“Can you just tell me what you want? You’re impossible to shop for.”- Ellis to Matt, every November, with increasing dread as the days get shorter and Christmas approaches like a guillotine on the thoughtful female trying to find a meaningful gift for someone who has everything already and can buy whatever he wants for himself.
In the spirit of goodwill just in time for the season, for both Ellis and every other female struggling to wrap the perfect gift for their husband or boyfriend, I present my holiday 2019 gift guide.
Clothes, self-care products, gifts for the gentleman chef, books, and, a special treat, a beginner’s guide to upgrading your man’s shoe game. I’ve tried to include gifts across several price ranges to fit all budgets and have tiered each section by price.
Having said that, I prefer to receive one great item rather than a slew of grill brushes and sock. Accordingly a lot of these items are pricier than what you’ll find on other gift guides. But, like the bags on our site, I’m a believer in investment pieces to last a lifetime. Most of the items on here I already have (sorry Ellis) so I include them without reservation. Happy hunting ladies.
The Sartorial Gentleman
Style is ever-evolving but I’m a firm believer in eternal classics: the mid-width tie, the knit sweater, the fall baseball cap. But not all ties are created equal and that’s why I’m starting this gift guide with:
Hermes Ties, $195.
My first Hermes tie was a hand-me-down from my grandfather. Since then I’ve picked up one every year for special occasions because their value is eternal. With so many textures, patterns and colors available, it's almost impossible to find a venue that this doesn't fit or taste and style it can't match. This is the power tie, the universal symbol of casual class and effortless elegance. That baby-food green, 1980’s Hermes tie my grandfather gave me in 1997? It’s perfectly vintage now. This is a can’t-miss gift.
You know that pilled cable knit sweater with the country club logo your husband has been wearing for a decade? Throw that shit out. The color blocking on this one is an easy allusion to all the colors that make sweater season great, but the off balance lines and non-patterned blocking give it an edge. Dork in a sweater turns into cool sweater guy.
Loro Piana Baseball S, $415.
Weatherproof cashmere with a deep bucket that wears well below the top of the ear, this is a grown man’s ball cap. Warm enough for winter with enough style and brand cache to be appropriate in any setting, I couldn’t recommend this hat strongly enough. They also have a summer version but the winter one is more comfortable and better looking. Say goodbye to Titleist hats and that one he’s been wearing since college: this is the new look.
Sweater meets sweatshirt casual, for me this is the epitome of cool in 2019. With urbanwear leading the way it’s so easy to look like a dork in all the old styles, which is why a hybrid sweater to me is the perfect best-of-both-worlds gift. Lightly branded with an arm patch, cotton applique accents on the collar, and a hoodie pocket up front and hood on the back, rock it with a blazer and jeans and some baller kicks (more on that later).
The Gentleman Indulged
Skin care is the most often neglected part of male hygiene routine. My dad still washes his face with bar soap. But take it from someone who looks ten years younger than he actually is: hydration, 8 hours sleep every night, and skin maintenance are the secrets to aging like George Clooney. I’ve also included some cologne because smelling great benefits everyone.
Confession: I didn’t know exfoliating was a thing until I got married. Since then it has made all the difference in my self-care routine. Not only does it prevent against blemishes and smooth skin, it’s also great after shaving to reduce razor burn and ingrown hairs. This exfoliator doubles as a mask, comes in a cool masculine tube, and doesn’t smell like anything. This is the perfect entry-level item if your man/dinosaur still thinks skin care is for wimps.
At first blink the price tag seems exorbitant next to what he’s currently buying for himself at Publix, and I’m by no means advocating a wholesale switch. This body wash cleans the same amount but smells 1,000% better, making it my go-to for special occasions. Oud wood is burned in Buddhist temples for it’s calming qualities, but it reminds me of a mahogany library in a fancy European hotel, masculine but inviting. When I asked Ellis what she thought it smelled like she said “you” which speaks to the Proustian quality of scent to permanently bond to our memories so that in an instant we recall a lifetime. Trade in the Polo Sport he’s been wearing since high school and start fresh here.
On all those nights when you have your face wrapped up like the mummy and he’s eyeballs deep in his fantasy sports roster, why not enjoy some couples time and bond over looking amazing? If you can sell him on it, this easy to apply mask goes on for five minutes followed by a dry removal (fellas that’s just a dry towel swipe) and then this mask protects over night and into the next day, closing pores and wrinkle lines so he won’t look like a pockmarked teenager or the Marlboro man, for smooth skin that doesn’t smell like his grandmother’s night out. Male or female: after age 25 there’s nothing glamorous about looking your age.
Tom Ford “Oud Fleur” Cologne, $240.
Like the body wash, this Tom Ford cologne has masculine tones but, because cologne is by nature more potent than body wash, it’s lightened by flower accents. They are only hints in the broader Oud scent but they are suggestive of a spring garden, a subtle suggestion compared to an outright “this smells like roses.” I’m not a cologne guy and usually go through a bottle every five years, but what I prioritize is something masculine but inviting. I don’t want to smell like a cowboy but I don’t want to smell like what I imagine a baby shower smells like either. This is a perfect medium.
The Gentleman Epicurean
This section is not for turning your non-cooking husband or boyfriend into your gourmet chef. If he hasn’t started cooking by now, chances are it’s not going to become an overnight obsession: we all have our flaws. But for those who are culinary inclined, these are a few essential items that have made a huge difference in my kitchen experience.
I try to incorporate my cast iron into as many of the meals I cook as possible. A well seasoned cast iron is as non-stick as it gets; it is extremely durable and can go from stove top to oven; thrown in an offset cooker next to some spare ribs it is the only way to do bbq baked beans. Where this particular item shines is in it’s weight: a full two lbs lighter than other 12” skillets, this is easy to one-handed shake and has the added bonus of being shallower and easier to use for searing, roasting, or sautéing. Cast Iron is an investment piece because it will last forever. This is a great place to start or just an easy upgrade to add to the collection.
Food52 Wooden Spoons, $99.
These spoons go hand in hand with the cast iron but could just as easily apply to no-stick or grill surfaces. Where plastic spatulas and spoons don’t stand up to high heat, and metal ones can easily damage surfaces, a classic wooden spoon wears naturally, won’t harm your other pans, and look and feel awesome. While heavy use over extended periods will eventually wear cheaper spoons out, these teak spoons are built tough with high quality wood. They also look great in a jar next to the oven.
Baking Steel Griddle, $189.
This reversible baking steel griddle is super versatile with a pizza stone on one side and griddle on the other. It works on a stovetop as a griddle; it can go in the oven as a pizza stone or baking sheet; it can go on the grill if you ever need different surfaces for different foods (or use it as a deflector plate); put it in the freezer for a while and bring it out as a cold plate for cheese. But the best part to me is that it’s tough as nails. Drop it, clean it with hardcore soap, scrape it with whatever utensil you want: nothing is happening to it.
Le Creuset French Oven, $500 (on sale for $349 through 11/17 at Macy’s).
This is your grandmother’s dutch oven, a classic piece of kitchenware that stands the test of time. Soups and stews, braising meats or browning onions, think big warm winter feels. This is a signature kitchen piece that is both attractive and useful, with even heat distribution at any temperature it’s also very easy to clean and care for. Honestly even at full price this is a steal.
The Gentleman Edified
Taste in books is so personal and finding someone with matching taste is a form of soul bonding. Recommending books to people makes me super anxious because of the time commitment involved in a good book; I also have trouble with people giving me books and realize the irony in making a gift guide section for books. Having said that, these books were all great but (for the most part) are geared towards the boys.
If he likes: feelings, literary fiction, satire, travel, love, Proust
Not great for: non-fiction readers, heartless bastards, action junkies, homophobes
Arthur Less gets an invite to his ex’s wedding and instead of confronting the situation spends a year traveling the world to avoid it. Savagely, often mean-spiritedly funny and self-deprecating, this novel evolves into a deep meditation on the nature of human love, the power of memory, and the durability of emotional human connection. This book and its hero have stuck with me all year and will for a long time. Less is that rare novel that balances easy reading and literary status, humor, all the feels, and a picture perfect ending.
Tiger Woods, $11
If he likes: Golf, US Weekly, Bad Parenting, Sex Scandals, Paranoid Celebrity
Not great for: those seeking feel good stories, if you want to think Tiger is a good person
As much as anyone can really “know” Tiger woods, this exhaustively researched book provides probably the closest look. It also reads like a psychological thriller ticking down the moments to Tiger’s fall from grace. It’s a page-turner and fascinating look into When Helicopter Parenting Goes Wrong. Ultimately I’m not sure it’s Tiger’s fault that he is what he is: a paranoid egomaniac, image-obsessed product of parents who cared about the results and not their child’s humanity.
If he likes: Fantasy Sports, business books, start-up culture, casual gambling
Not great for: degenerate gamblers, tech haters, season-long fantasy snobs
I bought this because I thought it would give me an edge in my fantasy leagues but it’s more of a business book than anything else. Think Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog meets fantasy sports. A fascinating read not just on the two companies at the heart of Daily Fantasy Sports but also the evolution of gambling in America in the past decade. The scope and political intrigue is much bigger than fantasy sports, and at 250 pages this is a quick and interesting read.
The MVP Machine, $17
If he likes: Baseball, Big Data, Sports Deep Reads
Not great for: anyone else
A super nerdy deep read on the data revolution as it effects the evolution of athletes, this is an inside look into how professional sports teams, colleges, and elite youth programs are getting the most out of players by maximizing data driven analytics. A great read if he’s obsessed with baseball or insanely sports addicted, this is not for someone with a casual interest in the game. But if he’s a baseball dork it will change the way he watches and enjoys America’s pastime.
The Gentleman Sneakerhead
This isn’t going to be a section on converting your man with zero sneaker game into a flawless example of elite sneaker style excellence. These are great jumping off points for all dressers, including four different brands, but they’re not super high end pairs as I wanted to present a great starting point. They’re all tougher to get than just showing up to your local footlocker. For three of the pairs it’s because the quality is a cut above; the other is a Jordan. I’ll include how to buy them in the descriptions. One positive about all of these: usually if you get them and he doesn’t like them, you can flip them on the app you buy from at a profit or close to it provided you don’t overpay (I’ll help there too).
Yeezy V2 “Citrin,” $230.
All the attention they receive aside, the Yeezy is the most comfortable shoe out there right now. Sure it’ll turn heads when you wear it, and you see yeezy's more and more, but the upside to that trend is that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get a pair. This latest release was wide enough to make the price immediately approachable. The dark gum soul will prevent them looking too worn too quickly, as will the relatively dark upper knit. When bidding on this item, below $250 is a value buy for me with upside potential to flip over the next few months.
These are not your beater Asics for mowing the lawn. With all suede upper including gold and silver patent leather highlights and eyestays, this Concepts collaboration features my favorite colors and commemorates when we said “no new taxes!” and dumped a bunch of tea in Boston Harbor. A truly beautiful shoe, any price below $300 is a good buy for me but, caveat emptur, the asics market is more of a niche so if you’re reselling it be prepared to wait for the right buyer.
Nike Jordan 1 “Royal,” $280.
Jordan’s are the most widely recognized sneaker on the planet. This model dates back to 1985 and features an all leather upper. Rereleased in 2017, this royal blue and black model is considered an “OG” because it was one of the pairs that Michael Jordan wore when he played. What you’re buying here is that story: the leather itself is cheap, the craftsmanship average, but as a piece of history it’s pretty cool. I’ve paired this with pinstripes and a matching blue tie, as well as just wearing it with shorts and a t. Below $300 is a good price to me right now, but bear in mind that they originally retailed at $165 so look anywhere around $225 for a steal price if you can find it. Do not expect a huge return on resale though: everyone who wants a pair of these already has them.
Like the Boston Tea Party, this Concepts collaboration features a mostly suede upper and laces with sailing flags and markings on them. It’s a celebration of the Kennedy compound in summer: sailing and breezy New England nights, clam bakes and popped collars. New Balances are the classic white boy shoe but these ones have some extra sauce on them and are a hard to find pair, hence the wide price range. Also like the Asics, if you get them and he doesn’t love them, it’ll take a little longer to flip them but the right buyers are out there. I’m one of them.
The Impossible Gentleman
If you’ve made it this far and still haven’t found anything, then congrats: your man is higher maintenance than Michael Scott after grilling his foot. These items range from quirky to just totally random and I’m just throwing stuff at the wall at this point but it’s all still something I’d be happy to get for Christmas.
If there’s one thing most men like, it’s accessorizing their garage utility stuff. These brushes attach to any hand drill for whatever heavy cleaning he needs to do. I bet you could grout the bathroom with these, or polish tire rims, maybe clean bathtubs? Honestly I don’t even know but for $14 it seems useful enough to justify the expenditure.
Shop the Boxes, $55/month.
Like a fruit of the month club, this is a monthly subscription that lets you choose the gift every month. The link is for November’s selection and it offers a range of useful male stuff. Gift that keeps on giving? Give him some agency in the buying process? He’s absolutely impossible to shop for? All of the above for this one.
For the smoked salmon aficionado, this delivery can make an average morning a truly special brunch celebration. Featuring smoked salmon and bagels from New York’s most renowned delicatessen, as well as chocolate babka (delicious, trust me), and fresh ground coffee, this is an amazing breakfast if this kind of food is your jam. Ellis ordered it for me last Christmas and it was the slice of home that I never knew I needed. Maybe it’s relative to me being a New York type, but this is heaven.
Is your dog a total weirdo like ours? Some sort of vaguely muttish combination of love, hair, and energy? Maybe this will solve the eternal question: what amazing planet are dogs from? It also doubles as a way to know what future afflictions your breed is likely to encounter based on over 250 breeds and 175 genetic health conditions and traits. For me dog maintenance is self care because she’s my heart on my sleeve.
Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays! Matt