expert-approved gifts

Trend Forecasters on the Men’s Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out

Photo-Illustration: retailers

Even though the holidays are still a few months away, the trendiest of gifts won’t just sit on shelves until you’re ready to grab (or order) them. But in a year when we’ve all been mostly stuck at home — and not out in the world seeing what people are wearing or using or buying — it’s harder to know what, exactly, those must-have items even are. That’s where we come in.

Every year around this time, we call up trend forecasters to find out about the holiday gifts they predict will be the most popular for men and women. To help identify the gifts that discerning men will be buying (and asking for) this year, we spoke to a panel of forecasters: Lindsey Smecker, an analyst at ESP Trendlab; Noah Zagor, the North American menswear editor at WGSN; Brian Trunzo, fashion director at Informa Markets; Fashion Snoops menswear editor Jason Kress and men’s accessories editor Amelia Ansink; Sharon Graubard, the creative director at MintModa; and Hannah Polskin, a vice president at consumer, culture, and creativity think tank TOBETDG. Below, the men’s clothes and accessories, shoes, tech and gear, grooming and wellness products, and home and pantry goods they say to buy before they sell out.

Clothes and accessories

Perhaps not surprisingly, cold-weather basics and activewear with utilitarian details were repeatedly cited by the forecasters as the most covetable clothes among guys this year. Smecker says that utility vests with pockets for storing our new essentials like face masks and hand sanitizer are a particularly trendy item, as much for their “protective” qualities as their “dystopian aesthetic.” She specifically cites these two vests with plenty of pockets as standout options.

Photo: retailer

Polskin agrees that utility vests are rising in popularity “as the urban exodus takes hold and people choose the country over densely populated areas.” If you want to splurge on one, she directed us to the latest collaboration between Snow Peak (a brand we’ve heard a lot about from outdoorsy folks and other forecasters in the past) and New Balance, which she says is perfectly suited to the trend.

According to Trunzo, gorpcore — the now-standard term for wearing outdoors gear as fashion (that was originally coined by our former deputy editor Jason Chen) — is “relentless and will not go away.” At the top of the gorpcore pyramid, he says, are clothes from Patagonia and Arc’teryx. Zagor says guys remain committed to these brands because of the “quality of their goods and their ethical mission statements.” This year, he says Patagonia’s Retro X Fleece and Arc’teryx’s Rain Shell are each brand’s most popular item.

The importance of brands behaving sustainably was mentioned to us by every trend forecaster as something that male shoppers are looking for this year. A brand two of them say exemplifies this “buying less, but better” mentality is Pangaia, which Smecker describes as “an ethical, clean, and gender-neutral brand that is committed to circular fashion.” Its latest Forest collection — and this hoodie in particular — are sure to be a hit, says Smecker, because the clothes are “made up of organic greenery colors that are trending right now.” Polskin adds that the brand’s T-shirt “made from seaweed fiber” is also expected to be popular, as it’s made of a “smart fabric that’s easy on the planet.”

Over the past few years, Kress says that “the fisherman beanie has become the essential cold-weather accessory for men.” This year will be no different — except for the fact that sustainably made beanies will have the edge. Two such beanies she calls out are Everlane’s cashmere rib beanie and Patagonia’s recycled polyester beanie.

Based on the fact that its stock already had to be entirely replenished after just a week on shelves, J Press’s Shaggy Dog beanie — made from the same wool as its iconic Shaggy Dog sweater — may be the most covetable of all, according to Zagor. “It’s a wonderful gift that’s flying off shelves,” he says, adding that at one point, “almost every color was backordered.”

Photo: retailer

According to Kress, “the cardigan has made a major comeback this season, as ‘grandpacore’ continues to be a popular trend in the men’s world.” He says the just-right silhouette, pattern, and texture of this alpaca cardigan from menswear brand Trés Bien makes it something that won’t stay in stock for long. The fact that it’s only available in small and medium supports his prediction.

Photo: retailer

Both Trunzo and Zagor named Rowing Blazers as another ethical, sustainable fashion brand that, in Trunzo’s words, “truly understands the dynamic between being culturally relevant and consumer driven.” He says guys right now are most excited by the brand’s latest collaboration with Giles and George, “a British design duo who made cheeky sweaters that Princess Diana wore.” This sweater, which just hit shelves this week, is the first time a rerelease of Diana’s favorite style has been sanctioned. (The back says “Few Can Afford.”)

While Zagor admits that scarves are a “classic gift” every year, the best brands to buy do change from season to season. This year, he says scarves from Drake’s and Kapital are the ones to buy. “Drake’s does beautiful silk scarves with prints that come in limited numbers, and disappear quickly thanks to their cult following,” he says, suggesting the brand for a more sophisticated recipient. Kapital’s, meanwhile, will play better with the “rugged fashion enthusiast,” he says.

Photo: retailer

A splurge to be sure, Graubard says these cashmere sweats from Elder Statesman (a brand beloved by cool men and women for its cashmere) will be a hit among those WFH guys who don’t want to give up sweats but will appreciate a pair that “elevate the ubiquitous at-home look.” She adds that the already-buzzed-about pants are “100 percent cashmere, heirloom quality, and hand-crafted at the brand’s workshop in L.A.”

Photo: retailer

In addition to Rowing Blazers, Zagor says that Noah is also a brand that generates “a lot of hype and buzz and disappears fast.” In particular, “the bags and other things at lower price points never last,” he adds. To wit, four colors of this affordable Noah tote are out of stock — but the handsome red and navy colorways remain available (for now).


Footwear that suits an out-of-office lifestyle — be it outdoorsy shoes or house slippers — will be very in demand this year, according to the forecasters. Polskin says that “technical sneaker-boot hybrids will be topping every mountain man’s gift list,” with Kress specifically naming Outdoor Voices’ Moab hiking boot as an already-trending style. (This is supported by the fact that a few out-of-stock sizes have a wait list you can sign up for.) “Now that activities are moving outdoors and spending time in nature provides a needed outlet for many, boots like this have moved from pure utility to incorporating a more street-style edge,” she says.

Like scarves, house slippers are an ever-popular item, according to Trunzo and Zagor, who say that this year they’ll be even more in demand because of so many people working from home. But unlike scarves, Trunzo says the brands to buy don’t change as much. “North Face makes the absolute best house slipper — down-filled, with a nylon upper,” he says about these (which appeared on our 2019 list of men’s gifts to buy before they sell out).

Men who are all set with slippers may instead be clamoring for a pair of slightly more versatile house shoes. Slip-on mules are incredibly popular as a style right now, says Zagor, who notes that, like with slippers, the most covetable brand is one you’re probably familiar with. The house-shoe trend “all started with” Birkenstock, he says, and its Boston style remains “first in that category.”

Photo: retailer

Crocs clogs — which could be called the Birkenstock Boston’s squishier, fuglier (in a good way), more affordable cousin — will be similarly popular in the house-shoe category, says Zagor. (We suspected as much after the run on strawberry Crocs we saw over the summer.) Particularly, the brand’s faux-shearling-lined, tie-dyed pair, which he says never stay in stock for long.

Photo: retailer

Guys who run, Trunzo tells us, are particularly excited about Nike’s latest running shoe: the Air Zoom Tempo Next%. “It finally balances speed and comfort, after the previous Zoom Fly model was too unstructured and the Pegasus model was too clunky.” This new shoe, he says, builds on the technology of both the Zoom Fly and Pegasus shoes to make an “everyday runner that feels like a race shoe, looks great, and pairs well with any athleisure look.”

Tech and gear

This year, Trunzo says that wearable tech is “having a second life as guys are getting more mindful that they’re not as mobile and not getting the regular exercise they were when they commuted to work.” It’s for these reasons that he says the latest Fitbit and Apple Watch models will be a hit, because they’re from trusted brands and offer “an easy way to stay on top of your fitness and your sleep.”

Photo: retailer

While other speaker brands have eclipsed the once-ubiquitous Sonos in recent years, Zagor says the brand has recently pushed to set itself apart by “collaborating with cool people to make their goods more than something you just have in your house.” For instance, he says that its latest smart speaker “now comes with an added layer of hipness and awareness because it allows you to play radio stations that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard curated specifically for Sonos” (in addition to any other music you may want to stream, of course).

As guys wait for the new XBox and PS5 to come out (and as those systems’ preorder lists remain near impossible to join), Trunzo says that many gamers have been playing more handheld games on their iPhones. This product, which was recently added to the Apple webstore, makes gaming on an iPhone comparable to playing on a console, he explains, adding that guys who’ve used it tell him it’s “beautiful.” As for how it works: “It snaps in place on your iPhone and the format mimics design best practices from the Nintendo Switch, converting your iPhone into a true gaming device.”

For a more classic piece of technology, Zagor says that Timex’s retro reissue watches, released in partnership with Todd Snyder, “are a wonderful option that, at $200, is at a really great price point for a sophisticated watch.” (Though he admits that the most popular men’s watch right now is actually Tudor’s Black Bay 58, in Blue — but it’s impossible to find and costs $3,700.) If you’re worried a Timex x Todd Snyder watch might be too trendy, we should note that a watch from the collaboration made our list last year, suggesting an enduring appeal.

Grooming and wellness products

“As skin care is no longer just a female interest, but an act of self-care for all, the days of mens’ three-in-one products are gone,” Smecker says. Instead, guys are looking for specific things that have specific purposes, like the moisturizer, cleanser, and concealer in this kit from Stryx, which she calls “the perfect skin-care starter pack for men.” (The forecasters also told us about Faculty’s new line of nail polish for men, but its first product, a dark green color, is entirely sold out right now.)

Photo: retailer

Kress agrees that “the importance of taking care of your body from the inside out” has become more important for men, especially in this year of living and working (and working out) at home. He and Ansink told us that ASystem is a “betterment brand” doing particularly well — in addition to skin-care sets, it also offers “vitamins and supplements to help men feel their best.”

Home and pantry goods

When it comes to stuff for the home and kitchen, Kress says trendy guys who already have a reusable water bottle might be interested in upgrading to this “self-cleaning water bottle that eradicates bacteria and viral growth in a matter of 60 seconds.” Because male consumers are currently seeking “everyday items that merge with tech,” he says that “this bottle has proven to be a hit.”

For the most up-to-date mixologists, Polskin says “carbon-neutral” spirits-maker Air Company’s new sustainably made vodka will generate some “extra bar-cart pride” — not only for its environmentally friendly production, but also its beautiful, minimalist bottle.

Two forecasters told us that designer Benjamin Edgar, an early collaborator with fashion designer Virgil Abloh (of Off White and Louis Vuitton), is now making products that are sustainably minded and super-fashionable (including Boxed Water, the buzzy water brand Edgar started). Zagor says all of Edgar’s releases are “contemplative and thoughtful,” noting that a most-wanted item right now is the designer’s square-shaped, stainless-steel coffee cup.

With “all the cooking and baking done over the last few months,” Polskin says that there will be a big desire for “upgrading kitchen essentials” among culinarily inclined men (and women). She says this cooking set from Caraway is going to be a popular way to do that because it not only comes with two pots and two pans, but also “an in-cabinet organizer for all the lids for those pots and pans, tapping into the growing affinity for tidy spaces.”

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Trend Forecasters on Men’s Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out