Growing up like many other children, I had a vast collection of Crayola Markers. My collection contained hundreds of colors with a variety of different sizes and shapes, some of them were even scented. Even with all these colors and all these options I always wanted my very own Sharpie. I saw the pressmen at my grandfathers printing company carry the pens around in the shirt pockets and the editors always had red sharpies on their light tables. The Sharpies by all rights were no where near as glamorous as my Crayola Markers.
For me, the Sharpie stood for something. No parent wants their child to have a marker that can not be removed from clothing, furniture and walls; and every child wants what they can't have. This utilitarian device was a trophy of adult-hood, or at the very least a sign that one was no longer a "kid."
In my early teens I would go up to these old water tanks where people would do graffiti. Although I did not create anything I would always go up and admire the work. On one trip I remember finding a Sharpie Magnum, a common tool for graffiti artists. I kept this marker and remember cherishing it like a piece of sporting memorabilia and is possibly one of my first introductions into lettering as I used the marker to try and recreate the work I would see on the water towers. The Sharpie Magnum is undoubtably a symbol of 90's street art.
The felt-tipped marking pen was patented by Lee Newman in 1910 but were not popularized until the 50's when Magic Markers came out. By the beginning of the 60's use of felt-tipped markers was commonplace for a variety of applications such as lettering, labeling, and creating posters. In 1964 the Sanford Ink Company introduced the Sharpie marker. The Sharpie Fine Point black marker became the first pen-style permanent marker and wrote on almost any surface from glass, wood and stone, to plastic, metal and, of course, paper. Originally a name designating a single permanent marker, the Sharpie brand has been widely expanded and can now be found on a variety of previously unrelated permanent and non-permanent pens and markers.
The "Fine Point" Sharpie Marker is the most common of Sharpies markers and most likely the shape that comes to mind when anyone says Sharpie. Likewise is probably the color black. Although Sharpie Markers are now available in a much wider range of colors black is probably the most ubiquitous with the brand.
The logo is another powerful branding aspect of Sharpie. The word Sharpie appears to have even been written by a Sharpie Marker. I was unable to prove this theory as I was not able to find any documentation on who created the mark. None the less the script is instantly recognizable as "the Sharpie font" and dozens of interpretations of the "font" can be found with a quick google search.
A sign of permanence, artistic interpretation and rebellion, the Sharpie Marker is an easily over-looked but vastly important symbol of American Culture over the last 50 years.