gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Teenage Boys, According to Teenage Boys

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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As opinionated as teenage boys are, they can be a bit hard to read. To get an insight into their tastes and find the coolest gifts for this particularly tough crowd, we asked over a dozen teenage boys about the things they’d love to receive. We’ve made something of a habit of polling teens, so we dug into those archives, too, highlighting the coolest loungewear and room décor. For the clout-obsessed teen, we included Ben Simmons’s favorite hoodie and more things Gen-Z-approved celebrities can’t live without.

Since we know every teen boy is different, we tried to think about every possible scenario — from the gamer who wants to gear up his bedroom-lighting setup to the athlete who could use a massager on the go. You can use the table of contents to navigate to the category you think will best speak to your teenager. (And if you’ve got an adolescent girl in your life, be sure to check out our list of gifts for teenage girls too.)

Music gifts for teenage boys

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
$90
$90

Bluetooth speakers are a go-to gift for teen boys, and this one’s our best overall pick. It has excellent battery life and easy-to-use (and quite iconic) buttons, and it’s durable. Former Strategist writer Jordan Bowman says it “survived enough drops and falls to be in a John Wick movie,” so we’re sure it can handle anything a teen boy can throw at it.

A slightly less expensive option is this JBL mini speaker. It may not get as loud as the above, but it’s even more portable and also pretty durable. The clip design makes it easy to attach to backpacks and bike baskets, which is why it’s our favorite portable speaker.

Alternatively, headphones work just as well (and his parents might thank you). These over-ear headphones come recommended to us by rapper Tyla Yaweh. He’s no longer a teen — but his parents gifted him Beats when he was one. As Yaweh says, “There’s nothing better.”

Wireless headphones have been a most-wished-for item over the years, and our most recent teen poll shows their popularity hasn’t faltered. The AirPods Pro are about $100 more expensive than the standard AirPods, and both have wireless charging cases. The main difference between them is that the Pros have a better battery life and active noise cancellation. And while that may seem like a great selling point, some teens have told us they actually prefer the slightly older AirPods because they’re more compact.

Unlike AirPods, these are designed with sports and activity in mind. They might be a better choice for athletes who like to listen to music while running or working out. If you need a bit more convincing, Washington Wizards basketball player Kyle Kuzma told us he “can’t get into game mode without them.”

Record players have consistently topped teens’ wish lists for years. So we’ve found two options to suit different tastes. The Victrola player above is an inexpensive, all-in-one-style record player with built-in speakers. If they’re more of an audiophile, go with the Audio-Technica. It definitely is a price jump from the Victrola, but it’s actually on the more affordable side when it comes to more serious turntables. Plus it’s our best overall pick because it’s fully automatic and produces excellent sound quality.

This Yamaha is excellent for the budding pianist because it has 76 keys (versus the 61 common on beginner keyboards) and modes that are helpful for learning, like “Touch Tutor.” Plus this model comes with almost everything you need — the keyboard, a stand, and an adjustable padded bench.

If he’s more interested in picking up the guitar, this was recommended as the best less expensive full-size acoustic guitar for beginners. It’s a really basic, simple-sounding acoustic guitar that’s sturdy and nice.

And if he’s an aspiring DJ, we’re sure he’d love this controller that’s easy, small, and musician approved. Compared with other DJ equipment on the market, it’s very reasonably priced and has everything he’ll need to learn the basics.

Gadget gifts for teenage boys

These strip lights were brought up in our 2021 teen poll as a fun alternative to conventional lighting. The lights connect to Google Assistant so they can be turned on through voice command — convenient for the gamers and streamer teens in your life too. They definitely up the vibe.

$24

In our latest teen poll, sunset lamps were a popular buy after respondents saw them all over TikTok. If your teen doesn’t own one already, consider this highly rated option that’s portable and can shine in 16 different colors.

Roku Streaming Stick+ (2021)
$39
$39

We’re big fans of Roku’s smart devices, which allow any television to stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and more. This allows him to binge-watch his favorite shows without having to stream from his laptop or phone.

Photo: Crunchyroll

On the topic of streaming services, the teen anime fan will likely appreciate a subscription to Crunchyroll. It distributes popular anime shows such as One Piece, Attack on Titan, and Mob Psycho. Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang gifted a subscription to her now-13-year-old nephew last Christmas and says, “It’s been a big hit.”

Photo: Retailer

Cameo is a service through which users can choose from hundreds of notable figures, any of whom will record a 30-second custom video message of their choice, for a fee. If you know the teen in your life has a celebrity or athlete they idolize, consider gifting a message from them.

Sports gifts for teenage boys

If your teen is a loyal sports fan, a baseball hat is an easy way to show their support. While it’s up to you to find out which team your teen boy loves — it shouldn’t be too hard — you should stick with a ’47 hat. They’re good quality, and the brand makes hats for NBA, NHL, NFL, and college teams too. You can find some of the brand’s hats at bigger retailers like Urban Outfitters, but for the full range, you’ll want to browse its website.

From $23

If he’s an athlete himself, he’ll appreciate an actually good basketball. The classic brand Spalding makes an indoor-outdoor basketball (meaning it is suitable for any ground, whether it be concrete or a gym floor), so he can use it pretty much anywhere. And if he already owns a good ball, you could always spring for an outdoor hoop or over-the-door hoop, depending on whether you have driveway space.

Powell Peralta Skateboard
$65
$65

This skateboard was recommended to us by experts who say it’s the best for beginners who want to do tricks. We suggest throwing in some protective gear and a helmet for good measure.

$275

If they’re the kind of sports fan that tends to go to games, a Yeti cooler will come in handy for tailgating. (To be clear: tailgating is the umbrella term for hanging out in the parking lot before a game starts and does not require alcohol.) It is a splurge, but as we’ve said before, there’s really nothing more heavy-duty and durable than a Yeti cooler. There are lots of sizes to choose from, but if the cooler will be kept in the trunk and need to satisfy an entire carload of teen boys, we suggest the Tundra 35 hard cooler. It’s compact enough to transport but big enough to carry drinks and food for five or more teens.

Not as expensive as the cooler but just as useful is Yeti’s water bottle. It’s easy enough to bring to sports practices and carry around the house. Everyone from New York Magazine writers to celebrities love it for being so well insulated, dent-proof, and status-y.

$67

If the teenage boy you’re shopping for has a yard at home or lives close to a park, SpikeBall is a popular, fast-paced game he’ll appreciate. It follows a simple set of rules: there are two teams, and every player on each team must touch the ball before it returns to the net, never letting it touch the ground. If they don’t, the other team takes a point. First to 21 wins!

Any teen athlete would appreciate the comfort of a foot massager, and this one’s one of our favorite under-$100 options. The Shiatsu-style massager has heat settings and is a lot less bulky than other foot ones for easy storage.

Slightly more expensive is this Theragun, which is beloved by massage therapists, trainers, and one of our own writers. While it is more of a splurge, it’s a great investment, especially if the teen in your life is an athlete. Columnist Rio Viera-Newton was told by her physical therapist it’s “the very best at-home muscle-relief tools money can buy.”

Gaming gifts for teenage boys

A headset is a necessity for all types of gaming, and this one’s versatile enough to work wirelessly for Switch, PS4, PC, and Android phones. It comes recommended by Emily Heller, a recommendations editor at Vulture and a gamer herself, as a great affordable gaming-headset option.

$55

If they prefer gaming on a computer, consider gifting this mouse that comes recommended by Kyle F., a tech TikToker and gamer. He says it’s “pretty well known in the gaming community because of how light it is.” He prefers the wired mouse over the wireless option because “they aren’t nearly as good, and besides, a wireless mouse is always somewhat of a risk since it uses batteries, which can be heavy, and you risk them dying in the middle of a game.”

From our years of reporting this story, new gaming consoles like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One X always come out on top of wish lists. But stock tends to fluctuate — especially during the holidays — and they’re just plain expensive. For something that’s a third of the price and likely in stock, the Backbone One was recommended as an excellent gift for the gamer in your life. It turns gaming on iPhones “into a first-class experience that can follow me nearly anywhere,” says our technology writer Jordan McMahon. As long as he has an iPhone capable of running iOS 13, setup is simple, and it doesn’t require a Bluetooth connection to work.

While more pricey, the more avid gamer might appreciate Oculus’s latest VR gaming device. It has 50 percent more pixels than the original, and it’s an all-in-one wireless system, so he won’t have to deal with a separate console. The headset gives you access to VR Chat, movies, and the entire Quest content library, which includes games such as Jurassic World Aftermath, Warhammer 40,000, and The Walking Dead.

The Nintendo Switch was one of the the hottest consoles during the pandemic, and it was the best console for IRL socializing, according to our most recent teen poll. (Plus it’s a good alternative to the harder-to-get PS5 and Xbox Series X.)

For $100 less, you can gift the Nintendo Switch Lite. It’s smaller and more portable but is handheld only. It’s likely better (and more cost effective) if he doesn’t have a TV in his room or prefers gaming on-the-go.

Far easier to buy than gaming consoles are games, and there are endless options to choose from. If he has a Switch, consider buying him Mario Kart. It was frequently mentioned in our teen poll for being a great party game.

Last year, two teens told us they were excited about the latest Call of Duty (which at the time was Black Ops Cold War). Modern Warfare II is the newest addition to the franchise’s lineup. It was released at the end of this October, so we suggest snagging one for the teen gamer in your life if they haven’t already bought it for themselves. It’s available for Xbox One, PS4, and PS5.

This might not be the newest game, but judging by everything else trending among Gen Z, what’s old is newly cool again. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is still one of singer Bryson Tiller’s favorite games. Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, he said he didn’t get to see much, but “in GTA, I got to see cities like Los Angeles, Miami, and New York for the first time.”

Clothing and accessory gifts for teenage boys

Champion Life Pullover Hoodie
From $45
From $45

Even if he already has a hoodie, he’ll appreciate another one. Champion’s are substantial, warm, and have the right roomy fit. There are plenty of colors to choose from, and we recommend checking both retailers for availability.

One reliable way to impress a teen: Gift them something their favorite athlete or celebrity loves and uses. This sweatshirt from a Todd Snyder and Champion collab is a favorite of NBA player Ben Simmons. “I love Todd Snyder’s style — everything is clean-looking and fresh,” he says. “I own a bunch of jackets and sweaters and sweatshirts from him. I wear this hoodie every week.” Because Todd Snyder is a rather pricey brand especially for a teen, he might appreciate a gift card to spend on whatever catches his eye.

From $26

Sweatpants make a great stand-alone gift, or you can buy them with any of the hoodies above so your teen has a whole set. Under Armour is a popular clothing brand among teens, and these stretchy, breathable sweatpants come in a wide variety of colors and are available in both regular and tall sizes.

Adidas is another perennial teen favorite. For a sportier style, consider these training pants with the iconic three stripes down the leg. Go with the classic black-and-white option or consider branching out with any of the other color combinations.

A less-expensive (but still nice-looking) gift for the athletic teen are a pack of these Stance socks. They came up when we asked students about their most coveted back-to-school items, and they’ve been recommended to us by runners and athletes time and time again for their stretch and snug fit.

If the teen in your life is a runner, try introducing them to some new, cool running gear. Instead of jumping straight to old reliables like Nike or Lululemon, which ups your chances of buying something everyone on the cross-country team probably owns too, try lesser-known brand Ten Thousand. Each of its items is tested by athletes for performance. And to save you from having to sift through endless options, the brand offers prechosen “kits” for activities such as running, fall training, outdoor adventures, or HIIT workouts, taking the guesswork out of what pieces would best suit your teen. You can even customize them: For the run kit, for example, you can pick a T-shirt or tank in six colors and either five- or seven-inch shorts with or without a liner.

From $57

If he’s all good on athletic clothing, these Hoka slides are a big upgrade from Crocs. According to Timothy Grindle, co-founder of Canoe Club, they feel like walking on clouds, and Strategist contributor Chris Black says they’re great for recovering after workouts.

For a safe but still fashionable option, H&M was a top retailer in our most recent teen survey for good-quality, affordable basics. We suggest gifting either a nice Oxford shirt or a pack of slim-fit tees.

Sneakers are really popular among teenage boys, and Vans are a classic choice that likely won’t fall out of style anytime soon. If that isn’t convincing enough, you should know that Chris Black and model Anwar Hadid (the brother to Bella and Gigi) are big fans of the brand.

We like these Nike Huaraches because they’re a slightly less ubiquitous alternative to another teen favorite, Nike Air Force 1’s. And they come in lots of fun colorways as well as more neutral black or white.

But there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the classics. There’s a reason why these consistently show up on teen polls year after year: They’re comfortable, versatile, and pretty affordable for stylish sneakers.

Not only are these Allbirds sustainably made, but they’re machine washable, too, so they’ll likely last longer than other sneakers. They have a variety of styles, and these ones are made to withstand cold and wet weather.

A new wallet, in theory, would make a great gift for a teen, but it may not be super-practical since they’re likely to lose it. When we asked Strategist associate editor (and menswear expert) Louis Cheslaw which wallet he would suggest for a teen boy, he pointed us to this Ben Sherman one that would work for a college-age boy just looking for somewhere to safely store his school ID, driver’s license, and maybe a credit card or two. “Until he’s ready for his office-appropriate Paul Smith wallet,” Cheslaw thinks this one is well made, nice looking, and relatively cheap. It has “lots of slot options, including a clear center one,” so it’s sure to hold everything he needs.

If he needs to replace his worn-out Jansport, we suggest the stylish Fjällräven backpack. It’s dirt and water resistant, too, so it can handle anything your teen might throw at it. Strategist writer Lauren Ro has one herself that’s lasted six years of daily commutes and many vacations.