please advise

Ask Chris Black: What Are the Best Things You Bought in the 2010s?

Photo: Chris Chang

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or the handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) is here to help in the form of a regular column. If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line “Ask Chris” at

As we round the corner into 2020, I’m curious: what are the best thingsclothes, décor, gadgets — you bought in the last decade?
Look, the first half of this decade was … a little hazy for me, to say the least. BUT, I can list five products, across categories, that stood out to me as solid purchases.

The only luggage that matters. It looks great, holds more than you would think, and fits easily into the overhead compartment.

Lightweight, warm, water-resistant, packable. This versatile jacket can be worn solo or layered, making it a must-have in any place or situation.

So clean and minimal, it feels like the light is floating in the air. When I got it, I had been searching for the perfect lamp for a long time — who knew said lamp has been around since 1998?!

No logos, great fit, cheap enough to buy 20 new pairs a year. Perfection.

Kindle Paperwhite - 8GB

I fly a lot (I know I sound like an asshole), and the Kindle saves me. I made a rule that on any flight under three hours, I will read. No laptop, no bad plane movie. The lack of Wi-Fi allows me to focus in a way I truly cannot at home, and the Kindle can hold as many books as my heart desires. It’s relatively cheap, too — you lose it, buy another one, sign in, and all your books appear. Perfect!

I’m looking for a reasonably attractive yet functional bag to carry around a DSLR camera and a few small accessories. I’m not trying to look like a professional photographer, nor an excitable tourist going on safari. Any ideas?
Most camera bags are hideous, sadly putting function over style. As an amateur shutterbug, my Contax T2 doesn’t need that much protection. But a DSLR requires a bit more, especially when traveling.

I love the look of British brand Billingham’s bags. Its Hadley Pro bag would seemingly work well for your needs. Much like a Leica camera, the brand Billingham is favored by wealthy hobbyists, but its stuff looks great and will protect your gear. And, who knows, maybe that is the vibe you are going for!

Domke F-2

When I asked my dear friend, the acclaimed shutterbug Eric Chakeen, he suggested Domke. He prefers the F-2 style, which he says is hard-wearing. Stylistically, it’s a little more mellow than the Billingham bag, so real heads might appreciate this choice. Go forth and get the flicks, my friend!

Given your strong opinions on music, I assume you must have equally strong opinions on what you use to listen to it. So: what sorts of headphones, speakers, turntables, etc. do you use?
TBH … I don’t care at all. I listen to compressed MP3s like the rest of our doomed society. Vinyl is a bit laborious for me at my advanced age; plus, I chose to fetishize books. But, as a person who loves beautiful and functional things, I can make some recommendations.

At home, I use Sonos. I don’t love its interface (it’s ugly like Spotify), but the price and sound are right. If you live in a proper home, it’s nice to have multiple speakers throughout the house, and you can use them together or separately, so your son can listen to 100 Gecs in the privacy of his room while you listen to the new John Coltrane in the kitchen.

On the plane, I use the Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones in a simple all-black. Yes, I look like a consultant from Accenture schlepping to Boston, but they are the best product in their category for the price: the original, chic, over-ear headphone. They come with a case and really do block out the sound of the person next to me ugly crying to Love, Actually. As an alternative, I also like the MW65 from Master & Dynamic — they aren’t over-designed, and the sound is incredible.

I am a monster and pre-ordered the Apple AirPods Pro, but after using them for a bit, I am genuinely on the fence. The noise-canceling feature is too extreme for daily use (it might have given me vertigo?), but they sound good after some adjusting, and stay in my ear a bit better than the original version.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but for the gym, I want to try the Powerbeats Pro headphones. They don’t look cool, but they apparently stay secure when sweating profusely. I need my music loud and bassy when working out, and these seem like they’ll do the trick.

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.

Ask Chris: What Are the Best Things You Bought in the 2010s?