luxury items (which can go for as much as $10,000) reserved for special occasions. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the singular frisson of using one.
Enter the Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen, the easy-to-use option for the fountain pen curious. “Old-school artistry meets modern convenience” is the tagline for the Varsity, which indeed provides a true fountain pen feel in an affordable ($2.50–$3.00) and ready-to-go form. Tipped with a laser-engraved, medium-width, stainless steel nib, the Pilot Varsity comes already filled and features an “advanced liquid ink feed system” to ensure “consistent flowing lines.” And it does! The point glides effortlessly across the page without digging into it or getting snagged, making the writing experience comparable to that of pricier brands of fountain pen. Most important, the Pilot Varsity doesn’t smear. The ink dries almost instantly and comes in seven colors—black, blue, red, green, pink, purple, and turquoise—designated by the cap (you can get a variety pack with one of each).
Design wise, the Varsity features the rounded barrel of a classic fountain pen but adds subtle Pop art notes like a shirt pocket clip that resembles an exclamation mark, and a harlequin pattern along the barrel. Smooth and lightweight, the Pilot Varsity fits effortlessly in your hand. Though it is disposable, it’s made with 43% recycled plastic. (And if that isn’t sustainable enough, Pilot offers the refillable, metal-bodied Metropolitan at around $20.) The Varsity is perfect for fountain pen beginners and especially as an anywhere, anytime option for folks who might want to leave their Mont Blanc safe at home.