Holiday Gift Guide!

Guys are the worst to shop for. You might think it’d be women, what with their stores’ inconsistent sizing and multitude of options, but they’ve got an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Just ask what they want – and if they have no idea, you’ll never go wrong with some flowers, a home cooked meal, and something small and heart felt.

But guys. Man. In addition to us being difficult, there’s just not as much out there! Luckily, we’ve done some digging. I call this list “What do get the man who has everything, but…”

What to get the man who has everything, but can’t remember what he did last Tuesday.

I love my Google calendar – but nine times out of ten, I don’t remember to put stuff in it. Which makes it pretty useless to keep track of things that happened in the past. What to do?

Word Notebook, $11 ($45 with leather cover, monogrammed free)

The Standard Memorandum is perfect – it’s almost pocket sized (and, more appropriately, perfectly briefcase sized), and it has all the right touches. Each page is a week, and gives you just enough room to jot down some notes about your day and plan out your next week. Plus, you’ll look a lot more sophisticated whipping this out to make a date than you will your smartphone.

What to get the man who has everything, but wishes he could be just a little bit more stylish.

Everyone knows that guy – the one who puts a lot of energy into being a perfectionist in every part of his life, but just can’t seem to get his act together when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. Maybe it’s the fact that he doesn’t have time after going to the gym five days a week, or that he spends too much time perfecting his cup of coffee – dressing nicely just hasn’t been on his mind. Help him add some color to his life:

Happy Socks, $12 a pair.

Yeah, those are pretty crazy. But you know what? If his pants fit, it’ll be a nice way to signal that he puts a little bit of thought into what he wears every day. I get it though – not everybody works in a place where fun socks are acceptable. May I suggest then, a splash of color in the form of a pocket square?

The Cordial Churchman, $15

Handmade in Rock Hill, SC, I’ve mentioned the Cordial Churchman before as an exemplary purveyor of neckwear. They also sell fantastic pocket squares. For your guy who dresses a little bit more conservatively (whether by choice or by workplace custom), a cotton pocket square can add a little bit of color, a touch of texture and pattern, and a little bit of brightness to an otherwise plain (no judgement intended) outfit. The key here is that you want something that’ll be there if you look for it, but won’t necessarily draw the eye by itself. Also check out The Knottery and Hugh and Crye.

What to get the man who has everything, but still wears the same outfit every weekend (a ratty t-shirt and jeans)

Bonobos, $78

For the record: dressing up is not for everyone or for every occasion. There will always be a time and a place for a ratty t-shirt. But laziness is no excuse not to look good, especially when you can just throw on an oxford. They’re about as casual as a button down shirt comes (and leave them untucked for extra casualness), and – hand to God – an oxford cloth shirt (especially these) are just as comfortable as anything you can find at the bottom of your hamper. Bonus: they look better with wrinkles than without!

What to get the man who has everything, but rotates through the same three ties.

A knit tie (I know, curveball).

The Knottery, $30

I’ve extolled the virtues of knit ties, oh, a couple of times in the past – and especially The Knottery. There’s a reason why: knit ties are pretty freaking versatile. And what’s more – they’re different. Unlike bow ties, which make a pretty profound statement, the knit tie is a subtle kind of statement. It’s there for those who notice, but people won’t be stopping you in your office to say “nice tie” all day (though you will be wearing a nice tie). Even better, it goes just as well under a sweater and is does with a suit, so you have a tie that really punches above its weight class.

What to get the man who has everything, but keeps it all in the hamper.

Not cool, dude – though this is more of a “do as I say, not as I do” moment.

Great American Hanger Company, $43.96

The one thing I absolutely will not disrespect are my suits (and sport coats) (and blazers) (and overcoats). Look, shirts you can iron. Pants are a little more difficult to get noticeable creases out of, but with a little elbow grease you are fine. Don’t mess around with jackets. First, they’re a pain in the ass to care for at home. Sure, you can invest in a steamer. You can put them in the bathroom when you shower. But you’re going to have a hard time getting creases out. Second, the wrong type of hanger will permanently ruin jackets. As we’ve mentioned before, jacket construction is a fine art – these things aren’t just thrown together. A crappy hanger that doesn’t support the construction can irrevocably change the way the jacket sits – and never for the better. It’s always a good idea to have some nice wooden hangers on hand, and these are pretty killer.

What to get the man who has everything,but refuses to treat himself.

A gift card. No, I know what you’re going to say. It’s thoughtless. It’s tacky. I can’t deny those things – getting someone a gift card is somewhat less thoughtful than actually going and picking something out for someone. But you know what? I know what I want far better than anyone else – to me, a gift card is a license to treat myself. That’s a pretty big deal. So, how do you demonstrate that your gift card isn’t just an excuse to not spend time on someone? Three steps: 1. Don’t ask them where they shop. 2. Figure out where they shop yourself. 3. Buy them enough to get an item there. The whole point is that you need to demonstrate you gave some thought to the idea – by figuring out where they shop as subtly as you can, you’re demonstrating you put some work into it.

What to get the man who has everything. Seriously, everything.

Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve, Price Varies

If you ever meet anyone who has everything, buy a bottle of scotch, pour a couple of glasses, and open your ears. They have a lot to teach you. (Also, as an aside, much of this list contains items from companies that make most, if not all, of their products in the US. This is one of those times when the only provenance that matters is if it’s from Scotland).

Fit to be (Christmas) Tied

Let’s talk about ties this Christmas.  So you want to show your holiday spirit, but you don’t want to look like me circa 2008 Ugly Sweater party:

Great for the Ugly Sweater Party, not so great for the office

Yes, that is a tie in the shape of a snowman, and yes, it is amazing.

 

I actually really like that sweater.  But lets be honest.  Christmas has some of the worst ties known to man.  They are more often than not garish, light-up, sequinned, or worse.

In case you forget both what season it is, and what your occupation is.

Be Prepared to Spend a Bit of Money-  If you want a tie you can actually wear to the office and not a novelty tie with the Coca-Cola Polar Bears on it, you should be prepared to spend a bit more money on it.  Think about it this way, you want to buy a tie you’re going to wear to more than just the ugly sweater party, so you should be willing to pay a bit more for it so that you can wear it multiple times, or multiple years in a row.

Look for the same things you’d want in a regular tie- Subtle patterns are preferable to loud, story-telling ties.  The same rules apply (thin but not too thin, sturdy material).  A few this season I really like:

J. Crew Factory Store, $19.50

J. Crew Factory Store, $24.50

Vineyard Vines, $75

High Cotton, $50

(Element of Style): You can celebrate Christmas without having flashing lights on your tie.

Sorry, Barney

Around the beginning of last month, I was faced with the perfect storm of laziness and a desire for change  - so I grew a beard.

First of all, I learned that having a beard really doesn’t take less time to maintain per week than shaving every day. But more importantly, my belief that your style is your own and you can do whatever you want has been reaffirmed. As usual, though, it’s all about finding things that work together.

Let me back up. One of the reasons I have never grown a beard before is because I like the clean cut look of a suit – I enjoy wearing them, and assumed that a beard would be an incongruous addition to the ensemble. Call this one of the side effects of the Barney Stinson era.

Why did I ever listen to someone who wore that tie with that shirt?!

It turns out that, like he was when he put that outfit together, Barney was pretty wrong about this one. Does a beard look great universally with a suit?

Spoiler: no, not really.

But just like everything else, it’s always a matter of degrees. Think of your lumberjack beard as your steel-toed boots. It goes great with jeans and a flannel shirt, but looks a little out of place with your well-tailored suit.

Is it a suit a “buttoned-up” look? Yes. Of course it is! Which is exactly why if you’re planning on wearing a beard with a suit, it needs to be a more buttoned-up beard.

Is it cheating to use George Clooney for the “good” example? Yes.

So, (Element of Style: your beard is a reflection of your style – there’s no reason for it to be out of place with anything else you wear). Of course, this isn’t different from anything else. If your style is extremely traditional, then maybe the fun socks that another man is wearing won’t really be right for you (not that that isn’t a reason to try something new). If your style is more in the suiting, dressed up realm, still grow a beard – but keep it trim and clean. Wearing jeans to a client meeting? Let it grow long!

As with everything else, it’s all a matter of degrees.

What to Buy the Women in Your Life: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Men

Guys…I get it.  You hate shopping.  You hate it with the passion of a thousand Caribbean suns.  The idea of stepping into a mall makes you break out into hives.  You would rather spend an evening watching Katherine Heigl romcoms than face the challenge of figuring out what to buy the women in your life.

Consider this post my holiday gift to you.  I have laid out all of the categories of women you might have ever have to buy for.  I have chosen gifts in various price ranges.  And everything I will present to you, you can buy online.  Nothing in here requires you to enter an actual store or mall.

Please feel free to use the comments section to talk about how beautiful and talented I am.

The Girlfriend You Have Been Dating for Three to Six Months

You two are not SERIOUS yet.  But she likes you – you like her.  And it would be weird if you didn’t exchange some kind of gift at the holidays.  You want something that says, “I’m a really thoughtful guy who you should want to date – but this gift by no means signals that I am ready to commit to a serious relationship.”

Solution:  This Flying Scarfs pashmina.  I featured these in an earlier post but they are worth revisiting.  The pashmina itself is gorgeous with beautiful hand woven beads and a lovely deep red color.  At $40 it is an absolute steal.  Package it in a really nice box with a bow and it is going to look much more expensive.

Become a dating legend with this scarf…

But the part that is going to take you from good guy to dating legend?  When you give her this pashmina and tell her that it came from a non profit established by four young (male) Air Force Officers who decided to help empower women in Afghanistan by importing their beautiful handmade scarves to the US, selling them online, and sending the profits back to those women.  BOOM.

Your Sister

Every year she does a better job getting you something than you do getting her something – just admit it.  But not this year, dude.  Not this year.  Considering that family gift exchanges differ greatly in price limits etc, I go through a few options below.

The Longchamp Bag:  You see women carrying these everywhere (but have no idea what they are or what they are called) and there is a reason.  These bags are stylish and they hold everything.  They come in a range of colors and are handy for both travel and work.  Yes, they are trendy which is something I would typically avoid – but they are trendy for good reason.  At about $125 for the small bag they are pricey.  If that blows your budget, don’t settle for the less expensive knockoffs (they’re really not the same) – I give you other less expensive options below.

Anthro Glimmer-Wrapped Glassware: Anthropologie is offering these beautiful glasses as part of their holiday gift collection.  They are $16-$18 a piece and really quite stunning.  For the full effect, have them wrapped in tissue paper in a nice big box.  She will love to have something like this in her house.  And impressed that you know what an “anthropologie” store is….

Say something like, “Given what a great hostess you are, I thought you would enjoy these” when she opens these babies…

Cashmere Ballet Slippers:  I know…slippers sound horribly cliche for a Christmas gift.  But these babies are cashmere and really lovely.  They come in a number of colors and will feel and look particularly luxe.  Still a little pricey at $90, but in between the items above in terms of cost.

Serious Girlfriend/Fiancee/Wife

In this category we have the truly significant other – someone you genuinely plan on spending the rest of your life with. Obviously, tailor this list to the lady.  If your intended hates rings and jewelry, then steer clear of those suggestions.

The Galile Ring:  The designer says this ring was inspired by Galileo.  I don’t know what that means – but I am pretty sure you can fashion it into a fancy sounding line when you give her this gift (“In the same way Galileo knew the Earth revolves around the sun, my life revolves around you.” – I just came up with that.)  The ring itself is beautiful and unusual enough that she will be impressed.  It’s $292 so it’s not cheap, but if you are looking for a special gift, this is a nice option.

“Your eyes remind me of the stars…”

Scuba Hoodie:  I know…Lulu Lemon terrifies you.  Why is everyone wearing yoga pants in that store?  Why is everyone so strangely happy in there all the time?  It’s weird and you don’t like it.  But I hate to break it to you – their workout gear is still the best.  I’ve tried to find a substitute and I can’t.  If your lady likes to run or do yoga or crossfit or whatever, and you live in some part of the world that occasionally gets cold, then the scuba hoodie is a nice option.  It comes in a variety of colors and is the perfect thing to throw on when walking from the gym to the car or while waiting for a class to start.  At $108, it’s not cheap but not break the bank expensive.

A Lo & Sons Bag:  I’ve blogged about these bags before and now that I have owned the O.M.G. bag for six months I am absolutely hooked.  These are great gifts for women who travel a lot.  The O.G. and O.M.G. are actually specifically designed to use as a carry on and they hold everything, including an extra pair of shoes and every electronic device she owns.  The straps for your arm are specially designed to distribute weight so the bag feels less heavy (and I can verify that this actually works).  Best of all, they are very stylish without being terribly flashy.

Mom

Custom Laser Cut Wood Map:  Only you will know if this is the kind of thing your mother will love, but I found the idea and the execution very cool.  Basically, you provide an address and a map of the address is laser cut into wood and then painted or stained in various different ways you can choose from.  These range anywhere from $45 for some of the smaller ones to $150.  Mom will like that it is personalized and showed some forethought.

Make your siblings jealous that they didn’t think of it first.

Personalized Birth Stone Necklace:  You have to judge whether this is the kind of thing your Mom would wear, but I am in love with both the style and the price.  Basically you can choose the number of leaves and have each accompanied by a single initial and the birthstone for the person the initial stands for.  So you could have a necklace made to represent all of your mother’s children or grandchildren.  The necklace starts at $32 and goes up depending on how many birthstones you use.

The Target gift certificate your brother gave your Mom is going to look lame next to this…

Damask Scroll Clutch:  Holiday gifts should be a little lush – I always try and get people things they won’t buy themselves. Enter the fancy clutch purse.  I always find myself lusting after these bags but never buy them, mainly because I don’t have any immediate need for one.  This one from anthropologie is very nice and reasonably priced at $68.  Your Mom will think it cost more.

The Random Lady You Never Know What to Get

Maybe you have an Aunt who you always forget to buy for or an old family friend that always shows up with a gift card for you.  You know what the difference between a boy and a man is?  Having a gift for that woman ready to go when the time comes.

The Borealis Tea Set:  Most people like tea.  And even if they don’t, most people enjoy having a nice tea set to display in their house (okay, most women do – not all – but most).  This stunner from anthropologie is nice enough to look really expensive, but with the pieces ranging from $16 to $48, will not break the bank.  Plus the colors will go in anyone’s house.

Anthropologie also offers bowls and cups in this design.

Blow Her Freaking Mind…

Ok.  The list below is not for the faint of heart.  But if this is a special holiday season and you are looking to really splurge….boy do I have a list for you.  To be clear, these aren’t gifts I recommend in the normal course of business.  I don’t think anyone needs to be dropping the kind of money the gifts below cost just because (although I am sure the women in your life would appreciate it if you are so inclined).  But if you want to get something special, I have put together a small list of dream items.  For most ladies, you can’t go wrong with the items below.

The Louis Vuitton Speedy 25:  This bag is a classic and, yes, something of a status symbol.  No one NEEDS one of these bags, but it sure can be fun wanting one.  If you’ve ever caught her casting wistful glances at a Louis Vuitton store, she’ll deeply appreciate this gift.  At $890, it’s actually one of the cheaper bags that Louis Vuitton offers (and yes, I realize that’s ridiculous – I told you this was the splurge section.)

The Manolo Blahnik BB:  Ok…quick shoe tutorial.  Manolo Blahniks are those shoes that Carrie Bradshaw (Of “Sex and the City” fame) used to wear and thus made famous.  Most women lust after them…and most of us will never splurge on a pair because they’re just too damn expensive.  The Manolo Blahnik BB is the staple of the genre and Neiman Marcus has an online boutique where you can basically pick color, size and heel height.  I realize those are A LOT of decisions for you to make on your own, but if you can mange it, you will get MAJOR points for trying.  (Pro Tip: Take a look at her shoes to find the size.  Pick a heel height based on what you see her wear to work.  And if you absolutely are stumped by color, stick to black, blue or red.  You can do this…I have faith in you.)

Major points for pulling this one off…

Tiffany Solitaire Diamond Earrings: Women love diamonds and we love Tiffany.  If you are looking for bigger diamonds than these (they are about .22 carats a piece) then you should go to a dealer.  But if you are just looking for something special to splurge in, she will delight in both the gift (diamond solitaire earrings are the ultimate in elegance) and in the unwrapping of the delectable blue box.

Last Words of Advice

If nothing from the above list suited your taste, then I would still suggest you take some time to browse either etsy (which you would have to have lived under a rock the last few years to not have heard about – but in case that’s the situation, it’s an online marketplace for small retailers of handmade goods) or ahalife (which curates some really interesting and unusual items.)

It goes without saying that women are as different and unique as the gifts you can buy them.  I generally recommend against things like kitchen supplies for gifts – but if your lady is an accomplished or aspiring chef and the idea of a stand up KitchenAid classic mixer sends her into raptures, then get her what she wants.

Remember that gifts are not about what YOU want the person you are buying for to want.  It’s not an opportunity to drop a hint or encourage a change in style or routine.  The perfect gift is about studying what brings a person some joy and then doing the research to find them something that is both desired and unexpected.  You will always know when you get it right.

Happy shopping!

Rules of the Road

The holiday season is coming down on us, and while I am looking forward to the 30 minute drive to my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I realize some of our readership might be traveling a bit further to get home this season.  So keeping that in mind, lets just go over a few rules for respectable holiday travel.

1) No Sweatpants or sweatshirts- Seriously, guys, do we still need to be having this conversation?  I realize it’s a long train ride, but for everything that we’ve been telling you for months now, I would have hoped that I would not still see folks with sweats on at the station.  No sweatpants (even those that pretend to be something else) whatsoever.  Sweatshirts are slightly more palatable, but there are plenty of other ways to keep slightly warm and comfortable without looking like you are a freshman girl at Michigan.  May I suggest some cardigans?  All the cottony goodness (sometimes even *gasp* wool) none of the implied vagrancy.

2) Layer sparingly- Your body is not an extension of your suitcase, please don’t treat it as such.  If it can’t fit in your bag, it isn’t worth taking.  Don’t over-layer in order to bring more stuff, because the reality is you’re going to have to take stuff off as you get warm in the close quarters of your bus, train, or airplane and that’s frankly inconsiderate to the person travelling next to you.  You’re going to be riding for several hours, probably best to not engender ill will.

No one wants to sit next to a Randy

3) Try to keep a sleek profile with your carry on luggage- Try to be as reasonable as possible with your carry-on luggage.  You may be travelling for a few hours, but that’s no reason to pack your bag to the brim.  Since I assume you’re not a toddler anymore, you probably don’t need to be entertained the whole time.  Take some time to enjoy the scenery, and don’t always be fidgeting with all the stuff in your bag.  Your traveling companion will thank you.

(Element of Style): Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

A timely reminder

Ah, it’s that time of the year. That time of the year when the world falls in love and every song seems to say “DOOR BUSTER SALE THIS FRIDAY ONLY UNTIL 5AM!!!!!!!!!!!!”

In July, I wrote about balancing the desire to embrace good deals without overspending. It was good advice then – if I may say so myself – and remains good advice now. There will be a lot of really good deals tomorrow – and they’re already starting to roll in. If you need suits, Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Indochino, Bonobos, Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, and…these two…will all be having killer sales. If you need casual clothes, Gap, Bonobos, J. Crew, Levis. Shoes will be available on major discount at DSW, at Macy’s, at Nordstrom and Rack. And many, many more. You can pick up some staples at Target, if you can beat the waves of hungry shoppers.

Point being, you won’t want for sales a scant 60 hours from now. But I’m going to make a controversial claim: the best sale won’t be the one that has the largest markdowns – it’ll be the ones that give you the best opportunity to buy the things you need for less than you’d otherwise pay. It’s always quality over quantity, but especially this Friday if you remember nothing else, remember: necessity over quantity.

You may be taken in with the sales on suits, but wouldn’t you be better spent not buying that third navy suit and saving up for something more useful? Or putting that money towards a nice trip or gifts for others? If you want to avoid going broke this holiday season, it’s all about moderation. And the key shouldn’t be whether or not you can afford something. You’ll be able to afford a lot, trust me. But

Don't

 

(Element of Style: Stock up on the things you need on Black Friday, not necessarily the things you want)

How wrong can you be? Let me count the ways

Oh, Gawker, you scurrilous website, you. Normally, I appreciate your shoot-from-the-hip, no-nonsense approach to, well, life. But sometimes you end up so adamantly wrong and so far off the mark, it’s hard not to respond.

I’ll take that bait.

Yesterday, Gawker reporter Hamilton Nolan posted this article,”Sport Coats and Jeans: Not Okay.” I’ll give you one thing – a debate on menswear is always good, and while I’m not generally supportive of saying any one thing of style is a firm no, I can appreciate that you have an opinion – that’s more than many gents.

But you’re wrong. So, so, SO horribly wrong, Gawker, that your righteous indignation seems almost silly.

Let me count the ways that your argument is flawed:

1. Sport coats are, historically, the casual jacket choice for men.

Look, I’m not talking casual today. I’m talking casual of yore – casual back when formal meant white tie, not a suit with no tie. Ever wondered why they are called sport coats? It’s because they were what you wore when you were out sporting. Wearing a full suit to go hunt foxes would be nonsense – so you would throw on your hunting gear, which would invariably include a sport coat. To hold that sport coats are a formal choice, and should be limited to dressing up, is not just absurd stylistically, but runs counter to more than 200 years of menswear tradition (not that tradition is the only thing that matters, but it does inform our current “rules”)

2. Your picture is misleading – and belies a massive misunderstanding.

This is the picture you posted with your article:

Let’s break this down a bit. Is that a good look? No, not especially. But the problem isn’t a sport coat with jeans, it’s the those aren’t sport coats. Those are suit jackets, and as I discussed last week, there’s a big difference between the two. Because sport coats and suits developed at the same time but on different tracks, these differences mainly manifest themselves in construction and material. Sport coats have significantly less construction than do suit jackets – this means less shoulder padding, less waist suppression, less lining – less of everything, really. The other difference is in material. While suit jackets are usually made of finely woven wool, sport coats will be made of wool, sure, but more in the vein of tweed, and corduroy, and cotton, and – gasp – denim. While many of these fabrics do look good with wool trousers or cotton chinos, they look just as good when paired with denim jeans (though, do please avoid the Canadian tuxedo).

Point of the matter is: should you wear a suit jacket with jeans? No! Of course not! But a sport coat is very different from the suit jackets I think Gawker is (clearly) thinking of.

3. Fit matters.

Does a giant jacket look good with jeans?

Spoiler: no.

But does a casual sportcoat – one in tweed, jersey, or corduroy, fitted like a sport coat (less conservatively than your suit jackets) look good with jeans?

Spoiler: yes.

The point of the matter is that sport coats – unlike suit jackets – because of their construction, because of their material fit differently. They fit more casually, closer to the body and less structured. That difference matters, and Gawker ignores it.

4. There’s nothing wrong with the middle ground.

Hamilton says, “Wearing a sport coat with jeans does not make you look “Business Casual” or “Casual Friday” or “Relaxed Business” or “Business and Pleasure.” It makes you look like a dork.”

Well, I guess, if you live in a world so starkly black and white, I guess you can make that claim. But there’s nothing wrong with a middle ground. In the same way that you can wear a modern cut suit with no tie, you should definitely feel comfortable with throwing on a sport coat and a tie (knit, of course) with jeans. Heck, even tuck in your shirt! These days, there aren’t going to be a lot of cut and dry instances when an entire suit or jeans and a t-shirt are going to be the most appropriate option. There’s no reason not to mix and match.

Besides all of that – you know our rule:

If Paul Newman did it, so can you.