please advise

Ask Chris Black: Can You Suggest Some Tasteful, Unique Groomsmen Gifts?

Photo: Jason Stewart

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

I’m getting married next year and want to get my groomsmen something unique and useful. Really trying to avoid the cliché gifts. Any suggestions?

Whatever you do, don’t get them a flask.

A monogrammed Hunter’s Tote Bag from L.L. Bean in olive would be useful and might last longer than your marriage! At less than $50 for the bag and monogram (which is $8 extra), this is an especially budget-friendly option for those ten-person groomsmen parties that are fast becoming de rigueur.

Maybe your boys like to RELAX. Get them a 100 percent organic, made-in-Portugal robe from Tekla. They come in a variety of colors, so you can match them to each of your groomsmen’s personalities. I am a “Stella Pink.”

A hand-rolled, made-in-Italy pocket square is a great gift. Sid Mashburn has tons of cool options, from the wild and eccentric (like this desert-rose paisley number), to the mild and understated (like a more subtle microdot print). Give accordingly. Mr Porter also has a nice selection of pocket squares at various (not too expensive) prices, from brands including Anderson & Sheppard, Gucci, and Lanvin.

A wedding presents an excellent opportunity to gift the members of your crew with the designer key chains they didn’t know they needed! Every time each groomsman goes to unlock his door, he will be reminded of your sacred nuptials. I am partial to this simple braided version from Bottega Veneta.

If you’re buying only for a best man, or one or two groomsmen, give one of my favorite (expensive) gifts: a bourgeois writing instrument. The Santos De Cartier pen is perfect. It’s well made, useful, and pricey enough to feel truly special. Hopefully, you aren’t paying for this wedding, so splurging a bit on your boys seems reasonable.

Is camo print still cool? If it has your blessing, what are some wintry things to buy that are doing the best camo prints these days?

Camo is a timeless neutral! The trendiness comes in waves, but in my not-so-humble opinion, it is a classic that never goes out of style. If you want to educate yourself on the subject, read the legendary Disruptive Pattern Material: An Encyclopedia of Camouflage; it is the Bible. But I am happy to make some suggestions …

Pants are the most natural first step. This pair of heavy-duty utilitarian cargo trousers from Carhartt WIP are easy to wear and have plenty of storage for your winter essentials. They’re cut in a cotton canvas, and the “Green Tree Camo” print is a nice twist on the standard camo patterns.

If you want to look like a rich guy who just hopped off his horse in Aspen (and honestly, who doesn’t?), then RRL has you covered with a more traditional pair of camo ripstop cargo pants.

Maybe you want to have that “I played a side stage at Lollapalooza in 1993” energy. This classic camo webbing belt from NYC–based Iggy will give your black Dickies a little spice. The buckle even has a hidden bottle opener on the back.

An M-65 Field Jacket should be in every man’s wardrobe. I like olive green, but a woodland-camo version is a no-brainer. Add a liner (which is now often worn on its own … fashion, baby!) for extra winter warmth.

If you are spending Christmas in Antarctica (or Alaska), then you need to buy this Arctic Shield Classic Elite Body Insulator Suit. You will look absolutely insane, but it will help you retain 90 percent of your body heat. Blend in while standing out!

You’ve directed us to worthy coffee-table books before, but I’m wondering what are some newer ones you think would make great gifts (for me, or, maybe, a friend or two)?

When Bruce Gilden was moving, he found hundreds of contact prints and negatives taken in New York between 1978 and 1984. Lost and Found compiles the best of them, no flash, high energy. New York at its best.

From $93

Handbags, a gigantic 600-page tome from my fave Juergen Teller, showcases all of his work with the titular subject over the years. Many famous faces appear in these iconic images: Cindy Sherman, Vivienne Westwood, Sofia Coppola, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, and Kate Moss. A must-have.

My favorite neighborhood gallery, Karma, published this excellent monograph from artist Matt Connors. It covers the last half-decade of his minimalist abstract paintings, plexiglass pieces, and etched-brass works and is really fun to look at.

Lastly, my old buddy Justin Chung recently published his second volume of his Faculty Department book. Filled with his photographs, the tome takes you inside the spaces of people who live simply but with excellent taste. I actually interviewed the artist Julian Klincewicz for this, but I would tell you to buy it anyway because it’s genuinely great.

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: Can You Suggest Some Tasteful Groomsmen Gifts?