What men want: 10 wearable Christmas presents for himself
Men tend to buy what they want when they want it, leaving you short on options when it comes to Christmas gifts. Well, never fear: you can’t go wrong with this handy guide to wearable presents for blokes
Eily O’Connell mace cufflinks, €190 at Coldlilies.com; Zara’s trekking trainers, €49.95; Thomas Sabo watch, €239; grey Fairisle patterned cardigan, €75 by Mantaray at Debenhams
Black lambswool touchscreen gloves, €21 at Topman (£14 at topman.com); Bleu de Chanel eau de toilette, €59.50 for 50ml; Philips noise-cancelling headphones, €199.99, come with microphone, volume and track control for your mobile
TomTom multi-sport GPS watch, €199 from Harvey Norman (harveynorman.ie); navy rib collar jacket from Heatons, €39.50; Asos’s canvas and leather satchel, €54.80 at Asos.com
Buying for a man – father, brother, husband or boyfriend – is always a challenge. While women compile lists of items they would love, and helpfully drop hints, men tend to buy what they want when they want it. “What do you mean, why did I buy that in the first week of December? I needed a new shirt!”
Often, we end up buying woolly jumpers and colourful socks, bolstered by the addition of a kooky book (may I recommend Glenn O’Brien’s How to Be a Man for novelty value?). This need not be the case; there are myriad choices, from the practical to the sublime. Here’s your guide to buying for blokes – not a pair of socks in sight.
1 COAT TALES
Why it’s a good idea: A good coat is the kind of item that very few people will splash out on without serious pausing for thought – so taking the stress out of the whole experience is sure to be appreciated.
What you should look for: Think about what he likes – colours, brands, shapes. Does he have a celebrity whose style he admires (whether he admits it or not)? Take your lead from these cues and think of classic colours and durability rather than trends – men tend to buy for the long run.
What you should avoid: Anything too hip, trendy or “now”, and especially anything he wore in primary school at the insistence of his mother. This means duffle coats are out, as are bright-red coats and, with few exceptions, anything with a fur-lined hood, faux or otherwise.
For example: Barbour’s navy wool coat, €435 at Arnotts, is – you might have guessed from the price – a coat for life, with its classic shape and goes-with-everything shade. Too pricey? Try the navy rib collar jacket from Heatons, €39.50.
2 FANCY FRAGRANCE
Why it’s a good idea: While men are entirely open to the idea of buying items they want and need, fragrance often falls into the “luxury” category, so it may be up to someone else in his life to fulfil this olfactory obligation.
What you should look for: Think about the type of man you’re buying for. If he’s well versed in fashion and grooming, he’ll have a vague idea of what’s what and a bottle of aftershave by Gilette isn’t going to cut it. But you could go too far in the other direction; if he’s never heard of it, a €100 bottle of eau du parfum from that cult French brand you read about in this month’s Vogue won’t impress.
What you should avoid: Anything in a super glitzy bottle, unless you are 100 per cent sure this won’t put him off. Gift sets are also – unfortunately – out of the question, because they remind him of the seven Christmases in a row that he got Lynx sets from granny.
For example: Bleu de Chanel eau de toilette, €59.50 for 50ml, is one of the French brand’s best-selling male fragrances – a fresh, smoky fragrance.
3 SNAZZY SWEATERS
Why it’s a good idea: Every man wears jumpers (and into this category we will place cardigans, too). They’re practical and, if you opt for wool, warm and long-lasting, and it’s not difficult to figure out sizes, even going on sight.
What you should look for: Consider the tones and styles he goes for. If he has a series of navy jumpers in his arsenal, it’s fair to assume he’s a navy jumper fan. That’s not to say that you should buy him the same; think of buying something he’ll love but doesn’t already own. So go a shade up or down, or try a variation on a (subtle) pattern.
What you should avoid: Don’t use this jumper-buying occasion – or any occasion, really – to try to change him. If he doesn’t own a single patterned jumper, now is not the time to get him into something new. Christmas gifts are designed to be loved, and unless he’s an impressive liar, you’ll both be disappointed on the day.
For example: This grey Fairisle patterned cardigan, €75 by Mantaray at Debenhams, is super-cosy, snug and festive without being redundant come January 1st.
4 SPORTY EXTRAS
Why it’s a good idea: Buying into someone’s hobby is always smart, because you’re pretty much guaranteed a high success rate. Mad into cycling? Have some high-tech cycling gloves. A skiing nut? How about new goggles? The only line that perhaps shouldn’t be crossed is in buying padded cycling shorts (too unsexy for your other half, way too personal for the other men in your life).
What you should look for: Tailor this to what he loves to do and look for the newest, most modern thing available. He’ll appreciate having the latest and greatest gadget, and you’ll get brownie points for supporting his extra-curriculars.
What you should avoid: Beware of dream hobbies. You know, the hobbies he does only in his own head. He might have cried for hours when Lance Armstrong came clean, and he might spend his evenings watching cycling on Eurosport, but unless you’ve actually seen him climb on to a saddle and pedal off into the sunset, he’s not a cyclist.
For example: The TomTom multi-sport GPS watch, €199 from Harvey Norman (harveynorman.ie) works for running, cycling and swimming – tracking his progress and syncing via Bluetooth to computer or phone so he can keep up to speed with how he’s doing.
5 THE MAN BAG
Why it’s a good idea: There is nothing more unsightly than a man in a slim-fitting suit whose pockets are bulging with keys, a wallet, spare change and a phone that doubles as a tablet for writing emails on the Dart. Carrying a bag makes all the sense in the world.
What you should look for: Again, bear in mind the man you’re buying for. Will he appreciate a beautiful satchel made of Italian leather, or does he draw the line at a canvas backpack? Try to buy something that will complement his current style, rather than force him to re-evaluate his look.
What you should avoid: If you are buying for a man who does not carry a bag, it would be folly to overspend. As tempting as it is to throw money at a problem, there is every chance that he will not love this €300 bag as much as you do.
For example: Asos’s canvas and leather satchel, €54.80 at Asos. com, is a good starting point – it looks more expensive than it is but is relatively unassuming.
6 HIP HEADPHONES
Why it’s a good idea: There was a time when white Apple headphones were an unusual sight – an indicator that this person had an iPhone (or, going further back in time, an iPod). They’re unusual today for different reasons; any smartphone owner knows there’s better sound quality from most of the other high-tech headphones on the market.
What you should look for: Does he take a lot of hands-free calls? If so, a microphone is essential. Is he really into music? It’s worth investing in a pair of noise- cancelling headphones, although not if he’s a cyclist.
What you should avoid: Beatz headphones. They may give an awesome sound – although the jury is out on that claim – but they are second only to Crocs in terms of mockability, and are very expensive.
For example: Philips noise-cancelling headphones, €199.99, come with microphone, volume and track control for your mobile and claim “unrivalled durability”.
Why it’s a good idea: In case you hadn’t noticed, Ireland is rather chilly (those of you reading from sunnier climes can skip ahead) – and men appreciate practical gifts. Chances are he’ll wear his gloves well into spring time.
What you should look for: If he’s a smartphone user, there is no point buying him a pair of gloves that are not smartphone- friendly. There are plenty available.
What you should avoid: You might think that knitted baubles, snowflake designs and snowmen are the ultimate in, but it’s unlikely that your gift recipient is going to agree. Think practicality first, aesthetics second and, if in doubt, err on the side of caution. In other words? Block colours and no embellishment.
For example: Black lambswool touchscreen gloves, €21 at Topman (£14 at topman.com).
8 WATCH THIS
Why it’s a good idea: Watches were once considered practical, but with the proliferation of mobile phones, they have become unnecessary. Still, there’s something about a gentleman in a nice watch that can’t be underestimated. If you can, sound him out beforehand; there are some for whom the idea of wearing a watch is anathema.
What you should look for: There are plenty of beautiful watches on the market, both designer and high-street, and even a few Irish brands are cropping up. A metallic number could suit him if he’s a snappy dresser, or a maritime theme for a more casual type. For sports fans, think waterproof with built-in extras such as GPS and interval timers.
What you should avoid: Unless it’s your 20th Christmas together (or he’s your dad and you’re very wealthy), don’t overspend; watches are a little close to jewellery for most men’s tastes, and if you buy a €200 watch for the man you’ve just started seeing, you might send him scurrying for the hills.
For example: Thomas Sabo’s leather and rose gold watch (€239) is a safe choice, and a sleek one. For a lower price point, check out Irish-Scandinavian venture Ansley Watch Co (ansleywatches.com).
9 SLICK KICKS
Why it’s a good idea: There was a time when runners were for sport, and you wouldn’t get through the doors of a late bar wearing them – but times have changed and trainers are now acceptable footwear, even with suits a la Marc Jacobs at the British Fashion Awards.
What you should look for: Men can be particular about their labels; if he owns three pairs of Pumas, chances are, that’s his preferred brand. This can be helpful on more than one level – check out the size of his current pair and save yourself some guesswork.
What you should avoid: It can be tempting to go off-piste and buy him the very pair of multicoloured kicks you saw on BBC Radio 1 hipster king Nick Grimshaw, but beware: Irishmen and London boys are different animals, and caution is to be advised.
For example: Zara’s trekking trainers, €49.95, are a toe-dip into the sea of unusual sneakers – a hybrid trainer-hiking shoe (unlikely to be suitable for hiking) in a neutral colour.
10 GET CUFFED
Why it’s a good idea: Like a watch on a modern man, cufflinks are a delightful throwback to old-school glamour – and knowing a man who wears them is handy when it comes to buying gifts.
What you should look for: If he wears cufflinks, he will already have been exposed to the run-of-the-mill offerings in department stores and suit shops. Look for handmade, bespoke cufflinks – or scour second-hand shops for vintage options.
What you should avoid: Pinstripes, pearlised stones and gaudy patterns – basically, anything that wouldn’t look out of place on a tie. Cheap cufflinks, nine times out of 10, look cheap, so look at investing in your gift.
For example: Irish designer Eily O’Connell’s mace cufflinks, €190 at Coldlilies. com, are handmade from recycled silver – it’s pretty much guaranteed that he won’t ever have seen the likes.