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Ask Chris Black: What’s a Good Summer Hostess Gift (That Isn’t Rosé)?

Photo: Yimmy Yayo

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or 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? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve previously turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer both of those questions. For more of Chris’s advice, he’s now answering reader questions for us in 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

What’s a good gift to bring to hosts of the many summer barbecues I’ll surely attend over the next few months? I typically will just grab a bottle of wine for them en route, but am looking for things that will maybe seem a touch more thoughtful.

As a non-drinker, I am lost if prompted to pick up a bottle of 2018 Cape Route Cinsault on my way over to a summer BBQ. When in doubt, a beautiful bouquet of seasonally appropriate flowers is always a great host gift. But we should strive to be more adventurous and original.

Mike’s Hot Honey
From $12

If your host is a self-proclaimed epicurean, there are a lot of ways you can go. A bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey will be a fun addition to any condiment arsenal. It is a particular kind of subtle, sweet heat that works on everything from pizza to salad dressing.

Speaking of salad, nothing says summer like a big beautiful one served in an equally good-looking bowl. This solid cherry bowl would look at home on any table — and it can also hold bananas or oranges or your host’s matchbook collection. A multipurpose gift!

Or, if your organic-fruit-loving host is flirting with baking, they might appreciate a little help in the form of Dappled. The new cookbook from pastry queen Nicole Rucker, chef and co-owner of L.A.’s excellent Fiona, will surely give them some fun ideas. The Huckleberry Blondies sound particularly delicious.

Maybe your chic Hamptons hosts like to get a little competitive after a few gin-and-tonics. If so, this playing card set from Hermès (which includes two 54-card decks) will make you look like a star, and honestly, it’s priced well for something that comes in the iconic orange box.

If you are a spending a rustic weekend upstate, you should give your hosts a candle that will compliment all their reclaimed wood and antique Persian rugs. This “Country Home” scented candle from legendary perfumer Frédéric Malle will land perfectly. Notes of “hard-grained leather, sharp pine needle, cedar oil, styrax, and fir balsam” will make any nature lover’s nose happy.

I’m in the market for a straw summer hat, but I don’t want anything with too floppy a brim, or to look like a gondolier. What brands or styles would you suggest?

Any hat beside a simple baseball style scares me. In 2012, when guys I knew were wearing chapeaus that landed somewhere between “Soho cowboy cosplay” and “Indiana Jones lost below 14th Street,” I stayed away. But a well-made straw hat is a thing of beauty, especially if you are in Positano or Hvar. As long as the brim isn’t too floppy and the crown isn’t too high, you should be good no matter where you wear one.

It may be less traditional, but this grosgrain-trimmed straw Panama hat from Anderson & Sheppard would look great on or off the beach. Tread lightly though, you don’t want to look like a C-list celebrity in a Coachella gifting suite.

The Pedro from Stetson would sit nicely on your dome and keep the sun out of your eyes. It’s so classic that it doesn’t take panache, a cigar, or a boat to pull off.

My number-one pick, though, is the Fine Montecristi from Borsalino, a classic style from a trusted name. This would look great strolling to dinner at La Colombe d’Or on a balmy August evening. In the right setting, it’s sophisticated without being fussy.

How do you keep your T-shirts fresh? Do you use a steamer, or a specific iron and ironing board? Do you hang them on certain hangers? Do you use any other products to ensure they look perfectly crisp?

Ironing a T-shirt is … well … just insane. The beauty of my favorite humble garment is that it can take a beating. I, like most normal people, fold my T-shirts. But even though I spent my early 20s working in retail, I never really learned how to properly fold a T-shirt (I “specialized” more in footwear.) Once my T-shirt collection became overwhelming, I realized I needed to get my folding game on point. So I took to my beloved Amazon in search of a tool that could help me look less like a hoarder and more like a collector.

The shirt-folding board I bought looks like a deconstructed game of Connect 4, but it really works! This thing looks insane, but it comes with pretty clear instructions, and once you fold a few, you get the hang of it. It really gives you the perfect fold every time, and keeps your shirts looking crispy. Now I just need to use it more.

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’s a Good Summer Host Gift (That Isn’t Rosé)?