Personalized Stationery

The man behind Terrapin Stationers, purveyor to Marc Jacobs and countless other fashion world notables, on why a man needs his own note card — and what you need to know to get your own.
Photos: Gabe Alonso

The author's personal card. You could do worse than to follow his lead.

I was asked by a friend at Gilt to write a piece on why any man with aspirations of being stylish needs engraved stationery.  I loved that he used the word aspirations. Because let’s be honest: Don’t we all aspire to be stylish? You’re reading this, so you must at least be aspiring to be appropriate if not downright debonaire. I mean, Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach, and — although he was from England — he didn’t grow up in Downton Abbey. He had to find his way.

So here’s the thing: You’ve gone to great lengths to get the right pair of boots, the jacket, the sprezzy tie. You’ve spent hours pondering whether or not to wear socks. Why? Because the details matter. One detail a man of style can’t do without is manners, and nothing says “I give many f–ks” like a handwritten note on personal stationery. This is true whether you’re congratulating a friend on his recent promotion; sending a thank-you for a long, boozy lunch; or offering an apology for making a scene during that long, boozy lunch. And each of these scenarios demands the exact same card: a 4 1/2 x 6 1/4 correspondence card. Now, if you’re the kind of person who has a lot to say thanks for (or to apologize for), you may want to go with a 6 1/4 x 7/14 half sheet, but for the rest of us sockless, sprezzy-tie-obsessed types, a good ol’ correspondence card will do. Whatever size you choose, here’s what else to look for:

I like a medium-thickness card of 130 or 140 lbs. — either white or off-white. Forget borders or edging. Use an envelope with a V-flap. Square flaps are mostly used for business. Leave the address off of the envelope and you can use it for both work and personal correspondence.  And for the half-sheet notes, use a 70 or 80-lb. text weight. Got it? Good.

Forget letterpress, which is retro, trendy, and a bit twee for my taste. Stick with engraving. It’s right for dudes. Your name etched into copper or steel, hand-stamped on a 100-year-old-press that’s made of iron and steel. It’s noisy as hell, too. We’ve had men smash fingers doing this. What’s more manly than that? Plus, once your die is made it can be used again and again.

There are only two things you need to know about fonts for men’s stationery: serif or sans serif. Don’t worry about the rest. (Not that you didn’t know this already, but a serif font has those little flourishes on the ends of the letters—like the one you’re reading right here, which is called Georgia. Sans, which you also knew, is French for “without.”) I recently learned that Futura Extra Bold was filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s favorite typeface. Like Mr. Kubrick, I like sans serif fonts like Sackers Gothic, but I’m also fond of type with serifs like Copperplate and Shaded Roman.

For your first batch, stick to black, gray, blue, or possibly brown. You can get your blaze orange on next run.

Don’t order too much. I think 100 cards and envelopes is a good start. The point is to use it. So Start writing notes. And for f–k’s sake get a decent pen.

Click through the slideshow below for behind-the-scenes shots from Terrapin HQ in NYC.

Find out more on Ted and Terrapin at


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