I don’t clip pens to my clothes but they are useful – though not essential – in keeping pens in place in my wrap. They also stop pens rolling around – and off – my desk.
The occasional portable dip pen, often combined with a pencil, has come down to us but they were mostly quite expensive and never common. The great majority of dip pen handles and a supply of steel nibs remained at home and there would be a similar kit in the workplace. Dip pens were not for carrying in the pocket.
The first fountain pens were modelled on dip pens, essentially dip pens with a reservoir and a cap, so means of carrying them were not at first considered. Again, most people working in offices would have a pen at home and another in the workplace. Indeed it took quite a long time for the dip pen to be replaced at work. As the first pens were eyedropper fillers most people wouldn’t have wanted to carry a large and poorly contained volume of ink in a pocket!
There were jobs, I suppose, that needed a portable pen and manufacturers came up with ideas like the accommodation clip and Swan or Conway Stewart metal pocket to make that possible. Means for making the containment of ink more secure in the pen were developed in tandem. Those clips were good ideas at the time but accommodation clips can rust in situ over time and can leave an unsightly mark if removed. The interiors of metal pockets also provide a fine home for rust that is hard to remove and can scratch pens,
For a long time – several decades – clips were an optional extra. It wasn’t until after World War II that pens were always issued with clips. They took several forms: piercing the cap and keyed in place inside, rivetted or held in place by a clip screw. During the years when manufacturers sought methods of depressing the pressure bar without breaching Sheaffer’s patent, one pen had a clip that was used for that purpose, like a fixed matchstick filler.
As clips became a usual part of the pen they were plated in gold or chrome to make them an attractive part of the pen’s furniture. Many brands used clips to advertise themselves. Several clips, like those of Parker and Croxley, were recognisable at a distance,