Holiday shopping can be a real challenge, especially if you have discerning giftees with particular tastes. To help our readers along, every year around this time, we put together a gift guide full of suggestions. And if I do say so myself, I think our previous suggestions have aged pretty well! We’re eight years in now, which means you have eight guides full of ideas – ones we still stand behind. Here’s our 2018 edition, from children’s toys to books to style-related accessories. And of course don’t forget to take a look in our own shop, where you’ll find beautiful vintage items, handmade pocket squares and scarves, and who knows what else.
Look: I’m biased. I own a store that sells vintage and antique stuff. But who wouldn’t rather get something old and special than get something from Best Buy? There are plenty of cheap options — you can buy someone an entire box of Yo! MTV Raps! trading cards for about twenty bucks. There are plenty of fancy options — you can buy estate jewelry. Get up, go to a few antiques malls, flea markets or just eBay and buy something that has a history and a story and isn’t just more new garbage. -Jesse
Years ago, the composer Nico Muhly was a guest on my radio show, and he recommended this record. I bought it, and fell in love. It’s probably the most important work of one of the four or five most important contemporary composers in the world. More importantly, though, it’s both something entirely new and something universally applicable. It isn’t like your other records, but it’s beautiful to a person who knows nothing about new classical music. -Jesse
This is what I bought myself for Christmas last year. I also recommend E-40’s tequila, E Cuarenta, which I have not tasted. -Jesse
Vreeland was the editor of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in the middle of the 20th century, then spent years running the costume collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her autobiography is hardly a book — it’s essentially a transcription of Vreeland wandering around her apartment, telling George Plimpton crazy stories. I don’t know how much of it is to believed — probably most of the broad outlines and almost none of the details? Possibly the reverse? It is certainly the most entertaining fashion book I’ve ever read by a longshot. If your giftee loves fashion or the aesthetic, you can’t go wrong. -Jesse
Goldman passed recently, and I’ve been thinking about this joyful, insightful book since. He was the screenwriter of a number of classic films — Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the Presidents Men, The Princess Bride — but this may be his greatest contribution to the canon. It’s incredibly human and humane, very funny, entirely breezy and genuinely insightful about how and why movies get made. If there’s a movie fan on your list, they’ll love it. -Jesse
If you’ve got a kid on your list, this is the jam right here. These are what the name suggests — translucent tiles of plastic with magnets embedded in the edges. Honestly, I’ve never met a Magnatiles owner (adult or child) who was dissatisfied with them. They’re built like tanks and kids love them from two or three up to ten or eleven. They’re easy to clean up and combine in infinite ways. Expensive, but worth it. -Jesse
My neck, it is not ruff. I have a lot of wooly knit scarves but the ones I’ve reached for more in the last couple of winters are softer and thinner, cashmere blends or silk. They have some volume when tied but aren’t bulky, and their fine texture is a nice contrast with olive drab field jackets, tweedy coats, or leather bombers. The bold, colorful prints Drakes does are fantastic, but the straightforward polka dots are more versatile and my pick. A more wallet-friendly option is Tootal’s silk scarves, available from Aero Leather and Jump the Gun. -Pete
This book, based on a BBC series about how we interpret art, is a meta masterpiece. An artist and writer, Berger was an iconoclast, and Ways of Seeing was a reaction to what he saw as fuddy duddy, traditionalist pop art criticism dominating the 1970s. It’s a great reminder that how we often encounter and consider art — on a wall, in a museum, as part of our cultural enrichment — is not often how it was intended to be used. It may even affect how you look at style. The book is out of print, but available used. (It’s also available to read right here, and you can watch the series on YouTube.) -Pete
Belts are one of those menswear items that are requisite but boring or frustrating to shop for. Buckles can be fun to collect, but many brands can leave that thin strip of leather as an afterthought. Plus the occasional vanity sizing discrepancy can make ordering one online a crapshoot. For a treat, and probably your new favorite belt, go custom. Since belts are pretty easy to make for a leather worker you can find scads of them on places like Etsy or go by old menswear standbys such as Narragansett, Equus, and Tim Hardy. As opposed to more laborious bespoke items, all you need is one measurement of your waist. But don’t sleep on looking into your local leather workers. My folks once got me a belt from the late, legendary NYC leather craftswoman Barbara Shaum. It not only has remained my favorite and best fitting belt of all time, but as Shaum has since passed it feels like owning a little bit of local New York history, too. -Dan
You ever get in the mood to go beyond sitcom reruns and cooking shows and watch a God’s honest film on Netflix? It’s damn impossible to find much good stuff out there. Streaming service Filmstruck came like manna for people who love classic movies, but it ignobly died this past year. Thankfully, Criterion (they of the famous Collection) is working to pick up where Filmstruck left off and make a streaming service for classic, independent, and otherwise noteworthy movies to be known as The Criterion Channel. Admittedly, it launches next year, so this is more of a good faith preorder, and I might eat crow if the service ends up like garbage fire Moviepass, but there are few options better for the cinephile in your life. -Dan
Accessories and home goods company Craighill has been a favorite of mine for a while now. Their cuffs and key rings are dang perfect and they’ve always had cool, surprising items. Case in point: their Venn Puzzle. It’s three identical pieces that fit together to form a sphere. Sounds easy, but, based on my experience and stupid fingers, it’ll take you a while to figure out. It’s sort of a spiritual sequel to their Jack Puzzle, which is a handsome little structure of a six brass rods that is stupid hard to put back together. Both are great as fidget items or legit brainteasers. Perfect for your desk or coffee table, even more perfect to infuriate anyone who picks one up not knowing what they’re signing up for. -Dan
Earlier this year, I commissioned a custom wallet from Chester Mox, one of my favorite leather goods companies. It’s specially designed to be used with suits and sport coats. I love my card case from them, but it’s small and sometimes gets lost at the bottom of my pocket. Billfolds, on the other hand, are too bulky. So, I designed this wallet with two stash pockets for paper money and subway tickets, then two side-by-side card slots that hold about five cards each (so a ten card wallet, in total). By spreading out the card slots, the wallet has a thinner profile, making it almost invisible when it’s inside a softly tailored jacket. It’s also tall enough to always be near the top of your pocket, so you never have to reach far to fetch it. I think it would make for a great gift for anyone who wears tailoring on a regular basis. Bellanie tells me that handsewn versions of this in a basic French calfskin start at $370 (monogramming is also available). The design isn’t listed on their website yet, but you can contact them to order. Just note that, since each wallet is handsewn and made-to-order, delivery takes a couple of weeks. -Derek
Everyone has that one gregarious friend who loves to host parties (if it weren’t for these people, we wouldn’t have social lives). And every host likes to have nice things for their gatherings — stemware, tabletop accessories, barware, vases, cheese knives, etc. For these kinds of things, I love everything at fferrone design. It’s headed by a Chicago-based industrial designer named Felicia Ferrone. Her designs are modern and minimalist, but also classic enough to fit into Craftsman style homes. Her marble serving board, pictured above, would make for a stunning centerpiece, but it’s dizzyingly expensive. For something more realistic, I like her Albany vase and Boyd Decanter. -Derek
Glencairn’s whisky glasses are a perfect example of how you can get a top-of-class gift for that discerning friend without dropping too much money. Every year, dozens of new whisky glass designs hit the market — almost all look like they belong in a SkyMall catalog and few improve on Glencairn’s design. Their whisky glasses have a tulip-shape bowl that concentrates the aroma of single malts and blends, then a heavy tapered base that fits well in your hand. They’re the go-to standard for many whisky connoisseurs and only cost about $6 to $8 each. You can find them a Crate and Barrel or Amazon. The Neat Glass also looks interesting, although I haven’t tried them. -Derek
We’re living in a really good time for affordable luggage. For decades, your choices were basically between an anonymous, soft-sided nylon roller bag or some kind of luxury-piece from the likes of Globe-Trotter or Rimowa. The upscale ones are beautiful — so beautiful — but they’re fantastically expensive and sometimes not even that practical (I’m still amazed that, at those prices, the companies don’t even offer the sort of ironclad guarantee of Briggs & Riley). Now consumers have much better choices. Arlo Skye’s hardshell luggage, pictured above, comes in both polycarbonate and aluminum, and they cost about half the price of a Rimowa. A friend of mine owns one and has nothing but good things to say. Away is even more affordable and they come with a (limited) lifetime warranty. At the moment, Away is offering a hand-painted monogram service by Brooklyn-based artist Jen Mussari. Jen also illustrates for Apprvl, her sister Megan’s company, which sells hand-dyed bandanas that I really like. -Derek
For the coffee enthusiast who loves using an Aeropress or a simple drip set-up, Fellow’s electric kettle is the perfect way to boil your water. Crucial to these two coffee-brewing processes is getting your water right — too hot and you can essentially burn your grinds, resulting in a bitter cup. Fellow’s electric kettle has an easy-to-use, variable temperature setting (which you can adjust by intuitively turning the knob), as well as a goose-neck design that allows for a slow and steady pour. To be sure, there are plenty of electric kettles that do this (we’ve also recommended Bonavita in the past), but Fellow’s is handsome and boils water faster than most. Not inexpensive at $150, but you can often find it on sale at William Sonoma. Just be warned that William Sonoma can be slow to ship, which can be an issue for timely holiday deliveries. -Derek
Everyone always recommends getting new college grad a fancy briefcase, but you’re out of your mind if you think I’m dropping $850 on any young person that’s not my progeny (that kind of money is absolutely being spent on me, myself, and I). Instead, for someone who’s moving into a new home and getting a kitchen set-up, or perhaps just learning to cook for themselves, I recommend giving a Lodge cast iron skillet with the silicone handle add-on. You can cook almost anything in one of these things and they’ll last forever. They’re practical, affordable, and easy to find locally (check stores such as Sur La Table, Crate & Barrel, or William Sonoma). There are also some upgrades from the likes of Field, Finex, and Borough Furnace, but they’re expensive and only marginally improve on Lodge’s design. -Derek
Fragrance can be incredibly personal, so it’s hard to choose something that’s both interesting and safe. In the past, we’ve recommended Creed’s Green Irish Tweed and Aventus, which are popular in the fragrance community and genuinely good without being generic. They are, however, stupidly expensive (easy to find on sale, but still pricey even when discounted). Terre d’Hermes is another good choice. It’s an earthy citrus that can be worn almost any day outside of summer. FragranceNet, a reliable online fragrance discounter, has it for a reasonable $65.
For something even less common, Penhaligon’s Sartorial is great for the kind of guy who likes classic things. The scent was made in collaboration with Patrick Grant of Norton & Sons, and it was supposedly made to smell like a bespoke tailor’s shop (“oiled flash of shears cutting cloth, the rub of fabric beneath fingers, tobacco tinted cabinetry, puffs of chalk in the air and old paper patterns vanilla with age”). I don’t know about all that, but I find it to be something like a soft Brut with a hint of Gray Flannel. It’s masculine, but in an office-friendly and not overpowering way.
For guys who like a more contemporary casual style, try Helmut Lang’s Cuiron. It was a huge hit in the ’90s and the company brought it back a few years ago. It smells like the inside of a suede leather bag, with just a hint of powder and resinous tobacco in the dry down. I find it goes naturally well with leather jackets and jeans. -Derek