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The Best Birthday Gifts for Friends

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

There’s no one who knows you quite like a friend does. But even if you know their Yellowjackets-level secret or all about their fondness for fiddle-leaf figs, it can still be a challenge to find them a gift. You want something that seems like they’d own (but don’t) and somehow manages to be genuinely (and delightfully) surprising. We did the work for you — all of the picks below are from our archives, either written by or recommended to us. Read on for gifts for friends with all sorts of interests, including something for the one who’s the photographer of the group chat and the one who always knows whether Mercury’s in retrograde.

For the friend who fantasizes about owning a full matching Le Creuset set

If their pepper mill and cast-iron pan have to be the same color, this set comes in shades of “cassis,” “cerise,” and “Caribbean.” Chef Shimi Aaron tipped us to them, explaining that the “happy-looking shakers” will go with colorful Staub cocottes just as well as ones from Le Creuset.

For the friend who’s a World of Interiors subscriber

If Architectural Digest just doesn’t do it for them anymore, this might be the interior-design fix they’re looking for. The Atlas of Interior Design is one of our favorite recent releases in the coffee-table book sphere. “From minimalist Axel Vervoordt–designed mansions to maximalist, heavily wallpapered Bavarian dachas, there’s inspiration here for anyone whose love for interiors extends beyond Instagram,” writes Strategist writer Kat Gillespie.

For the friend who shares their green brownies (but not the recipe)

This looks just like any stove-top percolator at first glance. But it’s actually the most affordable cannabis infuser recommended to us by experts. Jeronimo De Miguel of gourmet cannabis restaurant Gusto Green uses it to make his ultra-low-dose cannabis oil (which he puts in his daily smoothie, too). The easy-to-clean infuser helps make a mean green compound butter, too.

For the friend who has a more-is-more approach to makeup

For their Euphoria-esque experiments, this drag-queen-approved cleansing balm will melt away their foundation, concealer, and all that glitter. Farrah Moan, who competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race twice (including All Stars), explains that there’s almost no way to get off all a drag queen’s makeup in one step, so she’s a double-cleanse devotee. The balm “annihilates makeup,” making the second wash so much easier.

For the friend who always knows whether Mercury’s in retrograde

This centennial version of classic Rider cards is the most popular deck by far, according to author and tarot-card reader Jerico Mandybur. It pays tribute to the original illustrator Pamela Colman Smith (who wasn’t credited for her work) and is especially useful for beginners, Mandybur adds.

For the friend who preordered To Paradise (and is almost finished)

From $13

To get through the last 100 pages of the latest 720-page novel from Hanya Yanagihara (of A Little Life fame), a few nocturnal reading sessions might be necessary. Writer Molly McGhee likes to do all her reading in bed — and this nightlight has been a “true game changer.” McGhee adds, “The amber hue keeps the blue-light blues at bay.” In our Strategist Secret Santa, senior editor Simone Kitchens gifted it to me — it’s now a nightstand essential for its sunsetish glow.

For the friend who’s outgrown Le Labo Santal 33

Photo: retailer

This Nemat oil has a much subtler scent compared to the woodsy muskiness of Santal 33. And there’s somewhat of a cult surrounding it, explains Strategist contributor Natalie Toren. Scent educator Tracy Wan tipped Toren to it, describing the roll-on as “pure sorcery” (it’s the smell that earns Wan the most compliments) with “a laundry scent” thanks to the white musk notes.

For the friend who’s a sweaty sleeper

A cooling weighted blanket does the double duty of reducing stress while keeping hot sleepers from burning up. Casper’s is one of the few highly giftable blankets out there — with a quilted design that won’t look out of place on a couch. It uses a cotton cover, instead of a traditional (and very warm) fleece.

For the friend who lives vicariously through Cheer

From $10

Senior Strategist editor Simone Kitchens, a former cheerleader herself, swears by these Soffe shorts — which are a worthy dupe for Patagonia Baggies or the Outdoor Voices Relay Short. Instead of triple-rolling the waistband like she did when she was a teen, she leaves them unrolled for a look best described as “less early-aughts thot, more Dazed and Confused.”

For the friend who’s perfecting their flower-pressing technique

Watering cans, shears, gardening clogs — the list of worthy gifts for gardeners is long. But you can’t plant a garden without some seeds, and we love the idea of giving a mix of packets that will grow into a lovely bouquet. And once those flowers have fully bloomed, the flower-pressing can begin.

For the friend who’s perfecting their handstand scorpion


The Manduka PROlite yoga mat was the most-mentioned mat among 13 yogis we talked to. Instructor Kyle Miller prefers to practice in all Manduka gear. “The Manduka mat is indulgent — it’s grippy, soft, and breaks in very well,” Miller says. So it’ll hold up despite their daily hour-long sessions.

For the friend who prefers Pilates to SoulCycle

Bala Bangles are “a far cry from their bulky Jazzercise-era counterparts,” explains our senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson. These bracelets will add a bit of resistance to aerobics and yoga exercises.

For the friend who traded their bike habit for skates

If they’re going through a Boogie Nights rewatch–induced phase, these affordable roller skates for beginners were recommended by two roller skaters, including Toni Bravo, who felt “like a star” the first time she stepped into them.

For the friend who’s over their Moleskine planner

The Hobonichi Techo is a longtime Strategist favorite — three staffers have used it for years to stay organized. The cult Japanese planner has a “hard-wearing cover, thin (but quality) pages for a slim profile, lie-flat opening, and compact size,” according to associate editor Louis Cheslaw.

For the friend whose home looks like a Hay store

Or just bookmarks Danish Design Store lounge chairs. This adorable bottle opener comes courtesy of Danish design house Georg Jensen (it counts the queen of Denmark as a client). Furniture designer Ben Kicic first found it at a friend’s house — “clearly it works as a conversation starter” — and plans on giving it to the next friend who moves.

For the friend who only travels with a personal item

So they don’t have to reach deep into their backpack: This fanny pack will keep their tickets and passport near. Our writer Dominique Pariso uses it for her essentials — not having to look for them is “a win for both me and my traveling companions.”

For the friend who even overstuffs their personal carry-on

There’s enough spare space in this classic Fjallraven, which is a favorite among Strategist staffers. Pariso compares the backpack to “Mary Poppins’s magic bag: You can fit way more stuff inside than seems humanly possible given its petite size.”

For the friend who can dance until 3 a.m.

Somehow, they’re always up for all-night clubbing adventures — even when the music stops and the hangover starts to set in. But when they’ve decided to take the night off, this candle “smells like slow-dancing in back rooms.” Candle influencer Kudzi Chikumbu (or @sircandleman to his followers) describes it as decadent and “definitely decorative — it’s the kind of candle you would want to have out.”

For the friend who’s the photographer of the group chat

Polaroid Go Instant Camera
From $90
From $90

This small but mighty Polaroid camera is a favorite of Strategist tech writer Jordan Bowman, who prefers it over Fujifilm’s Instax Mini. “It still has that winsome Polaroid look that we clamor for when using instant cameras. Using it taps into that nostalgia pleasure center of the brain,” he writes in his review.

For the friend who’s long-distance

The right ring light will give them a filtered glow that’ll look great whether they’re on official Zoom calls or unofficial FaceTime calls. We heard about it from our colleagues over at the Strategist UK, who noted that reviewers liked how illuminating it was.

For the friend with a ten-step grooming routine

If it takes ten steps and at least ten products to get their beard just right, a Topo Design toiletry kit is a necessity. The brand was name-checked three times in our guide to the best Dopp kits. This travel kit has “the triangular shape [that’s] deceptively roomy,” according to the Trevor Project’s creative director Thomas Pardee. Plus, Evan Shinn of Dewy Dudes points out that the loop handle can hang in places without counter-height surfaces.

For the friend who’s the designated cork popper

These “speakeasy-style” coupe glasses are a favorite of Kimberly Hunter, founder of Potent Pours. A coupe’s wider rim means she can “sip Champagne without fear of losing my bubbles.”

For the friend who thinks nightlights are too bright


This mask kept Strategist contributor (and skin-care guru) Rio Viera-Newton asleep until noon on a Saturday. She’s tried many sleep masks for some shut-eye, but this memory foam is a standout — it’s “thick, bouncy, and cushiony” and seals her eyes from any outside light.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Birthday Gifts for Friends