Much like Christmastime and baseball season, back to school is less of a calendar item that affects me personally and more of a general, seasonal mood. It conjures up the feeling of bare legs in an air-conditioned Target, the smell of fresh pencils, the static-y plastic on brand new notebooks, the distinct plonk a three ring binder makes when the metal loops snap open. Really, back to school shopping is a moment of pure capitalistic optimism where you truly believe colorful junk can improve your odds of a successful year—we crave that feeling long after our high school dumps us out with a diploma and says, ‘See you at your 10 year reunion or when we need money, whichever comes first!’ Except as an adult, it's easily fulfilled with makeup, which is starting to look suspiciously like school supplies anyway. Grab your pencil case (the chunky monochrome zipper on this one, from Hay, feels right) and stuff it with these back to school essentials.
Ah, pens. Despite the misleading name, pens are really the bulk of every pencil case. They’re the most fun to buy because they come in all sorts of fun colors and tubes, and the most seldom used because of their fundamental lack of an eraser. Need a pencil? Sorry, can’t lend you one, only have 30 shades of glitter gel pen that this Scantron won’t pick up at all! But I digress. In school, pens were necessary if you needed to self-grade a quiz, or project intimidating confidence to the room full of metal-mouthed lava cakes you called your “peers.” In adulthood, makeup pens are still perfect for drawing fine lines, and their unerasibility becomes an asset. This one from The Crayon Case shares an uncanny likeness with a Sharpie pen, but dispenses opaque, matte black eyeliner from its precision tip. And Alleyoop’s version of a multicolored pen is filled with eyeliner, lip liner, and highlighter to click to your heart’s content (or the wits’ end of your deskmate). Want one more for good measure? Take a look at Dior’s Ink Lip Liner pens, which leave a precise stain that looks great on its own and won’t smudge under a protective face mask. The shades are pigmented and nuanced, and the delivery is kind of life-changing.
Markers, known in some circles as plus-sized pens, were crucial for when you needed to highlight important notes, write your name on the outside of your binder, or vandalize a yearbook. Makeup markers are similarly versatile. Nyx’s Super Edgy eyeliner marker comes with a wide slanted tip—tilt it on its side to draw a bold wing, or hold the tip perpendicular to your face and stamp Twiggy-esque ‘60s spikes onto your lower lash line. For your lips, might I suggest a lip stain in marker form? They’re thicker than the Dior pens for a softer, easier look that lasts. I used to love the Covergirl Outlast ones, but since they’re discontinued, Kiko Milano’s are just as satisfyingly easy to use and just as cheap.
The 120 count box of Crayola crayons with a sharpener embedded in the cardboard was the schoolyard equivalent of a Bottega croissant bag—to learn, as an adult, that the pinnacle of childhood luxury costs a mere $6.99 is throwing all those children I see around Manhattan with their faces glued to iPads into high relief. And while everyone knew crayons’ waxy splotches of color were bound to disappoint, C’est Moi’s Visionary Makeup Crayons hit the nail on the head. The smooth-as-butter crayons glide right on, are packed with pigment, and don’t budge even when you rub like you’re trying to give yourself rugburn. (Do not recommend.) With 14 rainbow shades at $8 each, they fill the crayon-shaped void in your adult life. For the former young Renoir or Mary Cassatt, swap out the crayons for oil pastels. Axiology’s Balmies have the exact same feel and unwrappable paper coating—for best results, hold delicately between your thumb and pointer finger and sketch out your cheeks and lips with a light hand. They leave a warm, waxy stain that, unlike most balms, lasts for hours.
Of course, no pencil case is complete without certain must-have tools. These bright blue Etude House blotting papers replace that stack of rainbow sticky notes you bought fresh each year but never ended up using for anything but doodles. This jelly neon liner sharpener from Essence isn’t a miniature lava lamp, but it’ll do. And this Tula makeup remover balm is giving me distinct glue stick vibes. All that’s missing are the binders and folders, but you have a computer now, which is a glow up if I’ve ever seen one.
Photo via ITG