I love giving gifts, but I rarely have good ideas. Thankfully I have friends who are extraordinary gift givers. So I asked them for ideas for what I could give the men in my life, and they came up with a ton. Their recommendations and personal comments are below. Whether you’re buying for dads, brothers, friends, or lovers, this list will get you going.
For the caffeine junkie: Deathwish Coffee. It has 200 percent more caffeine than a typical cup of coffee. It also happens to taste pretty good. Not intended for men who are pregnant or nursing.
For the well-lubricated man: I like buying alcohol-related gifts for men, and that’s probably silly. This year I’m getting my husband a large, round ice cube maker so he can feel fancy when he drinks scotch. Something like this.
For the lazy shopper: I’ve tried getting my husband one of those clothing boxes in the mail, where you get clothes once a month because he hates shopping. Frank and Oak is a good one. You have to be a certain size/style profile for it to work. Another is Trunk Club.
For the man who likes to eat: Sometimes I get food gifts for dudes. Zingerman’s is a great place for a family present. Got my whole family a Reuben sandwich set when we were out of town for Christmas and missing the festivities. In that vein, I love the “X of the month” club for people who really like a certain thing. Bacon of the month club is pretty popular with dudes, I think.
For the grown-up Boy Scout: Here’s a good, portable keychain multi-tool and here’s a really well-designed, light and durable every day carry knife from Columbia River Knife and Tool. Better than a dessert topping/floor wax combo, it’s a keychain bottle opener and an iPhone charger. For keychain tools you can get through security, try this one or this one, which makes for a great stocking stuffer.
For the man who needs to move beyond Irish Spring and Speed Stick: Jack Black makes great skin care and toiletries for men that don’t exude too much of a metrosexual vibe, and his lip balm helps when your lips start cracking this time of year.
For the man who likes to ruminate and marinate at the same time: Here are four great recent books about booze. First, the comprehensive book from Death and Co. — one of the most revered cocktail bars in America. Second, the well-reviewed “Liquid Intelligence.” The Weekly Standard’s Vic Matus has written a fascinating and amusing cultural history of Vodka. And finally, a great new guide to bourbons from New York Times editor Clay Risen.
For the man who won’t get off Instagram: Thanks to smartphones and digital technology, we take more photos than ever, but that doesn’t mean those photos are any good. “Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs” is a great starting point for becoming the Ansel Adams of social media.
For the athletic gadget-lover who’s always late: Suunto makes a watch with lots of electronic bells and whistles that doesn’t make you look dorky when you wear it. (For extra man credit, the all-black version with the compass ring is a favorite of the special forces community.)
For the man with trigger discipline: Want to practice your marksmanship by firing guns in the house? There’s no substitute for live fire experience, but Laserlyte makes a range of innovative products that can let you work on improving your aim without firing bullets. And when you do get to go to the range, Otis makes great gun cleaning kits.
For the man who wants to get up to speed on politics and culture quickly: I just got for my dad this year, who is difficult to shop for, a year subscription to The Transom, a daily email newsletter, which aggregates news and notes from around the web.
For the casual griller: A charcoal chimney. Apparently it’s the must-have grill accessory that makes a man feel luxurious or something. You want to talk obsessive — my husband thinks about grill temperatures like some guys talk about football stats. And it’s inexpensive, at only $14.99.
For the coffee aficionado: Burr coffee grinder for espresso or French press. Apparently it enhances flavor. The manual ones highly rated on Amazon are also inexpensive. But be careful searching because many comments appear to have been paid for and some highly rated ones have comments saying they got a fake. I picked this one. I figure if it’s not good, we can return it.
For the intellectual dad: A museum membership is a nice gift. It’s something to do with the kids and it often comes with invitations to interesting events.
For the commuter: For people with hours of commuting every day, there’s bound to be something intriguing in The Great Courses catalogue. Here’s what’s on sale right now, including The Fundamentals of Photography; Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft; and The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking.
For the gamer: If your guy is a gamer, get him Call of Duty: Black Ops III, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, or Halo 5: Guardians. Bloodborne is brilliantly designed and challenging. It’s gothic horror with a Lovecraftian vibe. It goes back to the root of gaming. So cool. If your gamer guy doesn’t have this, get it! Plan on him spending the rest of the holidays playing games, but that’s fine. You can be part of it by watching his mad skills or playing along.
For the pilot: A20 Aviation Headset. This is a pricey gift at $1095.95, but it’s standard issue for military pilots (well, a version of this; the ones military pilots use are industrial strength), and my dad has it for his plane. I’ve worn it, and the attenuation is unbelievable. It’s the difference between your head inside a jet engine and a portable fan on the lowest setting. Seriously, if it were possible, I’d wear it around the house.
For the would-be pilot: My husband just bought a cheap drone for himself, my brother, and my cousin. I totally thought this was weird, but he defends it. You could get a really nice drone, but it would cost like $1000. (But it flies better only on high-wind conditions.)
For even younger, would-be pilots: These cheap little helicopters have a lot of the fun of a drone for none of the price. I bought one for my husband and little boy. They fly it pretty much every night. More than 3,000 positive reviews on Amazon. Only $18!
For the man who needs to get in touch with his emotional side: I just got one of my roommates the book “Poems that Make Grown Men Cry.”
For the man who likes to go off the terrain: Camp socks. They’re warm and old-school cool.
For the man who’s difficult to buy for: Blanton’s.
For the man who likes talking to himself and giving orders: Amazon Echo.
For the gardener: I’m embarrassed to share the cheap, dorky item my gardening husband deemed “the best gift he’s gotten in a long time,” but here goes: mosquito head nets.
For the man who doesn’t need anything: My brother (who is notorious for buying whatever he needs the second he needs it) is getting the following: A watch box/desk valet to store all the “everything” he has, and a whiskey journal to keep track of all the many things he enjoys drinking.
For the well-tailored man: My best gift of all time was for my boyfriend — I got him a set of engraved collar stays in this nifty box, so that he can choose a daily message from me when he gets dressed in the morning. The best part is that I get to follow up on future holidays with ever-more personalized and updated messages.
For other well-tailored men: Brass collar stays, an underappreciated necessity for the well-dressed man. They have to be brass, so they have a little bit of weight that helps the collar lie properly. And you don’t really need a set. I bought a set and have no idea where the rest are because I keep using the same two. (I also gave away two to a confirmed bachelor friend, who does not have the benefit of a woman in his life to help him with these things.)
For the grandpa: For my dad, I’ve ordered a bunch of canvas photo prints of shots with him and the family — no explanation needed giving photo prints to a new grandpa. He will love ’em!
For the family man: Probably not widely-applicable, but the one gift I’m most proud of for my husband was the year I made vintage-style silhouettes of all our girls and framed them. It was time-consuming but not expensive.
For the hirsute man: My favorite gift I ever got my husband was Zirh shaving cream. It makes your man’s face amazingly smooth, even if he has a super thick beard.
For the active man: I think his favorite gift may be Fitbit, which helps remind and inspire him to get up from his desk and keep moving. Oh, and his digital picture frame filled with a ton of family photos, so he gets to keep us with him at work.
For the chef: Shun Cutlery. These are amazing knives. I got my husband a set for Thanksgiving. The only downside is if you’re used to using crappy knives and then suddenly switch to not crappy ones, you will cut yourself. It will happen.
For the tequila lover: Blue Nectar tequila. It’s not available in every state yet, but it’s available online. This is a spicy and flavorful tequila with no burn. Great to sip or in cocktails.
For the car-conscious man: A homemade car kit or truck kit. This gift is a small box — preferably made of durable plastic or wooden — filled with things your man will be able to use in his car: emergency change, string, perhaps a plastic knife and fork, a notepad, and a pen. The box should be unobtrusive enough to fit under a seat.
For the beard-conscious man: “Beard oil.” Rub this oil into your beard for a soft face and a manly scent.
For the beer-conscious man: St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. This strong Belgian ale is available only around Christmas time at many fine retail locations.
For the man with furniture: Don’t everyone steal my go-to gift, but one thing I like to give to people who have everything is a box of personalized, printed paper coasters with their name or monogram or some cute phrase that fits them. You can design them to match the style and color of their decor. Or, if you’re ambitious, you can use photos pilfered from their Facebook or Instagram feed. Nobody ever has enough coasters! If they don’t like them, they can just bring them out for parties and such. Plus, the coasters are disposable so they don’t have to use them forever. It’s a low commitment, high-bang gift. Makes a great housewarming gift too. Lots of options online. One is here.
For the beleaguered attorney: Twenty-four to 48 hours in a cabin with no cell phone (read: BlackBerry) service. (This is not a joke.)
For the board game enthusiast: My husband’s new “thing” is this cooperative board game called Forbidden Desert. Even his competitive family likes the fact that one person’s good luck benefits everyone, thus promoting mutual rejoicing. Another good game for a group (this one is complex and calls for much strategy) is 7 Wonders. A fun game for two people is Agricola All Creatures Big and Small. It’s open-ended enough to allow a strategic thinker and a non-strategic thinker to play together. And a good game for a mixed group is Qwirkle. It’s like Scrabble but with shapes and colors instead of letters. Also Ticket to Ride.
For men who don’t want anything: Take a man to an outdoor gun range, and then take him to get barbecue. (That’s what I’m doing for my father- and brothers-in-law. Rule range and then skeet shooting.) Seriously, this is a great thing to do on birthdays and Christmas for men who don’t want anything, which is most men. (I don’t have a link, but all one must do is consult one’s local Internet. An indoor range will do in a pinch.)
For the sci-fi fan: The works of H. Beam Piper. The influential and under-appreciated Piper has a rather unsentimental view of humanity’s future in the cosmos, offering a necessary corrective to Star Trek’s silly utopian vision of uninterrupted progress. Bureaucracy is often a villain standing in the way of Piper’s self-reliant and capable heroes. Start with his novels “Space Viking,” “Paratime,” and “Little Fuzzy.”
For the lover of freedom who is anxious for the fray: Federalist swag, of course.