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the man who has everything

My husband’s not the only one in my marriage to have screwed up a gift or two. The year we met, I bought him a photograph of Charles Woodson playing in the 1997 Michigan-Ohio State game. I thought it was pretty damn thoughtful, considering that the only thing I knew about football up to that point was that football pants look hot on quarterbacks. Only problem is, I framed and matted it in red, Ohio State’s color. My thinking, which seems absurd today: so boring to frame it in navy, and maize wasn’t going to go with anything. Red seemed cheery and upbeat, and matched the uniforms of the other players in the photo. To describe the expression on his face when Tom saw the gift as “conflicted” would be a vast understatement. If memory serves, the gift is currently being used to even out a bookshelf.

Here are a few ideas for guys’ gifts that have gone over better than that photo.

Allen Edmonds

If your guy’s shoe collection looks like the photo above, it may be time for a serious pair of shoes. It pains me when I see an attractive guy wearing a solid outfit that ends in hideous shoes. There are so many ways to go wrong, but for starters–men: if your shoes are aggressively square toed, I beg you to rethink your position.

If you have a guy who wears a suit once a week or more, I think a pair of Allen Edmonds make a fab gift. They are well-built and don’t look Italian enough to scare him, and will never go out of style. I believe they are made in America. The best part is, when they wear down, you can send them back to Allen Edmonds for total refurbishing.

I’d recommend many of their styles, but Tom seems to get the most use from the three below. With these three pairs, you’ll have almost every possible iteration of suit covered–black, gray, navy, pinstripe, flannel, etc. The McAllister can arguably be worn with poplin and seersucker (although a purist might go for a pair of bucks), and there you have it–his entire year in suits, handled.

A couple tips: if the pair you choose are leather soled, make sure your guy goes out and puts taps and a rubber sole on them before he wears them. If you’re wondering why you would buy a leather sole just to cover it up, don’t ask me. I have no idea. But I’m assured that a serious shoe would only have a leather sole. My other tip is to buy a matching Allen Edmonds belt along with the shoes, if possible. You might think “walnut” looks a lot like “chili,” but they aren’t the same color, and it will save him from having to find a matching belt later. While we’re on it, an Allen Edmonds shoe polish in the exact shade of the shoes makes a great stocking stuffer. Done.

The Best Sweatshirt in the World

I buy a lot of clothing from American Apparel. The front of the store looks like a tawdry sex shop, but the back of the store has great basics, like v-necks and long tanks to layer. Their kids’ clothes are awesome. But the single best thing about American Apparel is this sweatshirt, which is owned by every person in my family. That’s right, even my 2 year old has one. Sometimes we all wear it at the same time, and we look really, really stupid.

The fabric is a cotton/poly blend that is the perfect gray, and it’s stretchy and warm to boot. It’ll remind him of that perfect Star Wars shirt he had when he was 8, that the hipsters would kill for today.

Latte Love

We were gifted a Nespresso Essenza, which we love. It is easy to use, makes great coffee, and takes up minimal counter space. But even better is the Nespresso frother, which produces frothy, hot milk in under 2 minutes. You put the milk in, push a button, and it begins whirring with a hushed, pleasing hum.  Next thing you know, you have the perfect milk and foam for a latte or cappuccino. We’ve used it with homemade nut milks and soy milk. Your coffee will taste awesome, and you’ll make him the star of your dinner parties. And isn’t the gift of popularity really the best gift of all?

Man Jewelry

I am grateful that Tom wears a lot of French cuffs for work, because cufflinks are fun to buy. They are also a great gift to pick up on your travels, because they pack light, and often reflect the local flavor of the place you’re visiting. You can find great vintage cufflinks online. Tom’s dad worked for Ford, and I dug up a vintage pair with the Ford logo on eBay for maybe twenty bucks. But I think this pair below are the coolest I’ve found yet. They are made with real, vintage typewriter keys. You can order them here or here in different letters or type symbols. I purchased these a few years ago with our son Finn’s initials. If I were buying them now, I’d probably do a “F” and “T” for both boys. They are personal, useful, and best of all–inexpensive.

Made to Measure

If it’s a big year or he just needs clothes, maybe consider a custom made suit. The thing I like about made-to-measure for men is that if your guy has any figure issue at all (and who doesn’t), your tailor can come up with the perfect fit, keep the details on file, and you can just keep ordering from that same set of measurements for years (assuming your guy stays relatively the same size). Tom digs his Tom James suits, not only for the fit, but for the details he can customize, like working buttonholes on the sleeves, and colorful linings. Give Mark Cleve a call and he’ll fix you up. Mention yoonanimous for $100 off a suit less than $1000, and $200 off a suit over $1000.

Nervous about committing to a full suit? Try a custom shirt or two. My husband is a 16 1/2 x 37, a shirt size that they don’t even bother stocking at a lot of stores in town. When they do stock a shirt in that size, it’s in solid white, or solid blue with banker’s collar, a style I find generally unflattering on most men. In Portland, John Helmer has dozens of fabrics and will advise you on body styles. Nordstrom also has a custom shirt service through its user-friendly John W. Nordstrom line. Depending on the guy, you might even go for a subtle monogram on the cuff or chest.

Man Art

When Tom and I moved in together, we had the ritual merging and purging of goods that comes with every union. When I say I purged, it was mostly his stuff, because when we met, he was really into late Kandinsky and other “art” like this:

The really tragic thing about the piece above is that Tom apparently carted that painting back from Bolivia, and then spent like $800 to frame it. And during that entire process, it never occurred to him that the guy playing the Bolivian flute in the picture looks a lot like a guy smoking a bong. Which is insane to me, as that is certainly the first thing that 99 out of 100 people are going to see when they look at that painting. Anyway, this setup here is to say that if you want to gift him with artwork that respects him and his tastes, you could do worse than buy a vintage poster of his college team. And if the artwork includes your school as well, so much the better. Because even when it’s about him, it should be about you.

Have a gift idea that’s gone over well with a guy? Please share!

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Akie #

    My guy has inherited a ridiculous number of ties and cuff links, but only has one french-cuff dress shirt. Any suggestions on good basic shirt brands to try? He doesn’t have any strange measurements except that he’s built like a runner, so he needs slim-cut everything. Basic colors are fine. Thanks in advance!

    September 13, 2012
  2. I actually went straight to flute player, but the again bongs never were a common thing here (in Sweden).

    January 6, 2012
  3. emiklio #

    Hi there, I love your blog!

    I’m 17 so my gift ideas are probably going to be different than yours…but my boyfriend loves camping and backpacking, so I usually go to REI and get him fun gadgets and knives and stuff for camping with. Things that he’d appreciate but are too expensive for him to ever probably wanna buy for himself.

    January 5, 2012
  4. Israel #

    Somehow I missed this one till now, hell of a post.

    December 21, 2011
  5. thanks for the feedback, dudders

    December 10, 2011
  6. Kim Holloway Kripalani #

    That would be Dopp with two p’s…typing too fast. 🙂

    December 10, 2011
  7. Kim Holloway Kripalani #

    Anything from The Good Flock. Dop bags, totes, belts, wallets. Available at Canoe or through their website/facebook site. I love their stuff for me too!

    December 10, 2011
  8. John Dudrey #

    Allen Edmonds shoes (made in Wisconsin, if I recall correctly) are definitely worth the investment. I’ve had a pair for eight years that, with minimal upkeep, look and feel as good as the day I bought them.

    December 10, 2011

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