Gift-Giving Tips from our Favorite Designers

Let’s be honest: Most of us men are probably just now getting around to Christmas shopping (hey, we have almost five whole days left!). And while there are innumerable fantastic holiday gifts available right here on—sometimes the best gifts come from somewhere else. Like the heart. Or the liquor store. For advice on thinking outside the gift box (and, hopefully, getting a reaction like the one above), we asked nine men with impeccable taste to answer one simple question: What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?

1. A True Classic. “The best gift I ever gave was to my father, several decades ago. It was a first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. It touched off a tradition that lasted until he passed in 2009. We would hunt for first editions from great authors such as Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Conrad. Now, mind you, these weren’t the most pristine or cherished versions—but they were special nonetheless. It was the first time I considered the concept of gifting heirlooms: wonderful pieces that would be treasured and handed down in my family over time. Of course, I now have all these books, and they will belong to my son Tate one day.

“This year I have reached out to friends who are artists and commissioned them to create pieces for my wife and son. Ayumi Horie is a wonderfully talented artist/potter living in Maine. She is making a cup for my wife. My old buddy Christophe Loiron (aka Mister Freedom) in Los Angeles is creating an original hand-blocked T-shirt for my 3-year-old son. When I commission something, it is very important to me that it be signed by the artist and dated. The ability to look back and place a gift in its proper era is a very romantic notion to me. Happy Holidays Everyone!”
—Kenny Thomas of Grayers

2. A Family Mascot. “My sister and I got my parents a pug puppy named Louie a few years ago. He was only 10 weeks old when we picked him up. We had to stash the dog at a friend’s house for a couple nights leading up to Christmas morning. Our friend stealthily dropped off the dog and let him run into the living room. My mom noticed it first and said, “Oh my God, there’s a dog in here! Whose dog is that?!”—like a tiny puppy somehow managed to get into our house. My dad also looked confused, then realized it was for them. We knew my mom would be into it, but weren’t sure how it would go over with my dad. Turns out he LOVES the dog! In the end, it was a big hit.”
—Jeff Halmos of Shipley & Halmos

3. A Rare Find. “Some recent gifts I have given to my girlfriend—vintage YSL heels, three pair of Alaïa heels, and a vintage Prada toiletry trunk case. A nice shoe is always a good gift, and I think it’s special to find something vintage for someone you care about. Vintage has a certain soul and meaning to it.”
—Johan Lindeberg of BLK DNM

4. An Original Composition. “My wife and I once teamed up on a painting for my mom and dad at Christmas. We made an illustration of an oyster, which is a prominent symbol in my hometown of Amite, Louisiana. They love gifts that have sentimentality and personal craft put into them—and I knew the composition and colors would be great in their kitchen and live with them.”
Billy Reid

5. An Inside Joke. “I once gave my mother Shinola’s leather piggy bank. It’s inspired by a rare vintage item; our version is handcrafted in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, using genuine Horween leather. I wasn’t the best at saving money growing up, so I love the irony.”
—Daniel Caudill of Shinola

6. A Card—with a Surprise Inside. “This is my wife’s engagement ring from Christmas 1979. I proposed with this on Christmas day by enclosing it in a Christmas card. We met for the very first time on a bus during art college in 1972 and have never looked back since.”
—Gordon Richardson of Topman

7. A Story to Tell. “These are vintage tailor scissors. I bought them from one of my favorite stores in NYC, called Modern Anthology, located in Dumbo, Brooklyn. They were given to a fellow fashion designer at the end of the season as a way to say congrats on the great year! I always love giving gifts that are more unique—it’s better to find something that’s more deeply connected to someone’s background and interests, personal or professional. I love sourcing vintage items because they tell a story. There’s something nice about taking something old and making it new again.”
—Ernest Sabine of Ernest Alexander

8. Something They’ll Put to Good Use. “I recently bought the Olympus Pen E-P5 for my girlfriend. She’s a blogger (@maidensydney_brooke) and wants quality images, but doesn’t want the hassle of downloading to her computer and back to her phone, etc. The Pen E-P5 has a built in wi-fi capability, so she can transfer high-quality images to her phone, Instagram, blog instantaneously. And I bought our USA Brand Manager, Daniel Maynard, a bottle of Jameson’s this year—because he really loves Jameson’s.”
—Leith Testoni of Zanerobe.

9. A Serious Question. “The best gift I’ve ever given someone was two years ago. I hosted a white-elephant party for abour 30 of our closest friends and family. I rigged the contest so that my girlfriend and I picked last, and I had her pick the present. While she was talking with friends, I casually opened the gift and dropped to one knee to pop the question. She was 100% completely surprised. And she said yes.”
—Joshua Johnson of Broken Homme Footwear [available at selected stores]



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