Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening — is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year? — but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes to find out exactly what to get that golf dad, teacher, or expecting mom in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or at least a very helpful starting point.
Men can be hard to shop for, and buying a gift for a boyfriend or husband presents all sorts of challenges. Do you get something safe that you know he’ll use (like a new fleece), or do you go for something a little more niche that shows you were listening that one time he said, “I want to start making pizza” (like a Baking Steel sheet)? To find the best gifts for boyfriends and husbands, we spoke to four of them (plus one wife) about the gifts they want, and the gifts they have loved in the past. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.
It looks strange, but techies love the Raspberry Pi, a customizable, open-source computer system designed to help people learn and practice basic computer coding. “I feel like it does the same thing for me that Legos do for my nephew,” says Dan Sterba, a data analyst whose wife, Nina, bought him a Raspberry Pi a few years ago. He likes that it lets him build something from scratch and figure out how it works. “The first thing I made was a Super Nintendo emulator. Then I set something up to turn the lights on and off …Now I’m getting into smart-home stuff … ” [Editor’s note: This is just the computer itself; you will need to get a keyboard, mouse, and monitor to go with it.]
If you know he’d enjoy some Super Nintendo nostalgia, but might not necessarily want to build his own system.
Former professional chef (and current home chef) Anubhav Bhargava thinks a sous vide immersion circulator would be a great gift for any home cook looking to step up their game. He recommends the ChefSteps Joule, which Grub Street editor Alan Sytsma likes, too.
This is basically “a really intense pizza stone,” says Bhargava. Home pizza chefs love it because the steel gets super hot, which is essential for getting a crispy crust in a conventional oven.
“I know people are all about Instant Pots, but I love a good pressure cooker,” says Sterba, who already has this one, but thinks it would make a great gift. “It’s cheap, has great reviews, and has never done me wrong.” He likes that it’s low-tech, simple, and saves energy. “For some reason I just don’t trust the Instant Pot.”
Sterba will probably be upset to see this here, but plenty of people do trust the Instant Pot (29,908 five-star reviews and counting), so we had to include it here. The Instant Pot is ideal for cooking so many things, including stereotypical “man foods” like chili, stews, and pot roasts.
Strategist writer Maxine Builder loves her Thermapen Mk4. She says that “$99 is, objectively, a lot of money to spend on a thermometer, especially since you can find dozens of similar-looking thermometers on Amazon for a fraction of the price. But placing the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 in the same category as all of those other digital thermometers is like saying a Ferrari is just another car.”
The Thermapen is almost something that needs to be gifted — it’s one of those splurgey-but-worth-it items that feels “indulgent” if you’re shopping for yourself, but “generous” if you’re shopping for someone else. It’s perfect for grilling, sautéing, baking — everything, really.
While we’re on the subject of accurate temperature readings … the Stagg EKG Variable Temperature Electric Kettle is a Strategist favorite, and it’s on Jordan Sanchez’s wish list. Sanchez takes his coffee seriously — he’s a barista at Blue Bottle — so the precise temperature-control dial and the built-in timer are “must have” features. The fast heating is a big draw, too. Sanchez always wants to make coffee in the morning, but between him and his wife rushing out to work and everything else, he doesn’t have time to wait for their stovetop kettle to heat up.
The Chemex is the definitive pour-over coffee maker, and it’s the perfect gift for anyone dipping their toes into the water of coffee nerd-dom. It might take a little practice to get comfortable using a Chemex, but coffee purists swear by it (Sanchez uses one at home and at work).
Sanchez has a full beard, and while he’s been okay using a regular trimmer to clean up the edges, he wants to start using a straight razor like the one his barber uses: “It’s just cleaner. So I can line everything up and shape it without worrying about having to go another round with the clip.” He likes this razor from Feather, a Japanese company known for making some of the sharpest blades around.
If, however, you have seen your boyfriend or husband shave and think adding a straight razor to the equation maybe isn’t the best idea, you’re probably right. Perhaps an electric beard trimmer would be a better idea. They’re much easier to use, and this Strategist favorite is a great option.
Or, if your boyfriend or husband is growing out a beard (or if you want to not-so-subtly encourage him to grow one), consider this Deluxe Beard Grooming Kit from Zeus. It has everything a beard might need: beard oil, beard conditioner, beard wash, and a beard brush.
And finally, something for the more traditional shavers. Founded in 1908, Italian company Proraso has a wide range of shaving products, but they’re best-known for their “Refreshing and Toning” line featuring menthol and eucalyptus. This set has all the classics: pre-shave balm, shaving cream, and aftershave lotion.
Sometimes a guy knows exactly what he likes. Sanchez has gone through two bottles of this already, and now he’s near the bottom of his third. “It smells like a really nice bar,” says Sanchez. “Like cigars and cocktails, but with some floral notes, too.”
And if he doesn’t know exactly what he likes, this set from Le Labo would be a good place to start. It has five of their most popular fragrances: Santal 33, Rose 31, Bergamote 22, Neroli 36 and Thé Noir 33.
As far as clothing goes, it all comes down to fit and comfort. “I have a long torso, and these are the only shirts I’ve found that fit me,” says Sterba. The length is just right for him to wear it either tucked or untucked.
You can never go wrong with a nice fleece, either. Strategist newsletter editor Mia Leimkuhler knows her husband Bruce would love one, but she wants to find something “not too outdoorsy.” Something good for hiking and walking the dog, but stylish enough to wear to work or a nice dinner without looking full-on gorpcore. We really like this one from Everlane. It has the crunchy, 1970s, high-pile fleece look of a Patagonia, but in a slim, clean, minimalist design.
Most guys would love a pair of fancy sweatpants, but something about buying them for yourself feels wrong. (That’s why they make perfect gifts). With the tapered legs and vintage details, these are polished enough to wear around town, but still cozy enough for the house.
Wool socks are all about cold-weather comfort. They’re a bit of a holiday gift cliché, but they’re a cliché for a reason. Almost every guy we spoke with mentioned wool socks as a good option. Sterba, in particular, is a fan: “I remember one time someone got me a bunch of these wool socks — like six pairs — and it was the best winter ever.”
A warm scarf always comes in handy, and it makes an easy gift because you don’t have to worry about sizing. “I love this scarf, but I’ve already lost two of them so I can’t buy another,” says Roberto Ferdman, correspondent at VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Most men could use a wallet upgrade. Leimkuhler is on the lookout for a new one for her husband: “His wallet is falling apart!” She says he has had the same black leather wallet for years, but the stitching is coming undone and the leather is completely worn through in some places. He’d like this bifold from Tanner Goods. It’s made with thick leather and sturdy stitching, but somehow still manages to look sleek and minimal.
A favorite of Strategist deputy editor Jason Chen, the Makr Work Tote is handsome, well-made, and adaptable. Chen writes that while the Makr is expensive, “consider the rarity of a tote that does triple duty as weekender, grocery bag, and gym bag.”
Are houseplant holiday gifts a thing yet? If not, they definitely should be. Ferdman likes the look of large floor plants. “I have a lot of plants and honestly, they’re kind of like tattoos — you can only go so long before you start wondering what it would be like to get another.”