As catalogs like The Matchbook Diaries, Oh, What a Match!, and Matchbook Project can attest, the custom restaurant and bar matchbook has long been a coveted keepsake for a certain type of diner. When Eater explored the history of restaurant matches in 2015, the practice had died down a bit from previous decades, with Jessica Ritz writing that matchbooks were “no longer a go-to restaurant souvenir” (for one thing, smoking rates had “plummeted,” Ritz noted).
But if my own anecdotal dining and social media scrolling is any indicator, custom bar and restaurant matchbooks are on fire once again; in my bathroom sits one from Gage & Tollner, and in a jar in my living room are matches from Win Son, Cap’t Dan’s Good Time Tavern, and the food brand Omsom. Now, vibes aficionados have offered a way to take the idea one step further: making custom matchbooks for their homes.
Though I’m sure enterprising hosts have been in-the-know for a while, I first saw the idea on TikTok earlier this year from the creator The Gracie Grazette. Gracie’s rationale went as follows: You get matchbooks at “cool destinations,” and your apartment can be a “fabulous destination,” so why not offer visitors the souvenir of your own custom matchbook? A microtrend seemed to be forming: I saw custom matchbooks again a little later from the creator behind Tremont Home and then again on the Instagram feed of New York Times Cooking editor Tanya Sichynsky, her last name in metallic red drop-shadowed text.
As Delaney of Tremont Home — who now also sells customizable matchbook templates for use on the party favor website For Your Party — explains in a follow-up video, custom matchbooks can also make a perfect, unconventional gift for birthdays, housewarmings, or engagements. They’re surprisingly affordable for something so thoughtful: As of this writing, a 50-pack of customized matches will run you under $50 on For Your Party, but if you want to really commit to a design, WebstaurantStore offers a case of 2500 customizable matchbooks starting at $121.
Apart from their undeniable functionality, collecting matchbooks is ultimately about old-timey nostalgia: The bowl of gathered matchbooks and matchboxes becomes a repository for memories of good restaurant meals and nights out (no wonder so many artists and Etsy sellers also create custom or themed matchbook art). Don’t your dinner parties deserve to be remembered that way too?