The Gentleman’s Guide to the Calling Card

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 7, 2008 · 84 comments

in Relationships & Family

To the unrefined or unbred, the visiting card is but a trifling and insignificant bit of paper; but to the cultured disciple of social law, it conveys a subtle and unmistakable intelligence. Its texture, style of engraving, and even the hour of leaving it combine to place the stranger, whose name it bears, in a pleasant or a disagreeable attitude even before his manners, conversation, and face have been able to explain his social position. -Our Deportment

In the 19th and early 20th century, social interaction was a richly cultivated, well-mannered affair. The tool that facilitated these interactions was the calling card. Calling cards streamlined introductions and helped remind people of new acquaintances and needed visits. The calling card also served as a way to brand your social identity. The way your card looked and felt or the way you handed it to someone communicated your standing and relationship with the receiver. While the calling card had gone the way of top hats and knickers, they’re starting to make a comeback. What follows is a brief history of the calling card and how men today can resurrect this tradition to create some stylish panache in their social interactions.

The History of Calling Cards

During the 1800′s and early 1900′s the practice of “calling” upon or visiting one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances was a middle and upper class social ritual governed by countless rules and traditions. Central to visiting etiquette was the use of the calling card. Every gentleman kept a ready supply of calling cards with him to distribute upon his visits. When calling upon a friend, a gentleman gave his card to the servant answering the door. The servant would be holding a silver tray and the card would be placed upon it. If the person the gentleman was calling upon was home, the servant would take the card to them and they would come meet the gentleman. If the person being called upon was not home, the servant would leave the card for when they returned.

Generally upon a gentleman’s initial visit to a home, he would simply leave a card and then depart. If the new acquaintance wished to formally visit with him, he or she would send a card in return. If no card was sent, or the return card was sent in an envelope, this signaled that the new acquaintance did not wish for a personal visit to occur. This signal (the card in an envelope) could indeed be sent after any visit in which the visited party no longer wished to be called upon by this particular person. It was basically the well-mannered brush off. A calling card was also used when a gentleman was desirous to see someone at a hotel or parlor. He would send up his card while he waited in the reception area or office for his acquaintance or business associate to come and greet him.

A man’s calling card was simple and plain in design. About the size of a playing card (they were toted about in a carrying case tucked in one’s breast pocket), they bore a man’s name, and later on, his address as well. The name was written in the center, sometimes with a middle initial and sometimes not. A young man did not preface his name with “Mr.” A military officer included his rank and branch of service. A physician could include his professional title, as in “Dr. Robert Smith,” or “Robert Smith M.D.” But honorary titles such as Prof., Hon., and Esq. were not acceptable. The card sometimes also included the name of the gentleman’s club or fraternal organization a man belonged to.

A man might have a set of calling cards that included his address and a set that left that space blank. This latter type of card would be larger and engraved with fancier writing. The blank space would be used for written notes inviting a friend to dinner or the theater or some other social event.

An engraved card was considered to have the most distinguished style, followed by a handsomely handwritten one, and if these could not be obtained, a nicely printed card would do. The precise rules governing card giving and the style of the card, from the type of font to whether to include your middle initial or not, changed each year and could leave a person a bit anxious about what was currently in fashion.

19th Century Calling Card Etiquette

The giving and receiving of calling cards developed a very elaborate set of rituals and rules that every gentleman tried to master. While one’s modern sensibilities might find these rigid formalities laughable, I’ve got to say there’s a certain appeal to it. Far more dignified than poking someone on Facebook, wouldn’t you say?. Just in case you step through a time warp and land in the 19th century, here’s your calling card etiquette survival guide.

  • On a first visit to a household, a gentleman gave one card to each lady of the house.
  • A married man had a medium sized card, while an unmarried man had a smaller card. Men’s cards were always smaller than women’s.
  • When calling upon the lady of the house, if she was not home, but her daughter was, the gentleman sent in his card and departed, as it was not usual for a young lady to receive calls from a gentleman unless they were very intimate friends.

Special significance was given to the turning down of the card’s corners:

  • A visit in person (as opposed to being sent by a servant): the right hand upper corner
  • A congratulatory visit: the left hand upper corner
  • A condolence visit: the left hand lower corner
  • Taking leave (if you were going on a long trip): right hand lower corner
  • If there were two of more ladies in the household, the gentleman turned down a corner of the card to indicate that the call was designed for the whole family.

Initialing a calling card

Gentleman would also inscribe initials upon the card to denote the reason for his visit. The initials stood for the following French words:

  • p. f. – congratulations (pour féliciter)
  • p. r. – expressing one’s thanks (pour remercier)
  • p. c. – mourning expression (pour condoléance)
  • p. f. N. A. – Happy New Year (pour feliciter Nouvel An)
  • p. p. c. – meaning to take leave (pour prendre congé)
  • p. p. – if you want to be introduced to anybody, send your visiting card (pour présenter)

Card etiquette regarding certain occasions

For congratulations

Congratulatory cards were best given in person, but it was acceptable to send a card in lieu of an actual visit. One month after the birth of a child, acquaintances were to call to offer their congratulations.

For weddings

If you couldn’t attend the reception you would send a card and then wait until the couple announced the place of their new residence to send another or make a visit. But in the meantime you were expected to call upon the parents or relatives who had given the reception.

When a man’s wedding only included his family and closest friends, he would send his bachelor’s card, enclosed in an envelope to those of his acquaintances with whom he wished to remain friends. Those who received this card were expected to call on the couple within 10 days of them taking possession of their new home.

After a wedding, the friends of the bride and groom were expected to send their calling cards to the new couple. In this way, the couple would have all of their friends’ contact information on file and would be able to stay in touch with them.

Cards of Condolence

When someone passed away, acquaintances would send a card of condolence, which as mentioned, was indicated by folding down the left hand lower corner of your usual card. This card was delivered in person and the visitor would inquire after the health of the family before departing. When the bereaved once more felt up to receiving visitors, they would send cards to the friends and loved one who had left theirs, indicating their readiness to again visit with company.

Resurrecting the Calling Card in the Modern Age

When the household servants moved out, and Alex Bell’s new fangled talking machine moved in, the practice and etiquette surrounding the sending and receiving of calling cards suffered a slow death. The only place where calling cards survived was in the U.S. Armed Forces. Officers still carry on the tradition today. But quite happily for the modern day gentleman, they are now making a comeback in civilian life as well.

While technology has opened up a legion of ways to communicate these days, something within us still craves the transfer of something tangible, something more civilized and refined.

Enter the calling card.

Why not just use a business card?

During the heyday of calling cards, using a business card for a social purpose was considered bad manners. Today, while business cards are great for making business contacts, they still aren’t really suited for social situations. They probably have your work number and work email, and not much else on them. Think of all the times you meet someone you’d like to see again. Handing them a business card is too stiff and formal. Ditto for simply having them put your digits into their phone.

Oftentimes when meeting someone, the connection you establish is too new for your acquaintance to feel comfortable calling. Perhaps before pursuing more contact, they’d like first to check out your Facebook page or blog or send you an email. And how many times in a conversation does someone tell you about their website or their blog, and you swear to check it out, but then can’t remember its name when you get home? A calling card is the answer to all of these situations. A calling card can tell a new acquaintance more about you and help them better remember you. It provides a chance to enhance the first impression you make and gives your new acquaintances the ability to pursue a relationship with you in the way they feel most comfortable.

Designing a calling card

As aforementioned, during the heyday of calling card use, the design of men’s calling cards were fairly spartan, just name and address. Today it is more acceptable to create a calling card design that gives you a chance for a bit of self-expression.

How to design a card

Your calling card should reflect your personality. When someone puts your phone number into their cell, they may look at this entry some time later and fail to remember much about you. A calling card should include something to jog their memory (although in truth, currently simply giving someone a calling card should render you fairly unforgettable). Pick a color scheme, font, and design that convey something about you. But do remember, you’re still a gentleman, not a lady, so don’t make it too flowery or cartoony. You may still opt for simply having a traditional, plain card with only your name on the front. This of course, would likewise say much about your personality.

What to include on the card

To call upon a friend in the Victorian age, there was only one option-drop by their house. In our modern society, technology has provided a myriad of ways for a new acquaintance to contact you, and your card should reflect this. In addition to your name and phone number, consider including some (but certainly not all-you don’t want it to be cluttered) of the following pieces of information:

  • Blog or website address
  • Twitter username
  • Facebook or Myspace name (if it’s different than the one on the card)
  • Email address
  • Instant message name

If you decide to go for a very traditional man’s design with only perhaps your name on the front, you can then tailor the information you wish to give to each individual you meet by simply writing on the back and making the desired additions.

Calling Card Design Ideas

Vintage inspired calling cards

Modern version of the calling card

Steampunk inspired calling card

A freaky, but effective calling card.

Art of Manliness calling cards

How to Use the Card

A calling card can come in handy in any social situation in which you want to exchange information with someone. Remember, you may use the blank back of the cards to write notes and invite someone to meet up with you again. For example, you might write, “Join me for coffee this Saturday, 3:00pm. Starbucks on 51rst and Harvard.” Or use the back to invite someone over for dinner and write down your address for them. Here are some more situations where a calling card would particularly come in handy:

  • Class reunions. You’re going to run into a ton of people with which you want to exchange information. Instead of constantly busting out the pen and paper, just hand them your card.
  • Networking between jobs. You’re not currently employed, so you don’t have a business card. Or if you do, it has your old employer’s info on it. While you’re looking for work, have a calling card ready to present to potential contacts and leads.
  • Parties. If you’re planning an informal party or get together, write down your address and the time of the party on the back. When you run into people you’d like to see there, give them one of your cards and invite them over. Sometimes calling cards also come with small envelopes, sized to fit your card. You can therefore always use your calling cards as traditional invitations sent through the mail. Also, if your calling card comes with an envelope, you can use them as gift cards.
  • The classroom. It’s often hard to make the leap from being “in-class” friends to “outside of class” friends. Give someone you enjoy chatting with in class your calling card. They’ll probably start posting on your Facebook page and your friendship will take off from there. Or use the card to set up a study group.
  • Dating. When trying to meet a lady, it’s nerve racking to ask for her number, and if you foist yours upon her, she may not call you. Giving a potential lady friend your calling card is a great third option. First of all, it’s non-threatening. She may be too shy to call you outright. She may rather start off with a casual email. And she may not be sure about what she thinks of you. Giving her your calling card lets her peruse your blog or Facebook page first. Second, giving her your calling card gives you a chance to give a two minute blurb about the history of the tradition. You’ll immediately be set apart in her mind from the usual cads she meets and she’ll think you a true gentleman. Finally, when she takes home your calling card, it’s something tangible that will remind her of you and make it more likely that she’ll reach out and contact you.

Where to Find a Calling Card

Here are a few sites that offer calling cards that will appeal to the modern gentleman. Most will send you a sample before you buy, so you won’t be stuck with something you don’t like.

Crane & Co. (Nice, quality cards, priced between the low and high end)

The Stationery Studio. (Big selection, many are designed for women but there are many for men too, decently priced)

American Stationery (Only one design to choose from, but inexpensive)

Dempsey and Carroll (For the traditional gentleman with exquisite taste. Dempsey and Carroll have been in the biz since 1878. Very high quality. Very expensive. Custom made to your specifications.)

Piccolo Press (For our friends across the pond. Piccolo press still prints and engraves their cards the old fashioned way.)

For the frugal gentleman, or the man who doesn’t mind sacrificing quality for variety, you may wish to consider simply buying a box of business cards from Office Depot, downloading a business card template, and then printing them at home. They’ll be flimsy of course, but you can forever tinker with the font and design, and print new ones off that will especially suit a particular occasion.

If you liked this article, please share it on, StumbleUpon or Digg. I’d appreciate it.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John J. September 7, 2008 at 11:22 pm

This is an excellent piece. I heartily agree with the prospect of bringing this tradition back. Despite my enthusiasm for gadgets and technology, I find a finely handwritten letter to be a very powerful tool for communication. Business cards are great, but they’re generally only for business. The calling card is a good idea, it’s a concept that can leave an impact with the recipients.

2 Hinch September 8, 2008 at 2:27 am

What an amazing concept. The calling card would be perfect for those fleeting, yet engaging social interactions, where to verbally offer your details, or to make the effort to scrawl them upon paper, may seem too forward, or even desperate. The calling card appears to hit the mark: considered and memorable, and yet not over the top. I like it. Now the difficult part: selecting a font.

3 Helz September 8, 2008 at 3:48 am

Calling cards are pure genius. I started carrying them a couple years ago, and am continually amazed at the usefulness of them and the reactions I get. Mine I got printed up very cheap at the local mega-office supply store, and they simply have my name across the front in black using a nice Copperplate Gothic font on an off-white stock. Simple, elegant.

The best feature for me by far is that I can give someone only the contact information I want them to have. A quick jotting down of the number or email I prefer them to have, and they’re all set. Plus it’s far more personalized.

I just wish more people would use them, so I don’t have to explain it as much.

4 Enrique September 8, 2008 at 3:51 am

I think this is a really great idea. Wonderful post.

While they would probably be a little more cookie-cutter than the choices you mentioned in the article, I imagine that using VistaPrint’s free business card offer would probably get the job done for those of us who don’t have the money to spare. I can see a few of the free designs on there that might work for this purpose.

5 Mike Eggleston September 8, 2008 at 4:41 am

One of my military science classes for ROTC included a lecture on calling cards. Thank you for the article and an update on modern use.

6 emdoozie September 8, 2008 at 5:16 am

In my quest for success and dreams realized, I will be adding this piece of knowledge to my life. I had no idea of the concept of calling cards or the context in which they are used. The Perfect Gentleman, I have always been intrigued by the concept of the “Gentleman” yet have never been exposed to it, besides the basics of coarse. Great Post.


7 Granata September 8, 2008 at 5:47 am

The card I carry is simple and informal, but it does have a line of text on it that says what I do, more specifically it says, “designer, videographer, father, entrepreneur”. Does that make it a business card? The only other info on their is my phone number, email and web address.

Great article. I enjoyed learning the history behind calling cards.

8 Mary Catherine September 8, 2008 at 8:54 am

As a lady, I must take exception to your last point. I do expect a guy to contact me first, or at least to prove that he’s willing to. If a guy just gave me his card, I would have to have been pretty smitten at first sight to go track him down. He can give me his card, but he also needs to ask me to write down my email address, or phone number, or whatever he wants to use to contact me. I might look at his website to check him out, but I want him to pursue me.

9 Brett September 8, 2008 at 9:09 am

@Mary Catherine-

I understand your point and agree that a man should pursue the lady. But giving a lady your card and then waiting for her to respond is in keeping with the old etiquette of calling cards. A gentleman first simply left his card at a lady’s house, and then the lady had to send her card in return to initiate further visiting and contact.

10 Zvi kedem September 8, 2008 at 9:15 am

“Prof.” is not necessarily an honorary title, but indeed, it is not appropriate to put it on a social card.

11 cory huff September 8, 2008 at 9:18 am

Brett, my favorite post in months. I was just thinking of getting some business cards for and other ventures, but this is what I’ll be doing. Absolutely bang up job, my friend!

12 Brett September 8, 2008 at 9:33 am


Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms (a sort of etiquette book), published in 1882, considers “Prof” to be a honorary title. So that’s where I got it.

13 Jonathan Arnold September 8, 2008 at 10:42 am

Great post! Thank you so much for including Dempsey & Carroll in your listings at the end. We are indeed traditional, but as everything is custom, we can engrave as many lines as a client would like and can also custom cut to any size. We find men are playing with typeface and color more these days and really making calling cards fun.

Jonathan Arnold
General Manager

14 abby September 8, 2008 at 11:50 am

Speaking as a lady who’s doing her best to bring back the art of formal correspondence, I have to thank you for this fabulous article on calling cards for men. CCs are so much more relaxed and social than business cards, and yet they convey a simple elegance that one doesn’t often encounter. They’re just classy!

I appreciate how you recommend including contemporary communication methods (Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, etc.). Just because you’re kickin’ it old school with the medium, you don’t have to abandon all those ways we get in touch with one another these days.

If you have some extra cash and want to impress a lady who knows her stationery (even if you are unaware of it at the time!) go with the Crane & Co. option. It’s the best choice for simple quality, as almost all of their paper is 100% cotton or linen-based. If she’s at all into writing letters or just enjoys sending nice thank you notes, she’ll appreciate your timeless choice.

Personally, I’m the opposite of Mary Catherine. Whether it comes from Vista Print or Crane, I would call a guy back in a heartbeat if I left with his calling card. In fact, I would be far more inclined to go out on a proper date with a “stranger” if I had his contact information ahead of time. It just feels safer. And I’ve already had the chance to be impressed by his snazzy cards! :)

15 santa September 8, 2008 at 11:54 am

I give calling cards to all my call girls

16 Ron September 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Another source for calling card might be The moo card looks like it could be of the correct form. Their business cards are also different in size from the standard business card, and have a different texture.

17 Lesley G. September 8, 2008 at 12:42 pm is also making very inexpensive but high quality social cards. I was surprise they were not on the list of vendors! As a lady, I do carry these for the casual acquaintances I make during the day.

18 Brett September 8, 2008 at 12:47 pm

@Ron and Lesley-

I considered including, but since they are made with a photo covering one side of the card, I considered them a bit too outside the traditional calling card style. And you cannot write on the back. But they’re definitely a good option for someone who doesn’t mind that and wants something more modern.

19 Tyler @ Buidling Camelot September 8, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Great article Brett.

I was also going to mention moo cards, but I agree with you that you can’t write on them very easily. I think the idea of a modern day calling card will take some time to catch on, but the idea is incredible! Just imagine the networking and self-branding that you will be able to reinforce with a cool calling card.

20 Coop September 8, 2008 at 1:41 pm

As I look to distinguish myself from other personal trainers, your post comes at a great time.

21 Marshall September 8, 2008 at 1:55 pm

This is why I read this blog on a daily basis. Great article, life changing in fact. I’m going to add this to my personal branding right now.

22 Rod Homor September 8, 2008 at 5:30 pm


If I send you a S.A.S.E, would you send me one of your AoM cards??!!


23 Rodger September 8, 2008 at 6:13 pm

Fantastic idea! For a long time, I’ve thought about having my own card aside from my “business” card… but what to put on it? I thought a simple name and phone number were too little to put on a card, but having read about the history and the comeback of calling cards, I’m looking forward to having my own. Come to think of it, Danny Ocean had one in Ocean’s 11. That’s classy. :)

24 Isaac September 8, 2008 at 6:40 pm
25 Marc Levack September 9, 2008 at 1:22 am

Very nice information about business card and Rounded Corner Business Cards. Different size of a business cards so we can distribute in professionals. We have design a business card.

26 ChrisB September 9, 2008 at 8:42 am

Funny how we use the phrase “calling card” with no idea of where it came from.

Neat article — thanks.

27 Justen September 9, 2008 at 11:11 am

I’ve actually been using a sort of calling card for months now. I got mine from and have my name and e-mail address on them. They’ve been wonderful for theatre contacts, meeting people at the bar, and when I went backpacking in Europe this summer they were indispensable to maintaining contact with new friends. Plus, everyone I’ve given one to has commented positively on them and I know they’ll be remembered.

28 Mackenzie September 9, 2008 at 11:29 am

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an image on the back, providing it’s washed out enough to be like a colored watermark. It doesn’t preclude writing on the back in that case.

I use calling cards. I don’t have business cards, and well, if I did, unless I was trying to get someone’s resume, they wouldn’t much make sense. When I’m networking and want it to be easy for someone to remember that geeky chick who knew so much about Linux…well, the calling card with my name in both plain text on front and a pink binary watermark on back + Tux the Linux penguin on the front…yeah, should be pretty memorable.

29 Ryan September 11, 2008 at 7:18 am

This article is quite inspiring. A lost art that still has a place in the ‘now’ of today’s society, where technology runs the majority of our lives.

Thank you for posting.

30 Peter Hopkins September 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

Calling cards have become so popular that they are now the fastest-growing segment of personalized stationery for Crane & Co., and they’ve been around since 1801. It’s amazing to walk through the engraving facility and see the incredibly cool designs on today’s cards.

31 Ben September 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

@Marc Levack spammer :P

Very cool article. I’ve contracted my designer roommate to make a whimsical victorian/steampunk-esque design and a plain card with only my name for whenever that’s more appropriate.

32 Paul September 11, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Great website. I found it via the Lifehacker post on calling cards. They also suggested

A way around the problem of having a photo on one side of the card would be to use the text tool in Photoshop or Fireworks to create a text image and use that for the photo side of the card.

33 Johnny Ham September 12, 2008 at 7:16 am

This article is marvelous. Years ago my father had calling cards. At that time I just thought it was a different term for business card.
Thanks for teaching me something and bringing back memories.

34 Obbop September 12, 2008 at 7:23 am

We just left an Ace-of-Spades playing card upon the NVA and VC bodies we left behind in the jungle.

Since we were acting in a communal capacity I suppose the individuality of a calling card was unnecessary and would have confused the foe.

35 Vaapas September 12, 2008 at 10:56 am

Calling cards are a great idea and I found some interesting ones at They feature interesting Indian motifs and are great for ladies with taste. And yes, you can write behind them, too.

- Vaapas

36 x September 13, 2008 at 8:10 am

as mentioned, official calling cards are engraved,

made by chiseling, in reverse, the desired letters down into a copper or steel block. the ink is squeezed into the chiseled grooves, then the block with ink is pressed onto the top of the paper, with pressure from behind, and sometimes steam, leaving raised paper with raised ink lettering, and a depression on the rear of the card.

not too many folks left who can chisel type in metal backwards. expensive.

thermography, with thick raised ink, duplicates half that engraved look, without the depression on the back.

the smallest cards are diplomatic, smaller than business cards.

37 solicitor in bulgaria September 13, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Interesting write up about calling cards and business cards.

38 Fr. J. September 15, 2008 at 11:36 am

My father was a career Army officer from the late 40′s through the early 70′s. In those years the calling card was very much in use. Everyone we knew had the silver plate near the front door with the man of the house’s rank and name etched onto it. For cocktail parties, coffees and other light fare with large numbers of guests it was customary to leave your card so the hosts were sure than you came. I dont think it was necessary for dinner parties, though. It was also still in use for leaving behind when a visit was made and no one was home. There was probably an etiquette for this, but I do recall seeing calling cards wedged in the door jam near the front door knob, or along the side of the mailbox or sometimes tucked under the door knocker if it were heavy enough.

They were also useful for giving any kind of information from a conversation such as the name of a recommended book, play, restaurant or tailor. I will do my part to bring them back in my area.

39 Fr. J. September 15, 2008 at 11:53 am

Another thing I recall about calling cards is that they were often carried in a very slender silver box, so they would present themselves fresh and crisp. They were larger than today’s business card, at once more impressive and more simple.

40 Meredith September 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

As a woman, I love the gentlemanly aspect of the calling card, but I have to object to the last bit of advice in the article as it applies to dating. I think it’s much more effective (and manly) for a gentleman to ask a lady for her phone number and take the initiative to call her, instead of slipping her a card and waiting for her to call him. In the latter scenario there is somewhat of an awkward role-reversal where the lady is placed in a position of asking the man out, rather than the other way around. From the gentleman’s side, not a very manly way to begin wooing a lady. From the female perspective, I would never call a man first. If a man gave me his number or card and asked me to call him, I would assume he wasn’t very interested in securing a date with me and move on. I give one million rounds of applause to the earlier article “How to Stop Hanging Out with Women and Start Dating Them.” Women love men who aren’t afraid to “Man Up,” risk rejection, and just ask them out!

41 Brett September 16, 2008 at 11:41 am


As I replied to a woman with the same argument above, the idea of having a man give you a card and then contacting the man if interested is in keeping with the earlier tradition of calling cards. A gentleman would leave his calling card with a lady, and then wait to see if she would send a card in return and that would initiate further visits. So it’s quite a gentlemanly thing to do from a historical perspective. I think it’s a good balance between having the man doing all the pursuing and giving the woman the chance to make a decision. The man initiates interest by giving a card, but then the woman decides whether she wants to be pursued or not.

42 Stephen September 24, 2008 at 5:18 am

Two other resources for beautiful cards are:

Smythson of Bond St (also in New York)
Mrs. John L. Strong

43 business card joe September 28, 2008 at 11:30 am

This was a very nice article. I’m always down for a history lesson and I really enjoyed it. I especialy like the part talking about the folding of the corners for certain situations and the initials. It’s like calling card short hand. I just book marked the site. Great articles. I’m learning about fire-making now.

44 shawn September 29, 2008 at 10:04 am

These cards are a very good idea! I will need to try these out. They seam to help both with the forgetful minded and also help make good impreshions others. thank you

45 Barry October 3, 2008 at 7:21 am

As an alleged “gentleman” I have to agree with the comments about not leaving it up to the lady I am interested in to call me after giving a card to her. Modern dating etiquette still clearly requires the man to call and ask the lady for a date. It would be rather forward for the lady to make the call. I know it is a great new age of liberation and there may be exceptions, but this is still part of the social norm for dating under most circumstances. To say that 19th century etiquette allows for this kind of use of a calling card is a misinterpretation of those traditions, which are irrelevant today anyway.

I think a man can effectively use a calling card for dating purposes, but don’t just give them out and wait for the ladies to call. Your success rate is going to be underwhelming if that is your plan. Give the card, but also get her number. Then when you call her, she knows exactly who is calling because she already has your card. If she accepts the date but something later prevents her from keeping it, she can easily contact you to cancel or reschedule and you are not left sitting at the coffee shop alone for an hour.

My calling card has a traditional design with my name relatively centered in a script font that is slightly fancy but still masculine (Park Avenue BT font, bolded, 22pt. black). I also include one phone number and my personal email address in a simpler 10pt. font on two lines centerd below my name toward the bottom of the card. Just enough information to be useful, but it is still uncluttered and elegant.

A friend of mine who is an aviation enthusiast uses his cards for networking within the aviation community. His card has a background image of his distinctive airplane. The email address listed on the card contains his aircraft tail number (which is also his radio callsign). Very slick. Receiving his card several years ago is what inspired me to get my own.

46 Sharon October 12, 2008 at 11:34 am


I was asked to design a calling card for a friend and came upon your site. Kudos! The information is timely and modern while still paying homage to tradition. I’m now considering them for personal use as well.

With regard to using them in dating situations – I agree that tradition wins out for me. Modern dating practices (if that’s what they are) leave women and girls very vulnerable with being expected to give out personal information such as a phone number to any guy who “asks” just so she’s not the first to make a move. My thoughts are that if a man gives me a calling card, –and whispers “Call me,”– he HAS just made the first move, and a very provocative, seductive, and manly one at that.

Thanks again.

47 Barry October 21, 2008 at 5:52 am

Sharon, you are a woman and based on your posting, I’d guess you are a bit of a romantic. Your scenario of a man giving you his calling card is probably based on the romantic assumption that this man is obviously desireable, let’s say he’s the Sean Connery type. Yes, of course, if a distinguished gentleman in a tux with a “provocative, seductive and manly” air about him does that, he is going to hit a home run with it. For that matter, a man of that description hardly needs to try at all.

But the fact is that most of us are not Sean Connery and we may need to rely on something a little more certain than the hope that we have impressed her enough during our first contact that she will be moved to call. Consider your own husband. Upon your first meeting, did he impress you that much? A lot of women I know say it took them a while to warm up to the man they eventually married. In fact, they often say they thought he was a dork at first. It takes more than a card and a whisper to clear that hurdle.

So yeah, your advice is excellent.

For George Clooney.

48 Andy October 21, 2008 at 6:00 am

I think the personal calling card has almost disappeared because it lacks an important piece of information that the business card offers: the details of your employment. That is one of the most important pieces of personal information to someone you meet. It’s just the way people organize information about each other. It makes total sense that people would exchange business cards even in a strictly social setting. Another nice thing about exchanging business cards is that it provides a means to contact you, but still keeps them from having your home address and phone number, which you can provide selectively by writing it on the back of the card.

When I give out my personal card, the next thing out of the person’s mouth is a question about where I work. I find it flows more smoothly if I first give them my business card and then if I want them to have my personal contact information, I also give them that card in addition, with the explanation that it contains my personal contact information. This seems to make more sense to people than just getting my personal card and being confused about why it doesn’t have a business logo on it. So the personal card just becomes a convenience instead of having to write the information on the business card. And by the way, the personal contact information that is relevant 99% of the time is just my cell phone number, and that could easily be added to my business card layout.

A personal card is more useful for people who do not have a business card, such as retirees, students, home makers, or people who don’t have the kind of job that requires a card. It would also be helpful for people who want to network within a special interest group such as an amatur musician, actor or artist and especially if the card clearly identifies that interest.

But if you have a business card, you are probably better off using that in most social situations than using a separate personal card. It’s just what people expect and are comfortable with in today’s world.

49 peter October 25, 2008 at 2:58 am

I have seen this information and lots more at

It is one of the best searches of the internet! very useful!

50 Sharon November 5, 2008 at 9:33 am

Hello Barry,

Actually, confidence and assertiveness are far more attractive to me. Just because Hollywood has coupled looks with desireable personality characteristics does not mean a good looking man will possess the ability to make my knees turn to jelly . Most good-looking men that I’ve encountered rely only on their looks and never take time to develop true masculine skills. The more average looking men have much more going for him in my opinion.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that men find confidence and attitude is the key to a woman’s sexiness regardless of size, age or physical beauty? Perhaps your experience is not the same, but women I’ve spoken to agree that confidence, an air of authority and intelligence are the things that draw them to certain men – even short, hairy, overweight ones.

So yes, I may be a bit of a romantic, but not for the beautiful George Clooneys or Brad Pitts of the world.

Anyway, the point of my original reply was that I believe it’s more appropriate for men to initiate contact and presenting a calling card is a wonderful way to do so while still giving women a sense of security.


51 nathan November 15, 2008 at 12:37 pm


sharon: your perspectives on this great calling card issue is quite encouraging :-)
I was in a situation where I was just casually getting a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop, and was just struck by the attractiveness of the barista who served me.
To make a long story short, after some brief small talk (e.g. How are you, how’s your day, I’ll order an eggnog latte, pls), I went ahead and asked for her phone number, assuming there the coffee company lets her do that kinda thing (you know, important safety policies that are in place b/c baristas must be asked out ALL the time by good, bad and the weird!). She smiled a wide smile at that and said she wasn’t allowed to, so I just went ahead and gave her one of my “personal calling cards” that I had made on my own graphics programs, and I went ahead and personalized it a bit too for her.
~So, in my humble opinion, I think these can be handy in types of situations… where, even after doing the “manly thing” like asking for number with some degree of “class” (I hope!), and for whatever reason (in this case, employment safety precautions/afraid of losing her job…or other cases, personal safety reasons, perhaps), she can’t or won’t give her number. Then you still leave her with a creative memento, and a neat way to display your unique personality and a means to contact you if she wants.

Can anybody else identify with this?

52 Kristin November 23, 2008 at 11:54 pm

@Sharon – I agree Sharon. That would win me over, too. I may notice the cute guy in the room (but not always), but the one who approaches me and makes his interest known in a classy way is the one who will win me over. I may not call right away, but after running into him a time or two after, now that I knew his thoughts, I would probably call.

53 Nicolas Bellord November 27, 2008 at 8:17 am

It is still customary in Portugal to turn down corner of a card whether business or calling. Recently I visited an insurance company and the manager gave me his card with the top-right corner turned down.

54 melina December 14, 2008 at 5:59 pm

I would love for calling cards to become popular again. I do like the old Victorian ones :-)

55 Bruce Williamson January 31, 2009 at 4:55 pm

I use calling cards all of the time. Not for calling but for providing contact information to people that I’ve met. Using my business card always seemed incorrect when I was not in a business setting. So I make my own with different information on them. Some have my full address and all contact infomation. Another version has my cell and e-mail and the last version has just my e-mail. They’re kept in order so that I don’t have to fumble for the correct version. Macy’s and JC Penny both sell card cases but only online. They are small metal boxes which keep the cards in better condition than the plastic or leather credit card wallets.

56 Giftsin24 February 25, 2009 at 10:03 am

What a wonderful piece this is indeed!! Personally, it is lovely to see some of the time honored and traditional formalities of civiliaztion returning.
As manufacturers of < personalized stationery, calling cards, like actual letter writing are newly appreciated and special becasue of their rariety.

57 Joshua Winkler March 13, 2009 at 6:39 am


I have to say, I’m impressed. This article was pointed out to me in January, because the mention of our company is neither bad nor entirely good, and it peaked my interest, as did the entire premise of this site.

Since then, not only have I read a great deal more of the posts and comments on this site and others that are linking to it, I asked around and got our designers to come up with a few more calling card designs for men.

Similar to a few of the previous commentors, I’m someone who handed out business cards to everyone, regardless of the situation, and since it now occurs to me that a personal calling card would be much more appropriate on many occasions… I submit myself, convinced…and I have our new Suit of Armor cards in a card case in my coat pocket at all times. ;)

Congrats on the great article and thanks for pointing out a hole we could fill. More designs coming soon!

Joshua Winkler
American Stationery

58 Dario Paolini March 19, 2009 at 1:32 am

If only I could simply tell people not to bother me again by sending my calling card in an envelope! Life would be so simple :)

On a serious note though, the design of the traditional calling card is a great thing to look back on as inspiration for the modern version of such a device. I will certainly be looking at how I can incporporate this elegance in my future designs…

59 Matt June 18, 2009 at 7:50 am

Does anybody know anything about the engraving process? A group of friends and I would like to start making calling cards, and we are wondering what kind of machinery (if any) you need. There seems to be little information about the actual process on the internet, unfortunately.

60 Anthony June 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

I think the Best business cards are from

61 Ted Westrick July 30, 2009 at 7:30 pm

In addition to reading and loving this entry, I decided to take the frugal route and make my own calling cards. I used a modified business card template on my computer’s program “Pages” and printed it on heavy paper. I glued the full sheet of paper to another identical (albeit blank) sheet, pressed it while it dried, then used a straightedge and an exacto-knife to cut them (almost perfectly) square. Done. (Showed them to a buddy, and he thought I had sent away for professionally made business cards.) The whole thing costs two sheets of heavy paper and some glue, giving me 10 calling cards.

62 Nubclub October 19, 2009 at 10:32 am

I never thought in my wildest dreams that I ever have a reason to even have a title, much less an actual calling card to put it on, untill I went into business for myself. Now that I do, I can’t keep enough of ‘em. They’re great for professional AND personal needs.

63 Rick Glaser November 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Hey great list there. Those are some of the top companies helping people get the professional look they need. What about I didn’t see them listed there, and think they are the best when it comes to styles such as engraving.


64 Elizabeth Pfeiffer November 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Great list, but I am partial to Fine Arts Engraving, myself ;) We’ve been doing personal and professional stationery for over 75 years.

I think calling cards are a great idea. How many people have blogs / facebook accounts / twitter names / etc. They say that print is dead, but I believe that social media is only making it have a resurgence!

On a personal note, a calling card beats the heck out of a bar napkin anyday!

65 Poster Printing Atlanta January 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

Great List!

66 Paulo March 30, 2010 at 3:21 am

I’m implementing this one! Great concept!

Paulo Caldeira

67 Just Press Print | Business cards April 1, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Business cards have been arount for ages. They keep changing with the times. Now adding your social bookmark sites has become very popular.

Great Written blog!

68 Webster July 17, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I checked out American Stationary because you noted that they are inexpensive, and was pleasantly surprised to see that they have over thirty designs (not all “manly”, though).

69 Clayton E. Blackburn November 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Crane has wonderful products. Unfortunately, as far as I’ve been able to determine, the company no longer produces engraved calling cards. I maintain the engraving plate they prepared for me 17 years ago so guess I could obtain more engraved cards from Dempsey & Carroll.

70 Matt February 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Splendid! I enjoyed reading this article. As a designer, there are so many avenues to explore when it comes to creating business and calling cards. However, I’ve always been partial to letterpress. This is the embossed effect when the physical typeface sorts are pressed into your card during the printing process. Definitely will set your card apart from the crowd in an elegant way. I found a website that specializes in this technique. I am going to give them a try and post again with the results. Also for those interested in learning a bit more about letterpress, youtube has a great little documentary on the subject.

Kind regards,

71 Renee September 13, 2013 at 5:46 am

It almost seems like everyone these days has a generic calling card! I was at a conference not long ago, and I was given few dozen cards, and I can’t say there was a lot of originality shown!

72 Jerry October 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I have and continue to use personal “calling” cards. So often in todays world our jobs are in “transition”. How tacky to use your old business card with everything scratched out. further, if gainfully employed, a personal card is so much more – dare I say it – personal.

@Sharon – albeit 5 years late – Barry is hitting on you!!

73 Toni December 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Thank you for the informative article! I used to use callings cards while a college student, and reading your article makes me want to order some–just because.

74 Angela Floyd January 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm

What a wonderful piece of writing! I was reading an Oscar Wilde stage play entitled “An Ideal Husband” and there was a portion of dialogue about leaving a card. That led me to search for the significance of leaving a card…which led me to your site. The world belongs to those who create. Thank you. Consider committing some of your creations to paper. Being a lover of history, I worry about what will be lost in this digital world.

75 Daniel February 24, 2014 at 5:13 am

I’ve used calling cards for years. It started my senior year of high school when I got my graduation package. Included were small cards with my name which were meant to be included in the announcements. I ended up having quite a bit of cards left over and simply wrote my number on the back before I’d go out for the evening. I haven’t asked someone for their number in about twenty years. After chatting for a while, at a bar, housev party, cafe, bookstore, etc… I hand them a card and ask if they’d call me or say something to the likes of If you’d like to go out sometime. By this point they know I’m interested and unless they’re vying for an Oscar I pretty much know if they’re interested as well. If im wrong it saves face or putting them in uncomfortable situation of shooting me down. I’ve used a local printer when times afford and vista print when they didn’t and trimmed them down slightly. Also, I carry both Calling and Business since you never know who you’ll meet and want to look professional to potential business contacts, but not so boastful to someone you’re interested in.

76 Carrie February 28, 2014 at 1:08 pm

What about calling cards for modern ladies?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter