A couple of readers have suggested I put together a gift guide for this holiday season. It occurred to me that I’ve never done one, and I thought Why not?
The criteria for this list was pretty simple: stuff I like, stuff I already have and enjoy, and stuff I wish I had. I also wanted to include items from a range of price points, but none too expensive. And I deliberately avoided wearables that risked any wrong sizing. These are all durable goods that keep giving, whether it’s a good shave, a good cup of coffee or a good laugh.
And if you don’t know anyone who would like any of these things, get ’em for yourself. 😉
Here we go…
Merkur 23C Safety Razor
About three years ago, I ditched the cartridge razor game and went old school with the classic safety razor. I haven’t looked back. (Read the full story.) Today, I get a great shave with a classic razor and an annual blade re-fill expense that blows every shaving club subscription out of the water in cost, effectiveness and aesthetics. Switching to the safety razor was one of the best grooming moves I ever made.
There are other Merkur models that have a shorter handle, but I prefer the chrome-finished 23C, which has a slightly longer handle at 4 inches. The handle comes with a starter pack of blades, all for around $25 on Amazon, but it would make an even nicer gift with an additional pack of blades. I’ve had great success with Astra Platinum Double-Edge Blades 100-pack, which lasts me about a year ($10).
As I’ve written before, we only need one good watch. My absolute favorite is the stainless steel tool watch, perhaps most iconically embodied by the Rolex Submariner, the Tudor Black Bay and the Omega Seamaster. The prices for these gorgeous timepieces can range anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000, putting them way out of reach for a guy like me. Enter the Hager Aquamariner.
Since 2009, Hager Watches has been making handsome, durable, classic, automatic timepieces with refinement, craftsmanship and aesthetics that compete with many watches on the luxury spectrum. With its design, the Aquamariner is a deliberate tribute to those other expensive tool watches. It’s a beautiful, well-made forever watch. And the price? $550. I’ve been wanting one of these for years.
The James Bond Archives (Taschen)
Any man who says he hasn’t fantasized about being James Bond, at least for the duration of one of the movies, is lying. I love James Bond, and I’m pretty sure every other man I’ve ever met does, too.
After the release of SPECTRE in 2015, Taschen Books re-issued its exhaustive and thoroughly enjoyable coffee table book The James Bond Archives to include the latest film. This is porn for a Bond fan. Originally $200, the SPECTRE Edition re-release runs a cool $70 from the publisher or $45 on Amazon.
Chemex Starter Kit
As anyone who reads this blog or follows me on Instagram knows, I love coffee. My method of choice for the home brew is the classic Chemex, which was invented in 1941 by chemist and inventor Dr. Peter Schlumbohm. Not only does the Chemex make the perfect cup of coffee, it is also one of the most beautiful accessories a king can have in his kitchen. (It’s included in the permanent design collection of the Corning Museum of Glass and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.)
In addition to the iconic glass beakers themselves, the fine folks at the family owned Chemex Coffee website sell essential accessories, including the perfect gift bundle called the Chemex Starter Kit for $62. It includes the classic 6-cup carafe with the signature wood handle and leather tie, a box of 100 bonded filters (choose the pre-folded natural squares), a glass cover for the carafe and a cork coaster. Fabulous.
Jiffy Steamer J-2000
A steamer may seem like a boring or unglamorous gift. As someone who likes his tailored clothing to look good, I promise you it isn’t. Barring genuine dirtiness or spills, I only get my suits and jackets cleaned about once a year. The only other reason to send your nice clothes to the cleaners is to get them pressed or steamed. In the interest of saving money over time and keeping your tailored kit looking fresh, a good steamer is in order. One of the top-rated ones on the market is the Jiffy J-2000. It typically goes for just under $200. It’s a no-brainer. If you have a clothes horse in your life or someone who cares about the details of looking nice, this will make him happy. Seriously.
I’ve been enjoying my music at home with Sonos for years. In my decades of music enjoyment, Sonos is by far my favorite system, and I love my original Sonos Play: 1 speakers. The new Sonos 1 speakers, however, come with AirPlay capability, which is an especially nice feature when you’re playing something only available on your iPhone (like the NPR One app, for example).
Every man needs a good carry-on bag. Until Away came along, the best option for durable, reliable, chic luggage was Rimowa, which is pretty expensive. Away totally changed the game by creating a great looking piece of luggage with a device charger, a lifetime guarantee and a level of quality that rivaled bags at a much higher price point. I bought one last year, and I highly recommend the original carry-on. It fits on every plane. (And get it in black.)
Swiss Army Knife
About a decade ago, my stepfather gave me a Swiss Army Knife for Christmas (the “Explorer” pictured above). It lives in one of my kitchen drawers and comes in handy at least 3 or 4 times each week, whether I need to open a package, tighten or loosen a screw, open a bottle or trim something. It is, to me, a wonderfully efficient, effective and essential household tool. Every guy could use one of these.
Chief among the many things I love about Field Notes is that these 48-page notebooks are not only practical and incredibly handy, but that, at 3.5 x 5.5 inches, they are sized to fit discreetly in a breast pocket without ruining the line of a jacket or blazer. They come with plain, lined or graphed paper – whatever your preference or interest – and in several different iterations or themes, making them not just useful, but fun. Get them in a pack of three or with a subscription for your regular note-taker (like me).
My old boss Joan Rivers often said that when you make someone laugh, you give them a mini vacation. Something that makes someone laugh or lightens a dark day is a legitimate gift. The wonderfully irreverent collection of calling cards, note cards, greeting cards and other stationery from Terrapin Stationers are a great way to give the invaluable gift of laughter. They also make custom calling cards. (They made mine.) All cards are engraved on nice cotton stock by machines that are over a century old. And if you want a cheap laugh for yourself, follow the owner of Terrapin Stationers, my friend Ted Harrington, on Instagram: @terrapinstationers. He makes me laugh every day.