A Newer, Better Generation of Pipe Smokers

My video response to what I discuss in this post is embedded at the bottom of this post.

Yes, newer and better.

Some dude I ran into on the rugby pitch.
Much has been made in the last few years, amongst pipe smokers and in the general media, over the still-growing trend of college kids taking up pipe smoking. In the media, it's a matter of general cultural interest, a bent toward the old-fashioned, or a part of the cri de coeur that modern life has provoked in the American male; for them, it's on the same level as the changing roles of fathers and husbands in sitcoms: something to be observed and commented on. For us, for pipe smokers, it's much closer to home. Does this mean that a passion of ours is catching on? Will it change things for us, will prices go down, will products get better, will lobbies be more powerful, will I have more guys to share my interests with?

Marty Pulver over at pulversbriar.com, a pipe seller and self-professed "pipe hobbyist", has a thought compelling post currently on the front page of his site. Here's an excerpt.

A lot of people think that new blood is coming into our hobby. That is wishful thinking and belied by ever decreasing sales in pipe tobacco nationally...I think that these smokers will enjoy their pipes while they are in school, perhaps with like-minded classmates, learning what they can, as they can. But, I aver, that when they have to go out into the working world and then beget and raise children, they will put their pipes aside. They can not smoke at home, they can not smoke at work and there are almost no other places to puff away, so except for the dedicated few, pipes are not going to be worth the effort. 40 years later, when discretionary time permits, these same people will remember how much they enjoyed their time with the pipe and they will come back, stronger and better, but still only propping up a thin population as the same cycle repeats itself. That's what I think.
There are a couple of things in his post that I take some issue with, all while acknowledging his love for and expertise re pipes and pipe smoking. The post is well worth reading for some insight into how different people perceive pipe smoking.

A guy from my church.
Mr. Pulver can only see a cyclical, tiny population because of how he defines pipe smoking and smokers. To him, pipe smoking is a hobby. To others, and to me, pipe smoking is just that...pipe smoking. Some guys smoke pipes. It's what they like to do. They drink craft beer, but they don't blog about it or go to conferences. They smoke a pipe, but they might not know that Dunhill experienced wild fluctuations in quality recently due to ownership issues and different blenders (I'm not even sure why, I just know it happened).

A couple of people have already responded to Mr. Pulver, and he mentioned both guys in an update to his post. Through that I found a response by Neill Archer Roan on apassionforpipes.com that neatly sums up my main objection.

I guess I draw a distinction between our hobby and pipe-smoking. It seems to me that the level of interest, engagement, and investment expended by people I consider pipe hobbyists far exceeds that of the pipe man whose interest in pipes starts and stops at smoking them.

We’re collectors. Historians. Evangelists. Some would call us fanatics. We are to pipe smoking what rare-book bibliophiles are to readers of best sellers. We’re not the same as the average pipe smoker, nor have we ever been the same.
As a former bookseller (with a shop n' everything, not just online), I know what Mr. Roan means. I absolutely love good books. I want to have lots of them. I want to read them. I want to read them with my kids. And I love books in and for themselves. I love good bindings, I love uncut pages, I love first editions. I tend toward that more esoteric, fanatical end, but I've met the real bibliophiles, and I'm not one of them. I love good content; I don't need first editions.
A guy from my philosophy club.
I'm the same way with beer. I know guys, and cultivate my relationships with them for obvious reasons, who know so much more than I do. I still love good beer, I'll still drink plenty of it, and I'll still have strong opinions. I'm not less of a beer drinker because you went to Top of the Hops this year and I didn't.

I have the absolute privilege of knowing and hanging out with a bunch of local everyman pipe smokers like me. I know that I can't take that for granted. Some guys I've talked to online are absolutely on an island, and don't know any pipe smokers offline (a.k.a. "the real world"). Others can find a little pipe companionship at a local tobacco shop. I smoke with my friends. And we're not friends because we smoke pipes. We're friends, and we smoke pipes.

Regular readers of this blog or viewers of my YouTube channel know that over half the guys in my church (an admittedly small church) smoke a pipe regularly. A bunch of my friends in other circles do the same. And it's not because of the influence of one or two people. My brothers, it's in the air. One my even say it's kind of zeitgeisty if one didn't try to avoid the word zeitgeist.

I can't afford to buy nice pipes. Of the twenty plus pipes I own, I've probably been given half. And most are just basket pipe level. Of the six name pipes I own, I've only bought two. And I'm perceived as the "hobbyist" in my circles, as the guy who's a bit fanatical. My pipe smoking friends each own two or three pipes, one or two nice ones and that crappy basket pipe they bought in college. The important thing, though, is that they smoke them.

They're pipe smokers.

One of these days I'll talk about the people I know personally who are pipe smokers, what they have in common that makes them more likely to be pipe smokers. In the meantime, though, I'll defend them. I know that my experience is one of many. There's a lot that's unique about where I am and who I know. I don't expect that fifteen years from now all the men will be walking down the street smoking pipes. I do expect to continue seeing more and more of what I've already seen...pipe smokers popping up here and there, doing their thing, enjoying it, carrying on. Working, begetting children, all the things that stop us from buying $500 pipes, but don't stop us from enjoying life.


  1. Thanks for this. Your critique of Pulver's post resonates with me (and many others - no doubt). Particularly the parts concerning social media (really the whole phenomena of the vast accessibility of the internet generally) and your money quote: "Working, begetting children, all the things that stop us from buying $500 pipes, but don't stop us from enjoying life."... it's an ethos that I've found cross pollinates to many levels of pipe smokers (or beer drinkers, or book readers). We are really in a golden age of pipe smoking... was there ever this available selection of such high quality blends available? This fact alone proves that our 'hobby' is ascending. Best from Denver - J Lee

  2. Great article, enjoyed reading this.


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