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The New Back-to-School List: 8 Upgrades on Classroom Classics

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The New Back-to-School List: 8 Upgrades on Classroom Classics

September 4, 2018

As a kid I dreaded the day at the end of August—usually a rainy one—when we’d pile into the car and drive to Staples for our annual back-to-school haul. This meant two things: Summer was as good as over, and all that lay ahead was the dreaded first day of school and being trapped in a classroom during perfectly good beach weather.

But over the years I’ve come to appreciate a fresh box of pencils and an attractive tape dispenser. Fortunately, there are a slew of goods on the market that are upgrades on good old-fashioned supplies—no garish colors or plastic in sight. Instead of the standard-issue back-to-school list, turn to this one, with upgrades on the classics. (P.S.: It applies to the office too.)

1. Neutral Book Cover

I used to wrap my textbooks, old-school style, in brown paper bags, rather than using the stretchy, multi-color fabric sleeves my classmates preferred. The Canvas Book Cover from Muji is a sophisticated adult take on the fabric cover; $8.
Above: I used to wrap my textbooks, old-school style, in brown paper bags, rather than using the stretchy, multi-color fabric sleeves my classmates preferred. The Canvas Book Cover from Muji is a sophisticated adult take on the fabric cover; $8.

2. Pencils for Every Purpose

The CW Pencil Emporium in New York is a limitless resource for all sorts of writing implements and tools. Among their offerings are pencil collections for lefties, crossword addicts, woodworkers, and baseball scorers; their Notes and Notating Sampler Set is a studied selection for note-takers and lovers of marginalia, with a thin red pencil, highlighter pencils, and—my favorite—a double-sided editor&#8
Above: The CW Pencil Emporium in New York is a limitless resource for all sorts of writing implements and tools. Among their offerings are pencil collections for leftiescrossword addicts, woodworkers, and baseball scorers; their Notes and Notating Sampler Set is a studied selection for note-takers and lovers of marginalia, with a thin red pencil, highlighter pencils, and—my favorite—a double-sided editor’s pencil; $14.05.

3. Slip-Free Tape Dispenser

The Japan-made, steel Penco Tape Dispenser from Father Rabbit ($69.90) comes with a slip-resistant pad that prevents slipping and scratching. It can also be affixed to the wall or desk.
Above: The Japan-made, steel Penco Tape Dispenser from Father Rabbit ($69.90) comes with a slip-resistant pad that prevents slipping and scratching. It can also be affixed to the wall or desk.

4. Sturdy Stapler

For staplers, we like something both sturdy and streamlined. The Craft Design Technology Stapler from Need Supply is also made in Japan and can stand on its end for efficient storage; $.
Above: For staplers, we like something both sturdy and streamlined. The Craft Design Technology Stapler from Need Supply is also made in Japan and can stand on its end for efficient storage; $17.

5. Paper Clips

We like the sturdy, geometric Italian Paper Clips from Schoolhouse ($5)—and the box they come in. (They&#8
Above: We like the sturdy, geometric Italian Paper Clips from Schoolhouse ($5)—and the box they come in. (They’re also available from Sweet Bella.) For more of our favorite fasteners, see Object Lessons: The Surprisingly Complex History of the Humble Paper Clip.

6. Old-School Pencil Sharpener

The perfect pencil sharpener? Margot spotted the Elmer&#8
Above: The perfect pencil sharpener? Margot spotted the Elmer’s Boston Ranger Manual Pencil Sharpener in her guest room at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, London; we sourced it for $37.22 from Amazon.

7. “Robust” Scissors

Heavy-Duty Paper Scissors from Labour & Wait &#8
Above: Heavy-Duty Paper Scissors from Labour & Wait “are industrial quality, and as such are extremely robust,” able to cut through paper and thicker cardstock; £22. (For more of our tried-and-true picks, see 12 Design-Worthy Scissors.)

8. Mark-Resistant Pencil Case

Remember those plastic pencil boxes that inevitably exploded their contents all over the floor if dropped? Stick to a durable (and washable) cloth zip pouch instead, like this Canvas Flat Pencil Case from Everyday Needs; $ NZD.
Above: Remember those plastic pencil boxes that inevitably exploded their contents all over the floor if dropped? Stick to a durable (and washable) cloth zip pouch instead, like this Canvas Flat Pencil Case from Everyday Needs; $20 NZD.
More back-to-school-and-work essentials and tips, from editors and experts:

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