Here it is – my fifth annual gift guide. The frequent holiday sales make it too easy to focus on buying for yourself and forget about the impending holidays; I’m here to remind you that it’s time to put that shoe purchase on the backburner and start planning out what you’re getting your loved ones. This list is for the men that deserve your gratitude this year – maybe it’s a brother, a father, a friend, a husband, or someone else entirely. No matter what relation, here’s your unequivocal menswear gift guide for this holiday season.
For the college kid: Perhaps it’s just my infatuation with that preppy, Ivy League lifestyle, but I will admit that I’ve always loved the look of vintage college sportswear – it lights up a nostalgia for a thing I never had, in a way. The issue is that the stuff in modern college stores is a far cry from it (cotton blend hoodies as far as the eye can see), but Hillflint has been making vintage-inspired collegiate clothing, and I love how they look. If I was still in college I would probably rock one of these (heck, maybe I still will).
For the novice chef: It’s easy to accumulate gadgets in the kitchen, but there are some pieces that you just keep coming back to every day. A good knife is one of those things, but another is a great dutch oven. These do-anything, heavy-as-hell, stovetop-to-oven pots are my favorite kitchen staple, one that often gets overlooked. Great for searing, braising, stews, bread, and so much more, they are one of the kitchen pieces I could truly never live without. Le Cruset is the undisputed champion here (I recommend the 5.5qt size for maximum versatility, or 4.5 if you want something a bit more compact), but if the price is hard to swallow, check out Lodge as a high-value, relatively inexpensive alternative. Just remember that either way, you’re buying something that will probably get used for another 50+ years.
For the guy that ‘doesn’t want a present’: A nice pair of socks is a way to get your gift-ee something great that they’d never get themselves, while keeping the dollar value relatively low. For excellent casual socks, check out CHUP and Anonymous Ism – both brands are made in Japan, feature wonderful, often whimsical designs, and are made to a high standard out of great materials. They’re available at many retailers, so be sure to do some googling if you want to see all the styles available.
For the foodie: I love to cook, and I owe much of that love to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt – I cannot recommend his new book “The Food Lab” highly enough. As an engineer, I enjoy learning things that are backed up by data and tests, and that’s how Kenji approaches food. Old misconceptions are debunked, experiments are performed, and a lot of wonderful recipes are made in the process. This is a great book for people that want to understand the mechanics of food science, not just follow a recipe. At this price it’s an absolute steal – I already have two copies, just in case.
For the budding mixologist: there’s an endless number of places to get information about making cocktails, but my favorite is Oregon’s own Jeff Morgenthaler. While he does run a blog (the archives are great), I highly recommend his book, aptly named the Bar Book. Much like Lopez-Alt’s the Food Lab, Morgenthaler writes his book with a focus on science, fundamentals, and technique. It’s an excellent resource for any cocktail enthusiast that wants to create great drinks at home. Is your guy a bit more advanced? Look no further than Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence. Arnold is basically the boozy equivalent of a molecular gastronomy chef, and his book will probably want to make you buy a centrifuge.
For the watch nerd: Leather watch straps look great, but they just don’t last that long (when compared to a watch, at least). If you know a watch guy, there’s a good chance at least one of their leather straps is in tatters right now. My favorite place for casual, rugged straps is Jesse at Guarded Goods, who makes great leather goods himself (mostly out of shell cordovan). For something dressy, Hodinkee always has deep stock of wonderfully tasteful high-end choices.
For the recent college grad: A nice wallet doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will be appreciated every time it gets pulled out (which, if their entry into the workforce is anything like mine, will be way too often). Bellanie at Chester Mox and Parker at Pierpont Leather will make you an incredible wallet by hand. You can see my reviews here and here, respectively. If you do go down this road, order soon (this week!), as they are made to order and require some lead time.
For the grooming guru: Balling out on nice grooming tools is often overshadowed by the more consumable products, but they last a hell of a lot longer than that 3oz bottle of moisturizer that was $50. For my money, upgrading my nail clippers, as unsexy as it sounds, has made that grooming habit significantly more enjoyable. Seki Edge is one of the best when it comes to grooming tools, and their single clipper and two-piece set makes great stocking stuffers. If you want to go all-in, the 9-piece set has all the fixins.
For the Outdoorsman: As far as I know, the best way to bring a bit of the outdoors inside is with house plants. With that said, plants don’t really look that good under the tree (and are a bit too easy to kill for a novice), so my personal favorite is plant-focused artwork. I’ve always enjoyed plant prints, and the ones I got from Chasing Nature years ago are still in my room. For original artwork, check out Erik Linton, who makes wonderful tree prints in the style of the late Bryan Nash Gill.
There you have it! Good luck, and happy holidays.