Not Another Men's Shopping Gift Guide...
There are innumerable holiday shopping guides being posted right now, so why not one more right? However, the goal of this one is to provide a gift guide thought process, rather than pretend to have the perfect gift option already linked and ready for your purchase. Many of the lists you can find out there do have great gift ideas, but for me at least, I either already have many of the suggestions (#spoiledguy) or they simply aren’t all that appealing. So the aim with this post is to help you personalize the gift selection by providing some guidelines for what to look for in getting him that perfect gift, the one he may not have even know he wanted…
Three pieces of advice that I don’t often see on many guides -
Expand his Repertoire
Guys love hobbies. Perhaps it’s genetic; deeply woven into our DNA is the hobby gene. We like to collect stuff, become experts at something, and tell/teach others about it. Chances are the guy you are buying for already has a hobby. So my suggestion is, unless he is newly infatuated with this leisure activity, DON’T bother getting him another fishing lure, model airplane, or new tech gadget. (*Exceptions to this rule covered below!) Chances are he is the expert, and you’re not going to get the item that is really going to boost his collection, or satisfy his craving. He either already has it, or may have to feign interest and gratitude because you tried - not that I’ve ever done that of course (#ThoughtThatCounts) - and now he has something he feels guilty exchanging or returning. Many of you may be thinking, well I can just go the gift card route and let him pick it… But I think we all know there is something nice about opening of a gift as opposed to an envelope. There’s the anticipation, the nostalgic tearing of wrapping paper, and the comforting thought that a person took the time and effort to pick something out that they believed you would really appreciate. It’s just nice. So here is where I suggest you get a little crazy, and expand his hobby repertoire! I’ll be the first to admit that I have a number of obsessions/hobbies, but there are 3 that I consistently enjoy sharing with others, and rarely (unless my guests are just being polite) find other guys who don’t come to appreciate these things on a visceral level of manliness. I’m going to suggest that if you don’t know what to get your guy, try one of these - just beware, he may acquire a new favorite pastime.
Bourbon - There is a reason this is the most popular dark liquor in the country! Bourbon has made and unparalleled surge in popularity in the last 5 years, with secondary markets fetching up to 10x retail value on some bottles. It is a collector's liquor, much like wine, only with a much more rugged American masculinity undercurrent. Chances are most men don't realize they like Bourbon if they haven't had an education in the nuances of the precious libation. Much like any liquor, if you drink the crap, chances are its not going to be enjoyable... For starters have him try these bottles. These are NOT FOR MIXED DRINKS! Drink these neat or with one cube after it has aired out in the glass for 5 minutes.
- $32 - Elijah Craig 12 year. Its not easy to find the age statement bottles these days, but if you can, grab one; and if not, the none age stamped version is still a great starter.
- $50 - Angel's Envy. Finished in Port barrels, this makes for a very sweet tasting bourbon with a beautiful nose.
- $79 - Highwest Bourye. A solid jump in price, but boy is it good!
- $89 - Barterhouse by Orphan Barrel. Great balance with a sweet finish.
- If anyone is looking for bourbon suggestions for someone who already has a pallet for bourbon, please feel free to email or comment below. I could go on for pages, tailored to different profiles and proofs! (* note - prices are CT based)
Cigars - Perhaps one of the more controversial suggestions, as I know the potential health hazards, remember everything is in moderation. I recommend smoking with someone who has done it a few times and can give some tips for beginners. This will make the experience far more enjoyable for a true first timer. This gift, however, for someone who does smoke the occasional cigar, can really be quite a nice unexpected surprise. Even more so than with liquor, if you go with the low grade stuff, it is not a pleasurable experience. However, with a solid cigar, there are few times that are more relaxing than when indulging in some downtime with a good smoke. Try these, listed from Mild to Full:
- Acid Cigars Blondie Belicoso by Drew Estate - This cigar is like a dessert! It smells amazingly sweet, and the taste is like candy. It is a flavor infused cigar made by the magicians at Drew Estate. I've handed out a lot of these, and never met someone who didn't enjoy it. (Not recommended for a regular smoker as it will be quite mild, but perfect for a new smoker.)
Arturo Fuente Double Chateau - This is a medium cigar with lots of flavor, a classic scent of nostalgia that is incredibly smooth. Anyone could enjoy one of these cigars, but will not have the sweetened taste on the lips like an Acid.
Hererra Esteli by Drew Estate - This is a medium-full stick with such creamy smoke and brilliant flavor that any smoker could not help but enjoy. It's a delicious blend put together by a master tobacconist William Herrera.
La Flor Dominicana Airbender - Full Bodied powerhouse that doesn't knock you off your feet, but delivers tremendous flavor with thick wafts of heavy white smoke that perfumes the room. Save this selection for a smoker with some experience.
Clay Pigeon Sport Shooting - This one may take a little more research for your local area, but is perhaps the safest (ironic), sure fire (I can't help myself) gift option that promises an exciting and memorable experience. There are many public sporting clay shooting facilities, and even more private shooting clubs that offer a once a month public day for the general population participation. Shotgun shooting is very safe when done at a course, and much easier that you might guess. Basic trap shooting can be done at most of these places, and often a class or lesson can be purchased for beginners. There is nothing like the rush of an exploding clay pigeon when you get your first hit. Again, I've taken lots of guys out shooting, and never found someone who couldn't hit a clay, or who didn't end the session with "when can we do this again?"
I know what you’re thinking… why on earth would you encourage such measures of vice and sin? Because the number one principle behind truly awesome gifts is getting something for someone that they want, but wouldn’t buy for themselves. A true indulgence - but obviously to be enjoyed in moderation! You may be thinking, “he won’t like any of that stuff,” or “he doesn’t enjoy those things.” That is certainly possible. However, it may much more likely be that he hasn’t had the right ones! I’ve entertained plenty of non-believers, who are now enthusiasts in their own right.
2. Pull the Trigger
If that last suggestion didn’t take, then consider going back to the original principle aforementioned, get him that nice thing that he felt guilty about considering for himself. Of course this only works if your guy has a conscience, but the overwhelming majority of us do. We all see stuff worth coveting, but know we shouldn’t spend the money. So the inherent problem with this suggestion is two-fold. First, you have to know what he’s been eyeing. He may not even tell you because he knows it should be off the table in the first place. If you’re lucky, chances are he’s mentioned something to you, or shown you a picture of something and asked “doesn’t that look cool?” Then you’ve got some direction. If not, you could always go the shady route of checking browsing history, although sometimes ignorance is bliss… The better option may be to simply ask one of his guy friends if he’s mentioned anything of that nature. Point being, most of us click on a link or check out a site of some stuff we would love to have, but we’d never buy for ourselves. Here are a couple of my clothing suggestions that any guy might appreciate, but might not buy for himself. I tried to focus on items that get a lot of wear, because the second potential issue with going this route is that the reason he hasn’t bought it for himself yet is because it was more money than he wanted to spend!
$119 - Gustin Field Jacket - 10 days left at time of posting to order. American made high quality goods! Field jackets look good on every guy, regardless of build. Have to make an account to view the merchandise and purchase, but careful, you might get hooked because they have new releases almost daily!
$124 - Vince Camuto Diamond Quilted Full Zip Jacket - Looking for a down coat that doesn't look like a typical puff jacket? This multi-textured and multi-material coat has incredible versatility with just about everything other than a suit. It has a classic masculine look with a herringbone wool yoke, corduroy trim and elbow patches, and plenty of pockets.
$199 (normally $345) - Scotch & Soda Long Coat - This classic 2 button long coat dresses up a t-shirt and jeans, or elevates a suit and tie. It’s the perfect length, not too long or cropped, and comes in a beautiful sand color from Nordstrom Rack that won’t blend in with every other black, navy, or gray overcoat, yet won’t be over the top statement piece like some reds or patterned coats come off as. It will surely fetch plenty of compliments though!
DSTLD - $75-$95 - 3 different fits with a variety of washes and color options. Great look and fit, matched with a great price.
Gustin - They use a variety of different high end materials and provide some really unique options in 3 different fits with quality construction. Whether your guy is a true “denimhead” or could just use a new pair of good looking jeans, there is no other place to find more options in weight, colors, and materials. You have to be patient potentially because they are crowdsourced so you may have to wait 6-8 weeks to get them, but my experience is that it is well worth it. $79 - $280.
Mission - This is a belt company that appeared on Shark Tank. They have endless options in colors, hardware, and themes. The attraction to these are they have a special locking mechanism design that alleviates the need for belt holes, and guarantees a perfect adjustable fit every time. On top of that they are only $35! A friend got me one for a birthday present, and they are pretty cool.
Taft - If you’ve read my earlier posts that you probably think I work for commission for these guys, but what can I say, I’m enamored. Their belts match their shoes perfectly, and you can tell as soon as you feel the leather, that these belts are fantastic quality. The leather is supple, comfortable, and won’t split, peel, or crack like so many of the cheap belts out there. Best part, the most expensive one is only $55! That’s literally less than half than what other premium leather belts cost. Downside is there is limited selection, but Kory at Taft promises plenty more in the near future. One to match each shoe!
Allen Edmonds - These guys have been doing it right for decades! Top quality leather that is unmistakable to the look and touch. I pick these belts up and can immediately distinguish it from every other one in my closet. They have 66 varieties currently available, and they also have their “seconds” site, the ShoeBank, where you can pick one up on a solid discount.
Shoes: See earlier post for all the details on shoes or boots with options that every guy can appreciate.
3. The Ultimate Consideration - Customer Service
There are some companies that truly put customer service and satisfaction at the heart of their mission and core company values. These companies do everything in their power to ensure that your purchase meets all your needs and expectations. With that being said, if you do happen to choose a gift that your recipient doesn’t love, they go above and beyond to rectify that situation. The brands listed below not only offer fantastic products, options, and services, but I have had the pleasure of interacting with their customer service departments and have been blown away by their commitment to guarantee my satisfaction. So you can buy in confidence from any of these companies, and trust that if the gift isn’t perfect in anyway, they offer adjustments, discounts, exchanges and returns - often for free.
Jack Threads - Always running deals and discounts, and best of all they have a 7 day try on period before you’re charged, which if you’re a really early planner, still isn’t a problem because they are awesome about returns and exchanges, all covered by the company. They have online chat and quick responsive agents who are readily available and looking to help save you money or offer advice.
Grand Frank - This has quickly become one of my favorite companies to order from. Not only do they have very fashionable options in a variety of categories, the fit for a taller, slim fella such as myself is superb. I have also ordered sizes for friends and family as gifts and they have hit the mark as well for looking trim and dapper. They put together some beautifully curated gift sets if you’re looking for shirt, tie, and pocket square killer combo, as well as some really awesome layering options. Best part is, the customer service is unparalleled, shipping is fast (comes from Sweden), and the presentation and packaging makes you feel like you’re a rock star living a life of luxury.
Huckberry - I’ve mentioned these guys in a previous post. They curate items of all kinds for men, but you have to sign up to be a member (for free). They have everything from knives, to clothes, to bed linens and mattresses, to tech gear, etc. But everything they carry has a special, high quality look and feel to them that differentiate the goods they sell from just some other stores and websites. You can find gifts of all sorts and price ranges on this site, and they have great customer service. Shipping times are slightly longer than the other two sites, but I have found these guys to be incredibly amenable to exchanges, returns, offering advice, and getting discounts on most of the products they sell when compared to the brand’s own home site or other stores.
Contributed by Trevor Charles
*all pictures taken from Google Images