Our second holiday gift guide is here to help you find some useful and unique items for those on your shopping list this year. We’ve each picked some of our favorites and hope this will help you find the right gift and have it arrive in time to be wrapped and under the tree. And be sure to check out last year’s gift guide!
Ebbets Field Flannels outerwear: I love vintage athletic gear. Some of it (Larry Bird shorts) won’t work on the street, but some of it will. Ebbets Field Flannels makes some really cool jackets – I especially love their groundskeeper jackets and satin windbreakers. This one’s for the San Francisco Seals, my hometown club. It’s $85 at Ebbets.com.
Complete World Knowledge box set, by John Hodgman: You might know John Hodgman from The Daily Show, or the Mac v. PC commercials, or even from the Judge John Hodgman podcast. He’s a brilliant performer in all of those venues, but first and foremost, he is a writer. This box set contains the three books, which themselves contain All World Knowledge. From hobo names to Ragnarok. These books are brilliantly funny and surprisingly wise, just like John.
Vintage cufflinks: Cufflinks are a classic gentleman’s gift. This year, give a vintage pair. Something special. You can find wonderful links at any price range – get gold and diamonds for a few thousand bucks or gilt and enamel for ten. Our link points to links on eBay described as “Deco,” but you can try “Edwardian” or “art nouveau” or “guilloche” or whatever you like. Our preference, as you might know, is for double-sided links, rather than the toggle variety. Your local estate jeweler will have something, as well – and online dealers like those on 1sdibs will, too.
Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap: It’s more than just a charming name. I’ve been using mine since my brother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas last year, and I absolutely love it. It smells only, well, “soapy,” and it leaves my skin softer than after I shave than it was before. I’ve maybe used a third of my puck in a year of shaving – this refill will last a long time.
Tonx & Aeropress: I don’t drink coffee, but my wife is a coffee snob of the absolute highest order. A former barista at a high-end coffee place, she’s fanatical about her coffee and will accept nothing less than the best. She enjoys cold-brewed and drip coffee from time to time, but she’s totally crazy about her AeroPress. It’s a weird little plastic plunger thingy that she swears makes the best coffee on earth. Everyone I know who has one can’t believe how amazing it is. She feels the same way about Tonx, a coffee subscription service that sends high-end beans to our home. The combination (along with a conical burr grinder) puts her in caffeine heaven.
Drake’s of London accessories: There’s no brand in the world that I’m more consistently impressed by than Drake’s, who make unsurpassably beautiful men’s accessories. You really can’t go wrong with any of their products, but I’ve chosen one of their ancient madder ties. My wife knows that she has carte blanche to buy me anything from Drake’s – I know it will be good.
Bottle of good wine or Scotch: Sometimes you don’t know someone that well, but still have to get them a gift. In such cases, I can’t think of anything better than a bottle of good wine or Scotch (unless they’re underage, in which case anything would be better than a bottle of good wine or Scotch). Oban and Talisker are easy to like, in my opinion.
L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu: I only wear cologne once or twice a week, but when I do, the one I reach for the most is L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu. It’s officially described as smelling like “pink pepper, karo karounde, and vetiver,” but for the lay, I would describe it as very masculine, woody, and somewhat reminiscent of incense. A bit more original than the aqua-smelling stuff most people wear.
A pet: Check first to see if your recipient is up for the big responsibility of taking care of a pet, but if they are, I can’t think of a gift that would bring more happiness in the coming years than a dog or a cat. Adopt one from a local animal shelter, which we all know are brimming with unwanted animals, or try using an online service such as Petfinder.
A nice briefcase: If you know someone starting off on a new career, consider getting them a nice briefcase. I use this one from Lotuff and Clegg, but since buying it, the company has split up. Lotuff Leathers still carries the model, but the craftsman who used to make all of Lotuff and Clegg’s bags is now working under Frank Clegg Leatherworks. Both companies’ products are very expensive, but I will say I really enjoy my purchase. If you want something more affordable, consider Filson’s satchel, Saddleback Leathers, Custom Hide, and the selection at Brooks Brothers. If your recipient can get away with a more casual bag, I also really like Filson’s 70256 and 70257, which are on sale right now through Joe’s Sporting Goods and Vermont Gear.
Chester Mox wallet: I’m a big fan of Chester Mox’s wallets. This year, they started using Ilcea’s antique calf (on their website it’s listed under “antique Italian calf”), which is this incredibly beautiful, slightly mottled leather that’s also used by companies such as John Lobb. Everything 100% handmade in Los Angeles and made-to-order, so if you want a particular leather used for a different model, you can email them for a price quote. In addition, they can laser etch a monogram for $10, which might be a nice way to personalize your gift. Consider the passport wallet for a frequent traveler, or a slim card case for someone who wears suits or sport coats often.
Cashmere socks: A few years ago, I wouldn’t have bought into the idea of luxury socks. Then I bought a pair of wool, over-the-calf socks from Pantherella and changed my mind after trying them on for a day. There’s been no looking back, and looking forward I’d love to try pairs in cashmere. Most places only sell mid-calf cashmere socks, but you can find over-the-calf versions from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons from makers Marcoliani and Bresciani. If you’re unsure of what color to buy for someone, navy or charcoal-grey will probably compliment the majority of their wardrobe.
Monogrammed necktie from Vanda Fine Clothing: With enough time, everyone finds their preferred neckwear maker and mine is Vanda Fine Clothing. I love the hand-rolled edges, untipped blades, six-fold construction and that most of their ties have no lining. Giving a necktie as a gift is a safe idea in most cases, but you can add a touch of personalization through Vanda’s hand-sewn monogramming service to make it truly unique.
A good chef’s knife: If the person on your gift list cooks, but doesn’t have a high-quality chef’s knife in their kitchen, then this makes a great gift that they’ll use for a lifetime. I received my chef’s knife as a gift almost five years ago and it immediately made it easier to cook when it came to preparation – the sharper the knife, the safer and faster you are while making food. My recommendation comes from my experience with the Wusthof Classic Ikon 8" chef knife. I prefer the Ikon, Classic Ikon and Blackwood Ikon lines, just because I feel their handles fit more naturally in the hand.
Corter Leather Bottlehook keychain: For years I carried my keys (all four of them) on a single twist-tie. I liked the simplicity and didn’t like the idea of wearing an obnoxious keychain. The Bootlehook, however, adds functionality while also having a one-piece, no-moving-parts way to keep your keys on your beltloop. I’ve been carrying it for about a month now since buying it directly at NorthenGRADE and the change has been good. It’s a very well-designed item and comes in copper, pewter, red, black and two types of camouflage.
A cedar chest: For my birthday, my parents gave me a cedar chest, which my father hand-finished himself. I wasn’t initially sure what I’d use it for, but I use it now to store sweaters and scarves. It looks much nicer than the plastic storage containers I used before and I know it’ll be in use for years – hopefully decades – to come. Buying something like this online offers a lot of options, but I really liked what I saw at Graham Woodworking, which offers a simple design and several sizes, ranging in price from $180 to $500.
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes, by Bill Watterson: Personally, I love boxed sets of all sorts, but I wasn’t sure how universally appealing some of them would be to a wider audience. But the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes made me laugh as a kid, and when I read it now I’m picking up on things that I totally missed back then. The artwork is fun (especially the full-color Sunday strips) and the writing is a joy to read. Newcomers and long-time fans will definitely find these comics a fun way to spend an afternoon.