There exists basically two styles of pipes: Straight and Bent. Straight pipes have no curve to the shank or stem while bents do. Usually a pipe smoker tends to like one or the other with the majority (75% or so nationally) preferring bents. Although aesthetics play a major part in pipe selection, each style has certain benefits that can be exploited for different settings.
Straight Pipes and Bent Briars
When I first started enjoying pipes, I smoked only bents. I liked both the look and the feel of a half bent billiard and I bought only that shape; or minor variations. Sometimes I would branch out into a full bent or so, but I never looked at the straights.
After some time I bought a computer and began to actually use it. Now I know that one really should not smoke around computers, but I enjoy it so; in fact I am smoking a Dunhill Shell Canadian while I am typing this right now! While I would surf the web or so some word processing, I kept getting smoke in my eyes. We all know how that stings and if one is trying to concentrate on a work of literary art (like this one) one may find that both distracting and irksome.
So after putting up with this for far too long I bought a straight billiard and was amazed by the difference! No longer did I have to endure smoke in the eyes while typing, or woodworking, or even reading! If you enjoy smoking while doing any activity that requires the use of your hands then try a straight pipe.
If you enjoy relaxing with a pipe while sitting or watching a video then a bent pipe is for you. A comfortable shape in the hand with a balanced curve will reduce stress placed on the jaw while lending to an overall pleasant evening of star-gazing on the deck. If you only smoke in the evening, you may find that you only like bents!
I have found that, at least with my clientele, the majority of pipe smokers tend to smoke only once or twice daily and in the evening. This is why most people nowadays smoke bents! In the forties and fifties, straight pipes were much more prevalent (at least in the USA) because people tended to smoke during the day and even at work. If you are working on a ledger, or reading memos, then a straight just works better!
After trying a straight pipe now half of my collection is composed of straight billiards, dublins, apples, bulldogs, and canadians. But I still find myself always eying those Savinelli 606 shapes that trickle through the shoppe!