One question I frequently receive from my lovely readers is — “What do I get my boyfriend of X months?” “What do I get my husband of X years?” Etc. Here is a graduated approach to gift-giving that will hopefully answer questions for the lot of you.
UNDER 6 MONTHS
This is a tricky stage. You don’t want to get something TOO personal or TOO over the top, or it will seem like you’re trying to say “I love you” too soon or rushing the relationship. Of course, every relationship is different, so go with what feels natural or appropriate to you. (Some people just KNOW. Or are older and a bigger present might make sense. Or have a lot of money to burn.) But generally speaking — if the relationship is under 6 months, I would advise a price tag of $50 or so and nothing too personal. I think that these cheeky flasks ($25, or if he’s a real old school type, this croc-effect covered style for $37) with a nice bottle of booze would be a welcome gift for most gents:
Mr. Magpie is perhaps unique in his attention to detail when dressing himself. (The other day, he went on a tirade about the fact that too many men wear “the double windsor” knot when tying their ties. I looked at him, puzzled. He responds: “Wife, there are 200 ways to tie a tie. I’m a four-in-hand guy. You should know this.”) So if you have a similarly-minded man in your life, he may appreciate this “Dressing the Man” book ($58), which Mr. Magpie considers a Bible of sorts:
Or maybe he’s into cooking? Mr. Magpie loves the Charcuterie book ($21) from Ruhlman.
Things to avoid:
-Clothing (too early — unless something like a hat, scarf, gloves)
-Gift cards (too generic)
Shoot for something under $100 that says: “I know you well enough to know your style.” Consider their interests and try for something personalized to their passions. For example, Mr. Magpie is a bow-tie lover. A perfect under-a-year gift for him would have been a nice bow-tie from hip line Forage ($68):
Or, say he’s an outdoorsman — perhaps a L’Aguiole pocket knife ($98) will be a welcome step up from his Swiss Army classic:
I like both of these items because they’re tailored to your man and have a meaningful bent to them, but both seem small in scope and therefore non-threatening/not over the top.
OVER A YEAR
This is when things start to get fun. I think the price point can depend based on your age, work situation, etc., but now you can get into the personalized, “I know you” surprises. I would steer for something under $200. I think that, for an iPad user, a personalized leather case would be nice ($125):
Or say you know your guy has a ratty old wallet — perhaps an upgrade reflecting his tastes/interests (for example, one embossed with anchors — $125, or one with two crossed pistols — $88):
Or — one of Mr. Magpie’s favorite gifts in recent years was this oyster-buckle belt ($150). Perfect for him because he loves oysters, and it adds a little interest to what we call his “entrepreneur outfit.” (We realized that all entrepreneurs wear the same thing: dark-wash jeans, nice loafers, and a blazer.)
Or — for the handy cook — perhaps a nice set of steak knives (Laguiole, $59 for set of 4) with a cookbook, a gift card to an upscale butcher (like Wagshal’s in D.C. or Gepperth’s up here in Chicago), or other kitchen accoutrements, like one of these Thermapen Instant Meat Thermometers ($80):
Or, if he’s into this sort of thing (Mr. Magpie is decidedly not), a pair of vintage-style Nike kicks ($98). Love the colors of this pair!
OVER TWO YEARS
I think that statement/investment pieces that they’ll wear forever are nice around now. For example, a classic leather watch (Daniel Wellington, $229)
Shades are a great gift if your guy is into the higher-end styles. I recently bought Mr. Magpie an iconic pair of Persols ($360 — the 714 style is where it’s at; Steve McQueen wore them!) that he rocks.out. These Shuron Sidewinders are classic (on sale for $198) — the shade of tortoise is just perfect. The Selima Optique Money 2 ($385) is another hot style — Ryan Gosling wore them in the movie Drive so you’ll get bonus points for that.
OVER FIVE YEARS
Once you’ve hit the five year mark with dating, literally anything goes. You can get him that terrycloth robe you know he’ll use or the Xbox game he’s been talking about or plane tickets for a vacation. Mr. Magpie and I have done big years and small years for each other — and some years, I give him lots of little things and other years, one big thing. Some cool picks if you’re running on empty this holiday season — some wall art for his man cave (love this cool sequence of a man taking his hat off — $240):
Or, how cool would it be to get him a vintage set of nautical flags to decorate his pad ($490)?
If he’s a big traveler or music geek, you might consider these covetable Bose noise-cancelling earphones (my Dad lives for this — $299)
MARRIED — TIME TO SPLURGE
If we have a little extra spending money and Mr. Magpie has been a very good husband, I would splurge on something like this luxe overnight bag ($895) from Ernest Alexander –
– or my latest, most favorite thing to gift (because it’s actually a gift for me too…ha!): art for the home. Mr. Magpie and I have a budding gallery wall inspired by the dog portraits/hunting paintings that adorn the stairwell in the landmark Ralph Lauren store in Chicago. This handsome oil painting I discovered on Etsy ($548) would make a phenom addition:
Other Big Ticket items I’ve purchased for Mr. Magpie: a Tag Heuer watch, a Barbour coat ($399), RRL jeans ($250+), those Persol shades mentioned earlier, and Tod’s loafers ($445).
Things I have learned: no guys like body care products or throw blankets. Just don’t do it. And one fool-proof gift? Not exactly exciting, but sure to suit just about anyone?
A gingham shirt ($64 — but 25% off today!). Fool-proof.