If I have one beef with this time of year, it’s the gift guides that are printed in every magazine or newspaper. I assume editors love gift guides because they take up a lot of pages, don’t require a lot of writing, and are very visual. As for me, I’d rather have the hard-hitting news coverage, especially if Ryan Gosling and his bare chest are involved.
Most gift guides are harmless, but others are so out of touch with reality that they actually spark within me a deep, burning rage. For example, the gift guide in this month’s Vanity Fair (generally the most odious magazine around on many levels) includes a Valextra suitcase for $5,900. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? It’s like those Lexus ads that suggest that you buy your significant other a car this Christmas. These ads are so tone-deaf that I’m going to give Lexus the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are meant to be ironic.
I posted recently about gifts that guys should try to avoid when shopping for their women. This post you are reading is hardly comprehensive, but it includes a few suggestions for stuff that I would gladly purchase for myself, in several price categories. All road tested, and no one’s paying me to say I like them, although I wish that would happen, and soon. But be smart: nod yes when the salesperson asks if you want a gift receipt, and remember to tuck it into the bottom of that box.
Last note: I say “fellas” because I have a fella and he needs gift help. Of course these gifts would go well from girl to girl, even girl to guy in some cases.
My hands are not my favorite thing. I’ve never liked them much but their fate was sealed the day my husband fondly referred to them as “pudgy.” I also bite my fingernails. Because I don’t like to call attention to my hands, I’m not a big ring person. But for the last year or so, I have been wearing these chunky rings on my right ring finger, and I love them. They add a fun touch to any outfit, and balance out the more traditional wedding rings I wear on my left hand. I’ve given them to girlfriends and they are always a hit. The best part is that some are adjustable, so you don’t even need to guess at ring size. Full disclosure: lemontree is my Mom’s store. Tell her I sent you! Her selection of stocking stuffers is equal to none.
About those hands…they be seriously dry. If your lady is like me, her hands are constantly chapped from washing dishes and changing diapers, exposure to winter weather, or circulated air at the office. I have tubes of hand cream everywhere–my purse, my kitchen sink, my car. Here are my two favorites: they’re thick, stay on through a hand washing, and do not leave a greasy residue. Also a great stocking stuffer in their smaller sizes.
I don’t recommend that you buy your wife a handbag, unless she’s hinted at the exact make and model–too many variables. But I don’t really know anyone, male or female, who couldn’t use an LL Bean tote bag. My family has three, and they get used a lot, which is why they look dirty in my photo (apologies). Tom uses his to collect and transport his dry cleaning; Finn uses his for toy storage. I use mine for travel. You can personalize it, which always implies a measure of thoughtfulness that you may or may not possess in reality. Since you’re doing so well, avoid the temptation to monogram it with “Mom” or any variation of that word.
If your lady appreciates a more masculine style, I also love my Filson tote, because it is sturdy, stands upright on its own, and has straps long enough to wear around your shoulder. I have even used it as a litigation bag, because the canvas is strong enough to hold full binders.
I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, but I love watches. They’re a good way to personalize what you are wearing, and are functional besides. Most of mine cost less than $50 and are from Timex. I have a special-edition Timex that I bought through J.Crew for like $150, but you can get essentially the same watch (the Weekender, below) for about $55 on the Timex website. I also dig the Camper, a classic style that looks like something a boy scout would wear. Don’t count out Timex for fake gold or stainless steel, either. You think I’m psyching you out, because you have been trained to think that fake gold is cheesy. But a big fake gold watch on a girl, worn loosely, is quite the thing. You could pay $300 for a fake gold Michael Kors, but why? It’s the same fake gold. Go with a Timex.
When I was growing up, my best friend lived in Vancouver B.C. We wrote long, angsty letters to one another, and when I got married, she bound the letters into a book, which I haven’t yet worked up the nerve to read. Anyway, I love having a stash of lovely personalized stationery handy so that I can write thank you notes and hellos to friends and family. People think of personalized stationery as an anachronism, but that’s what makes it so charming. The options online on minted and tinyprints are nice, but since you’ve come this far, you might as well spring for letterpress. The heft of the paper and the indentations from the press add a handmade quality that is impossible to find in the cards you can get online. Gravy points for pre-stamping her envelopes.
On a related note, letterpress children’s stationery seems like a true luxury, but not if that stationery happens to freeze time. My friend Suzanne Hallerman at Jigsaw Graphics makes insanely cool cards out of your kid’s handwriting and drawings. She has gifted them to my kid Finn for the last couple birthdays, and they are amazing. The awesome thing about these cards is that they capture what’s on your kid’s mind during a moment in time. For example, the ones below show that my kid went from scary robot faces (age 4) to warfare (age 5) in the space of a year. Next year I’m hoping for a guillotine. Why am I including stuff for your kid in a post about gifts for your wife? Because when you throw them into a simple Ikea picture frame, they make some pretty bitchin’ art for mom’s office or bedroom.
Personalized jewelry for moms is big right now. It can also get really loud and scary. I like small, subtle pieces, because I think the point of wearing jewelry that reminds you of your kids, is to remind YOU of your kids, not to advertise to passerby that you are blessed with progeny. My friend Linds just had her first baby, and she loves this necklace by tiffinsblu, because, as she says, it’s a tiny way to keep her baby close. It is hard to tell from the photo, but these pendants are about one-third of an inch across. I love the rustic feel to them, which comes from the oxidation. The best part is, I cannot imagine anyone better for a guy to work with than this particular jewelry artist, Tiffin Kreger-Bryant–she is awesomely approachable and will work with you (over email!) to come up with something perfect.
Shoes for bad weather
I’ve posted before about why you shouldn’t gift clothes. But shoes can be a great gift, because she loves shoes, and you can figure out her size by peeking inside her current favorite pair. I’m going to cut down on the guesswork for you, and recommend these two options below, which look super unsexy, but are actually very cool. Sorel has had a renaissance of sorts since being bought by Columbia. They make boots in all sorts of fun colors, but stick with the Caribou, which has been around for ages. They are warm and will make her feel like a snow bunny. I would take a pass on these if you are rarely in cold weather, as these are serious boots with real tread. If you live in Oregon, Hunter rain boots are also a great idea. Skip the short versions, which are not universally flattering, and go with the knee boot, which are.
$200 and above
Cheese by the month
Sometimes I muse that I was destined to meet my husband, a Michigander, solely so I could learn about Zingerman’s. Visiting the actual Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor is unpleasant because it is overcrowded and stuffy, but luckily for you, they have a well-oiled mail order service. My sisters-in-law sent me Zingerman’s gift boxes after I had my boys, and those boxes were like beacons of light in that confused, dark, and scary time after childbirth. This year, I can think of no gift I’d rather receive than entry into Zingerman’s cheese-of-the-month club. Who doesn’t love having cheese in the fridge to nibble on? Zingerman’s will mail you out a selection of cheeses, beautifully packed and accompanied by a loaf of their bread, which is alone worth the price of admission. More fun and a lot less fussy than Dean & Deluca.
LV her up
Louis Vuitton is a brand that has withstood a lot, including Kanye West and much recent vulgarity in the hands of Marc Jacobs. But the brand powers on, undiminished. I was thinking of recommending their basic Monogram Keepall 55 duffle, which I received about 8 years ago immediately following the gravy boat debacle, because I use it regularly for 2-3 day trips. But frankly, the bags were more affordable then, and I don’t know if I’d recommend that anyone spend $1200 to buy a bag made out of coated canvas today.
Instead, I’d recommend that you buy this pashmina. LV sells lots of shawls, many subtler than this, but let me be blunt: if you are going to drop $500 on a scarf, you should probably get one that says LV all over it. I am not rich enough to believe in private luxury. If I am buying something costly, I want it to look costly, because otherwise, what is the point? So, I don’t buy Missoni unless it’s zigzag, and I don’t buy Burberry unless there’s plaid on it. If I can afford a Chanel bag one day, it is going to be quilted like a mofo and covered one end to the other in interlocking Cs.
I promise that this shawl will fix a few fashion problems for your lady, including, first and foremost, what to wear as a wrap to a wedding or evening party. I have worn it to every wedding I have been to in the last seven years. EVERY WEDDING. There is nothing worse than showing up to a wedding in a smokin’ dress and then having to put your husband’s size 42L suit jacket over it when it gets nippy.
If you have follow up questions or need to know where to find things, please leave me a comment and I promise to respond. And women, if you have other ideas or suggestions, please share. My husband can use the help!