holiday gifts 2022

The Best Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out, According to Trend Forecasters

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Here at the Strategist, it’s become an annual tradition to talk to experts to uncover the hottest items of the holiday season, before they sell out — think of it as a more deductive approach to our “Don’t Dillydally” series (and note that our predictions about what’s most likely to fly off shelves are usually right on the money). Last year, when we asked trend forecasters about what was in demand, the most covetable “It” items included highbrow-lowbrow collabs like Fendi x Skims, bubble clogs from Simon Miller, and bright balaclavas as seen in the lookbooks of Marine Serre and Miu Miu. The general consensus was that we were moving away from staying in and toward going out.

And that’s even more true this year. The vibe in 2022 is all “show up and show out,” according to Melissa Moylan, vice-president of womenswear at Fashion Snoops, with “dopamine dressing” (think over-the-top ensembles) as a theme. And there’s definite nostalgia wrapped up in what’s popular — from ankle-baring UGGs to mocking (not monogrammed) L.L.Bean Boat and Totes. According to Jessica Richards, founder of trend-forecasting firm JMR Trend + Creative, a newfound sense of normalcy after so much pandemic disruption has created “a deep desire to feel unique, to own things that feel personal and special.” (In other words, a basic candle isn’t going to cut it.) The gifts we heard about are meant to feel slightly more one-of-a-kind — so you’ll be able to avoid the dreaded “gifting the same thing as someone else” scenario. Read on for our panel of trend forecasters’ top gifts for 2022. Just make sure not to procrastinate, as they are all selling fast.

Practical puffers …

One of last year’s viral hits, Free People’s Hit the Slopes Fleece Jacket (which had a heavy presence on TikTok in ads and dupe videos) has made way for the Pippa Packable Puffer, another outerwear option from the brand. Billed as Free People’s “first-ever performance puffer” and boasting quilted insulation to keep the wearer warm, it’s designed to fold into its own pocket and doubles as a travel pillow. But the “inherent feeling of security” of stay-at-home styles from the past couple years “is not something we’ll see a total departure from,” Moylan says. So, in this case, you won’t have to choose between form and function. Plus, this puffer comes in much more unexpected hues (like passionfruit and highlighter) than the standard Super Puff.

… And (less-practical) partywear

There’s a “pent-up desire for partying,” says Sharon Graubard, founder of online fashion-forecasting service MintModa, explaining that it’s driving a lot of statement-making styles. Moylan adds that after two years where “consumers didn’t make much differentiation in their wardrobe as far as what to wear from day to night,” times are a-changing as the pandemic evolves — and that’s probably best illustrated by the return of the going-out top. It’s an easy piece to incorporate, and can be thrown over cargos or peek out from under a jacket, Graubard says. While Moylan jokes that tops with bedazzled butterflies are probably better left to the Gen-Z crowd, she points to Cult Gaia’s best-selling Joey, with its a skin-baring back and ultrahigh neck, as a sexy style that will fetch the approval of the Y2K revivalists but is elevated enough for older generations too. (You can also get it covered in feathers.)

As a companion to the going-out top, eye-catching earrings are making a comeback, explains Graubard. And Richards notes that “in jewelry now, the most-sought-after silhouettes are outrageously oversized” and “lean into the eccentric.” This pair are one of Graubard’s favorite examples. The upside-down calla lilies are long enough to be considered “shoulder dusters,” plus they speak to a “renewed interest in pearls” (more on that later).

Full-on Pretty in Pink

Fuchsia is enjoying a major resurgence because of Valentino’s Pink PP collection (which came on the heels of Maison Schiaparelli’s shocking pink). The luxury label’s line was a fixture of the red carpet throughout 2022 (as seen on Anne Hathaway and Lizzo), and helped kick-start the subsequent interest in all things Barbiecore (along with Greta Gerwig’s upcoming star-studded production). Moylan connects this “major fuchsia moment” to the “dopamine dressing” mentioned above, as the shade is meant to be happy (and has its own “message of empowerment”). And this Zara sweater is a safe bet with an affordable under-$50 price tag that Moylan recommends. “The color alone gives ‘main character’ energy,” she says.

Haute “ugly” Christmas sweaters

There’s been a movement to make the traditional ugly Christmas sweater not quite so ugly, according to Michael Fisher, creative director of menswear at Fashion Snoops, and Jason Kress, men’s senior strategist at Fashion Snoops. It’s “obviously a perennial part of the holidays,” but from what Fisher has seen, shoppers want their sweaters to have a “little more high-fashion attitude,” even when worn ironically. Kress specifically pointed to the signature “argyle” sweater (in hot pink, of course) of London-based designer Stefan Cooke (a Central Saint Martins alum) that features “cleverly placed cut-outs instead of an actual pattern,” as well as Acne Studios’ take on Fair Isle with its logo in sunset hues.

Not-so-stuffy cashmere

If you’re a regular Strategist reader, you might remember that we included Gigi Hadid’s knitwear label Guest in Residence in a previous Don’t Dillydally. Hadid serves as creative director of the company, which promises its knits are “future heirlooms.” Patricia Maeda, director of womenswear at Fashion Snoops, mentioned the brand as a chance at more affordable luxury — it’s a competitor to labels like Naadam and J.Crew, with colorful offerings like a ski-themed polo and even a unisex button-down. This oversize hoodie even comes in hues of “cherry” and “lime.”

Underwear as outerwear (again)

This isn’t so surprising considering the corsets and bralettes seen on the streets now. But there’s still something subversive about seeing undergarments (literally) hanging out. And one such example is this boxer pant from noted sock-maker Comme Si. Maeda says putting on boxers as shorts really rose in popularity last summer, as seen with this version from Hommegirls. (Even former Strategist writer Chloe Anello has sported J.Crew’s around.) So, for this fall-winter season, boxers just got longer. Maeda describes these as a “sartorial alternative to the pajama pant” and a more unexpected gift than “season-appropriate flannel.”

Hanes Boys’ White Tanks, 5-Pack
$10 for 5
$10 for 5

“Hear us out” is how Moylan defended her suggestion of gifting undershirts, citing the rise of ribbed tanks this year that’s been attributed to Bottega Veneta and Prada. The latter’s logoed $995 top even made it onto the Lyst Index, a quarterly report of the hottest products during the year, taking the third spot for Q3 behind Miu Miu ballerina flats and Birkenstock’s Boston clogs. Tanks (like these from the Hanes’ little boys’ section) aren’t “what we traditionally think of as a fashion item,” but somehow they’re “fresh and modern in the midst of Gen Z’s obsession with all things glimmering Y2K,” Moylan explains. Get yourself a five-pack and add a Prada pin if you’re so inclined. You can also rest assured that Strategist writer Dominique Pariso, model Paloma Elsesser, and singer Maggie Rogers are all well-established fans.

Since we first started reporting on the trendiest gifts, Kim Kardashian’s Skims has come up again and again — specifically for its loungewear. But this year, the brand’s dresses are a hot-ticket item, according to Maeda. Each of Skims’ launches is highly anticipated, and its viral Soft Lounge Dress (which is sold out in many of its limited-edition colors) has been rereleased in different versions, including the one shown here with long sleeves and another with a dramatic racerback. “They satisfy the urge to get out of ‘pandemic-dressing mode’” while still being comfortable, Maeda says.

Y2K’s revenge

Three experts referenced the current UGG renaissance: Ana Correa, footwear and accessories editor at WGSN; Marian Park, a trend forecaster and strategist; and Lindsey Smecker, CEO at ESP Trendlab. “UGG has been successfully creating ‘It’ factor footwear for a while now,” according to Park, adding that its Fluff Yeah slipper has been a recent hit. The company’s Ultra Mini is another success story, with Kylie Jenner sporting the (hard-to-find) platformed edition, and Bella Hadid seen snacking on a slice of pizza while wearing them. “It’s almost as if the very sloppiness or undressiness of UGGs that we associate the brand with is trending itself,” Park explains. And you can’t count out the sentimentality of the style: The younger crowd is obsessed with “Juicy Couture–esque outfitting,” says Park, and the playful platform fits right in. As an alternative, this un-platformed pair is still available in most sizes, and comes in hues like carnation and emerald. Smecker also suggests Mou Glaciers for a similar look.

Geriatric-millennial clogs,” as we called them when they made this list last year, are still going strong.  But if there’s one style that tops them all in 2022, it’s the Birkenstock Bostons. An entire resale market has emerged for the Bostons, which are regularly out of stock, says Amelia Ansink, senior strategist of accessories at Fashion Snoops. These are at their peak of virality now, but Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo (who happens to be a former GQ staffer) says that “previously, the low-profile slip-ons had mostly been seen on the type of menswear enthusiasts who listen to Throwing Fits and endlessly debate the nuances of Dickies versus Stan Ray painter pants.” You might think it’s all hype, but the Bostons also have the approval of the Cut’s senior fashion writer Emilia Petrarca: “I would wear them to bed if I could,” she writes. This “oiled leather” version is still in stock, or you could go for Corsillo’s preferred alternative, the Birkenstock Tokios, as seen on The Bear’s Carmy and Sydney.

Frankensteinian (and sustainable) footwear

Anush Mirbegian, director of accessories at Fashion Snoops, has spied lots of voluptuousness happening in accessories at the moment — with recent runway shows showing “an overtop amount” of exaggeration. That extends to shoes, where she’s taken particular notice of a trending collaboration between indie label Collina Strada and shoe brand Melissa. These dramatic jelly sandals, which look almost as if they’re melting, are designed to be completely recyclable. Mirbegian describes them as “strange and strangely practical,” with a “comforting tubular volume.”

London-based fashion futurist Geraldine Wharry mentioned Virón and Camperlab (part of Camper) as two footwear-makers focused on “fashion circularity,” an admirable concept that is drawing more and more interest. Their designs are definitely on the edgier side, so they’re sure to please a hypebeast. Virón creates its wares in Portugal, Wharry explains, “one of the global hearts of footwear production and innovation.” She adds that “their boots, to me, are the sell-out item,” specifically this “unique, playful, practical” pair called the Paradigm Lime. The chunky Chelsea features a neon-green sole, made from apple waste and recycled rubber. (A delightful fact from Wharry: Gaten Matarazzo of Stranger Things wore the brand during an interview.) And the Tossu sneaker is another one of her picks. The kicks debuted in September — named after a Finnish slang word for “slipper” — and were made with a zero-waste approach in Spain. These can be recycled, too, once their better days are over.

Rogue totes

In the bag-scape, the likes of Gucci and Dior have taken a back seat to L.L.Bean. Smecker and Correa name-checked the brand’s Boat and Tote, which has become more witty than WASP-y since its debut in 1944, as the New York Times and the Cut both chronicled back in August. Smecker thinks the publicity is — in part — because of the shift away from microbags (like Jacquemus). And Correa highlights the power of the Instagram account @ironicboatandtote — run by 26-year-old New Yorker Gracie Wiener — which helped the bag earn the distinction of being a “hot girl” item on social media. L.L.Bean even collaborated with Wiener on a limited-edition collection that promptly sold out (a robe and pajama set are still sort of in stock). Though you really can’t go wrong with a classic customized zip-top or open-top, Correa echoes Richards’s earlier sentiments and says more irreverent options are “more in tune to someone’s personality and humor than just their name.”

Balletcore basics

Ballet flats are back — whether you want them to be or not. Ansink says the style was long overdue for a comeback, with Sandy Liang’s now practically sold-out Mary Janes and Miu Miu’s ballerinas making the rounds on social media. But Maison Margiela’s version “subverts the traditional aspects of the feminine shoe,” according to Ansink. Tabi-style shoes, which originated in Japan, are much-talked-about on TikTok, especially due to their contentious cloven-hoof toe. And as a bonus, a number of the French fashion house’s Tabis are on sale at SSENSE right now.

“If weird-colored socks aren’t at the top of lists, they should be,” Mirbegian says. She’s been tracking a greater interest in legwear lately, and a “strange-hued sock is something we expect to see more of.” Like Mirbegian, Park recommends Comme Si as a destination for hosiery. “I’ve got my eye on luxury cashmere knee-high socks that I feel could work like a leg-warmer on top of everyday leggings,” she says. These ones come in noteworthy shades beyond just cream and black, like powder blue and rust. And Park mentions that they are a way to dip your toe into balletcore, without “being too on the nose.”

Clutch-worthy pearl jewelry

It wasn’t so long ago that Vivienne Westwood’s choker was the jewelry du jour. But three trend forecasters mention that more unusually shaped pearls are now all the rage. Ansink says they often make pieces feel more special and modern than the traditional white spheres seen in many a family heirloom. She likes this strand from New York–based label Beepy Bella ornamented with pearls in hues of pink. Mirbegian adds that the style has been able to transcend different tastes, “upping the femme edge, or taking on a punk anarchist vibe with the addition of heavy-duty chains.” Graubard notes Mikimoto’s collaboration with Comme des Garçons (complete with spikes) as an example of the latter.

Or consider Gohar World’s recently restocked chicken-feet pearls on a silk cord, which Strategist contributor Allison Rodman has been eyeing. “These pearls’ closeness to the actual shape of chicken feet makes me wonder if there was some evolutionary joke played on both oysters and chickens in which chickens really got the short end of the stick,” Rodman writes.

Extravagant exfoliation

Last year was about “face-firming self-care” with ancient lymph-drainage techniques, getting the most attention. This year, exfoliation is a focus; Mallory Huron, senior strategist of beauty and wellness at Fashion Snoops, told us about this Body Plane Set from Esker (a beauty brand approved by Golde co-founder Trinity Mouzon Wofford, actress Halle Berry, and Strategist senior editor Simone Kitchens) that includes an exfoliating tool, body oil, and reusable cloth. It takes inspiration from Greco-Roman rituals, where smooth scraping rocks were used for mild exfoliation and a bit of a massage, Huron explains.

An after advent calendar

A beauty advent calendar is sure to please when it comes to gifting a skin-care-obsessive — and every year there are many that sell out (or even cause a little controversy, if you remember a certain Chanel scandale). In our guide to the best beauty advent calendars, Emma Chiu, the global director of the trend-forecasting company Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, called out Sephora’s advent calendars in particular as “always reliable, offering a full range of beauty products at an affordable price.” But this one is particularly notable. “This is the first after advent calendar I’ve seen, and I wonder if this might kick off a new trend,” Huron says. It includes two daily “surprises” (from charcoal wipes to watermelon eye masks) for the six days in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

[Editor’s note: This calendar constantly sells out, so act fast — you can also sign up to receive a notification when it’s back in stock.] 

Hot, hot, hot hair tools

Dyson’s hair-care tools are hard to get ahold of — Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton dedicated an entire column in April to dupes for the famed Airwrap. “In a market overflowing with new gadgets and treatments, the Dyson Airwrap has stood out as the most coveted item in the hair-care space since its 2018 launch,” she writes. Unsurprisingly, it’s still a hot gift for 2022. This time around, it comes in a new limited-edition colorway called “Vinca-Blue-Rosé.” Huron says the combination of price, hype, and exclusivity make it a “‘go for broke’ addition to many holiday [wish] lists.” It’s the kind of tool that creates a “palpable envy” if you can get your hands on it, she adds. And Dyson’s Supersonic hair dryer is also available in that special blue-and-rose-gold finish.

Aesthetic athletic gear

On the fitness front, “it’s not enough to have a functional product; consumers want it to look good,” says Park, who has noticed a movement toward “aesthetic athletic gear.” Think back to how Bala Bangles became the breakout star of quarantine workouts. Since then, the brand has expanded its selection. And Park “guarantee[s] Bala’s at-home gym kit is at the top of the wish list for stylish at-home gym aficionados.” It’s a definite splurge — though you could just pick and choose what equipment to buy separately.

Park also describes the Stakt mat — which is foldable and comes in pastels like “seafoam” and “rosewater” — as the “ultimate gift for every yogi you know.”

The next great American pastime just might be pickleball, as our sister site Intelligencer declared back in January, and love for the sport has increased exponentially since then. Jaye Anna Mize, vice-president of home and lifestyle at Fashion Snoops, notes that the “country-club aesthetic feels way less stuffy in 2022.” If you’ve got a beginner pickleballer on your list, she recommends Recess’s paddles, particularly the ones from its artist collaborations such as this one designed by Austin-based abstract painter Codie O’Connor. The “highly stylized paddles,” she adds, are funkier than classic sporty ones.

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Trend Forecasters on What Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out