The Surprising History of the Red Swingline Stapler
It may be the most iconic office supply there is: the red Swingline stapler.
If you love the 1999 cult classic Office Space, you probably think of the Red Swingline stapler as one of the most iconic pieces of office equipment ever. In the riotous film, the endearingly sad company doormat, Milton, was totally devoted to his stapler. Move Milton’s desk to a corner of the basement, ignore him, even stop paying him. Fine. But don’t dare take away his red stapler.
The funny thing is, the red Swingline desk stapler didn’t exist outside the movie. The people who made the film originally intended to use a red Boston stapler, but when that company opted out of the production, they approached Swingline and got permission to use one of theirs. But a red stapler was what they wanted, and Swingline didn’t make one. So they took a Swingline to an auto body shop and had it painted bright red.
After the movie came out, people decking out their desks naturally had the image of Milton’s red stapler in their heads and considered it the standard stapler to get. And thus a new eBay-based industry was created in which enterprising businesspeople sold officefulls of Swinglines they’d spray-painted red.
In 2002, Swingline themselves finally decided to get in on the action and released their own, the Swingline 747© Red Rio stapler. It remains the company’s best seller to this day.
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