Exhausted new moms use them to mark their twins. Doodlers on hyper-drive buy them to trick out their cars. Conan O'Brien morphed into one on Twitter, and Taylor Swift used one as eyeliner in a pinch.
It's hard to find someone — anyone — who doesn't love the hardworking Sharpie, excluding the loved ones of little wall-drawing Picassos.
Fans and fanatics are all over Flickr and YouTube showing off their collections of the endearing pens and a vast array of handiwork and Sharpie magic, but Glee's Dianna Agron best summed up the Sharpie life in a blog apology over her saucy photos in GQ:
"I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can't erase the strokes you've made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate."
Sanford Manufacturing Co., a Chicago purveyor of ink and glue, launched the Sharpie line in 1964, later becoming Sanford L.P. and part of the Newell Rubbermaid empire. Easily the market leader, half a billion Sharpie products were sold around the world last year.
"It's always been the jewel within the portfolio, but its roots were pretty functional," said a company vice president, Sally Grimes.
Now, Sharpies can be personalized, refilled and retracted. They come in keyring-ready minis, peelable grease colors for porous surfaces and shimmery silver for black ones. They can stand in for ball point pens with ink that won't bleed through paper, and for mechanical pencils with liquid graphite that won't break at the tip.
So what's the most unusual thing you've done with a Sharpie? Some ideas:
— One mom left the tiniest dot on the foot of one her newborn twins until she could tell them apart. Another writes her telephone number on the bottom of her kids' feet so they can whip off a shoe in case they get lost.
Grimes notes: While Sharpies are nontoxic, they're not recommended for use on skin. Also, they're not edible, though they're good for turning oranges into little jack-o'-lanterns for Halloween place settings.
Win mom of the year by printing out your child's favorite cartoon characters and tracing them on plastic bags. Fill in with Sharpie for the coolest sandwich look in the cafeteria.
— Amy Ekbom, 19, of Scituate, Mass., bought a basic white dress for prom and Sharpied away in bright pinks, greens and yellows. She did the same on her date's white suit. Ekbom earned a spot on the Sharpie blog for her handiwork last year.
— The Web's got a Sharpied Lamborghini and a Ford Fiero. It also has Travis Todd and his silver BMW. He's one of 20 members of the company's "Sharpie Squad," brand ambassadors with claims to fame. The Colorado Springs, Colo., lab technician detached the hood of his car and carried it into his livingroom for Sharpie-ing. It was his wife's idea.
After decorating the trunk as well, Todd sold the black-doodled car to a BMW dealership and is thinking about taking a Sharpie to the replacement, a silver Jeep. "My wife makes fun of me because everything in the house has something drawn all over it," he said. It took only two of Sharpie's opaque, oil-based paint markers to decorate the car.
— Enthusiasts of Cosplay, the performance art often influenced by Asian media like anime, can be dead serious about the wigs that help them transform into characters. Some hand-dye using Sharpies, a tedious process followed by a dunk in cold water to set the color. Others trade formulas online for extracting ink from Sharpie cartridges to mix with alcohol for a dunk. Cosplay.com has threads dedicated to the task.
— What about your own hair? One guy used a Sharpie to mask a gray patch in his beard.
— Grab a basic round Christmas tree ball and carefully detach the hook and metal thing at the hole. Cut a toilet paper roll longways and wrap it around a drill bit. Work the cardboard-encased bit into the ball's hole and fasten the other end of the bit to a power drill. Hold the drill with the ball attached in one hand, grab a Sharpie with the other. As the drill turns the ball, touch the pen to the ball for a swirly design as the ball spins.
— A guy once used a Sharpie for the pin of a trailer hitch after the losing the real one. He was hauling a large grill. Others color-customize golf balls and fishing tackle. They're also handy for opening wine bottles without a corkscrew (push in).
— Nothing says repurposed like a Sharpie. Reclaim an old lazy susan with a base coat from a paint Sharpie and a design with finer points, followed by a light spritz of sealer for protection. Or buy an inexpensive white lampshade and create a design.
— Darn, your hem's down and there's no duct tape in sight. Grab a stapler and have at it, covering the glittery metal with the right hue.
— Make your Xbox360 console or controller your own using the paint markers and finer points for designs.
— Professional tile maker Linda Ellett in Rock City Falls, N.Y., lays out large mosaic patterns by putting a piece of plastic over her design on paper for tracing. She then places the plastic over clay slabs and fills in the design with Sharpies, leaving an imprint so she knows where to cut and has a record of her colors.
Ellett did an artful series of biographical tiles called "Day in the Life," including one featuring her favorite Sharpie. The ode led her, too, to the company's official fan squad.
"I'm a two-termer," she joked. "I haven't met anybody who doesn't love Sharpies."
— Ekbom's prom dress: http://bit.ly/91Mi4M.
— Sharpie Lamborghini: http://bit.ly/bvb7Xj
— A Sharpie gallery: http://bit.ly/beZCEx
— Video on how-to spin Christmas ornaments, other projects: http://bit.ly/9hVcpH