The Coolest Lighters for Starting Conversations If You've Forgotten How During COVID

These are the best lighters for toking up like a time-traveling sk8r cowboy, or whoever else you wanna be this 4/20.
New York, US
April 20, 2021, 2:02pm
Best Lighters
Photo: Composite by VICE Staff

TIL about tobacciana, which sounds like the Narnia version of collecting cool smoking accessories (and is), but has transcended its traditional (yawn) tobacco scope to encompass 2021’s wider, more contemporary pursuit of lighting our butts up with some indica, CBD pre-rollies, herbal cigs, and whatever else we find in that one coat pocket. Moreover, as we prepare for a summer of joint passing with other vaccinated lips, we have decided to adopt all the seriousness of a discerning tobacciana collector, with all the joyful idiocy of our own tastes (see: this cursed doggy style lighter) to find the coolest lighters out there. 

We want artisanal, groovy lighters with tortoiseshell finishes and Bauhaus color-blocking. We want little objets d’art that merit a place on the dining room tablescape, and that no one will dare pocket because they know they could never say, “Oh! I have the same 1960s cowboy boot lighter,” without getting their wristbands cut from the divine festival that is your Pfizer ho life. 

Are we imbuing too much meaning in the pursuit of a cool lighter? Probably. But why shouldn’t our lighters be an extension of our horny little brains? We’ll take all the conversational help we can get from a purple Bodega lighter, so lowkey sexy it practically whispers, “Let’s go rip the bong by my Stüssy streetwear candle, and maybe play with some long-distance butt plug vibrators.” 


Ice breakers? Pffft. Welcome to our flame-retardant zone of ice melters, just in time for 4/20.  Yes, it is unabashedly Tsubota-heavy. Because why would we ever make you pick between cloud print and cow print? 

All your candles smell of sandalwood and tobacco leaves


Photo: Tetra

If there is one name to remember from today’s lineup, it’s Tsubota. Made in downtown Tokyo, the company has been making artisanal, lifelong lighters since 1952. This tortoiseshell-style “pearl” lighter is made of polycarbonate casing, has a steel interior, a cotton wick, and an aesthetic so good it deserves its own film noir. 

Tsubota Pearl Tortoise Lighter, $45 at Tetra

Your Vans are crusty, but your lighter is crisp

Black and white checkered cool lighter

Photo: Zazzle

A little bit of ska, or perhaps Lisa Says Gah! Wherever you land on the spectrum of opinions about the renaissance of the checkerboard (especially wavy checkerboard), from streetwear fashion to Queen’s Gambit, we humbly predict that this matte checkerboard Zippo will persist, as Zippos tend to, beyond the trend cycle. We see it, many summers for now, in that one backpack you take to the park.    

Black and White Checkered Zippo Lighter, $44.65 at Zazzle

The oil slick 

nomatique cool lighter

Photo: the Grommet

You were most likely a Lisa Frank child, or else the kid who watched Pimp My Ride just for the ASMR sensation of watching a Chevy get a metallic paint job. Either way, you could do with a lighter that looks like it has just melted the prettiest robot at the dance in your hands. Plus it’s rechargeable (and, thus, butaneless and odorless). 

Nomatique Dual Arc Electric Lighter, $30 at The Grommet

For the sk8r boi in your life

Bodega Tsubota Lighter

OFC the streetwear lairds at Bodega having been brainstorming with Tsubota on how to make the coolest lighter, and of course they said, “It must be a mix between Prince purple, and Barney aubergine.” Maybe don’t take this one to the skate park; it’s too choice to risk leaving behind. Then again, it could create a skatepark Cinderella situation in which Zack finds it, and wheelies it over to your 4 PM brunch the next day.  

Bodega X Tsubota Lighter, $30 at Bodega

Your summer personality is cowboy-sexual


Photo: Etsy

For a lighter that says, “IDK bro, if you’ve never camped in the desert, I’m not sure you can fully understand our symbiosis with the cosmos.” We cannot (legally) fit a Southwestern stoner campfire in our apartments, but this cowboy boot lighter from the 1960s will do mighty fine. Place it ever so sassily beside an upside-down 10-gallon hat filled with queso. 

Vintage CMC Silver-Plated Cowboy Boot Lighter Japan, $66 at Etsy

Old MacDaddy Donald

cow Print Lighter

Photo: Laundry Day

And right beside your cowboy boot lighter? Why, the obligatory cow print lighter, available on one of the waviest design wormholes in the Wild Web for smoking apparati, Laundry Day. Imagine the look on your friends’ faces, as they step into your home for the first time in months, only to see you playing ranchero with your growing collection of yeehaw lighters. 

Cow Print Hard Edge Tsubota Lighter, $34 at Laundry Day

Like the iPhone of lighters

Rechargeable lighters

God, this just feels so much nicer in our hands than plastic. It’s also rechargeable, better for the planet, and juices up in an hour and a half for a whopping 300 lights. The gold metal version of this lighter looks like bullion, the black one is Anish Kapoor-level dark, and the rose gold one is great if you’re still about that millennial pink life (let us know when you’re ready for mustard colored sheets). Heads up: According to the website, “it emits a high-pitched sound that some people with extra-sensitive ears can hear.” FREAKY! Color us intrigued and ready to piss off the rats on the bar crawl home.  

The USB Lighter Company Rechargeable Pocket Lighter, $36 at Food52

Don’t look into the eye of this when you toke

Not unlike its cousin, Cool B&W Checkerboard Lighter, this op-art Zippo is both a master of trends and a timeless extension of our own crackpot love for universe-as-a-hologram theories. For an ideal user experience, we suggest toking up with this baby as "Butterfly" by Crazy Town plays in the distance.

Zippo Optical Illusion Lighters, $26.95 $19.21 at Amazon

Your couch is so comfy


Photo: Tetra

You almost certainly drink eight glasses of water a day, or slam enough kombucha to make up for it (not how that works, but whatever). Friends love crashing at your home, because they can always expect a warm, linen sheet welcome every time. Your cloud lighter says so.  

Tsubota Pearl Blue Sky Lighter, $45 at Tetra 

Not a JUUL


Photo: Tetra

Finally! A lighter than can sit in the same ceramic mug thing as the rest of our desk pens, without getting lost at the bottom. Tsubota has made a color-blocking stick that looks like it could be just as comfy at a European Bauhaus design studio, or on the set of Blue's Clues. (ICYMI: Steve used to have a very ~design~ converted garage haus in Brooklyn, so maybe he is moonlighting at Tsubota these days.) 

Tsubota Pearl Color Block Stick Lighter, $30 at Tetra

Mentally, you live in a Futuro house

Pierre Cardin Lighter

Photo: 1stDibs

Made by the man, the legend, the mid-century French designer from outer space, Pierre Cardin. Yes, this is a bananas amount of money for a lighter, but this isn’t *really* just a lighter: It’s a work of art. “This piece was designed and signed by Pierre Cardin and produced in France during the 1970s,” reads the listing, and it’s the perfect miniature example of his talent for creating Côte d'Azur bubble houses, because it brings a veritable bubble house into your own. Get really stoned, and make it a house for a caterpillar. J’adore.

Pierre Cardin Midcentury Red Plastic and Plexiglass French Table Lighter, $426.84 at 1stDibs

Happy almost 4/20! Here’s hoping we don’t run out of gas. Or butane. Or Takis.

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