Combating the mediocre in men’s style

NOV 24, 2015
As a commentator on men’s style and luxury goods, I am rather spoilt. I get a lot of stuff for free. Which is one reason why I am always apprehensive when it comes to receiving gifts from lovers. If I really want something, I’ve usually already concocted a scheme to acquire it at no cost, had a version made, or even – breathe and relax – resorted to buying it myself (at a big discount, of course).

But even putting my own privileged position to one side, gifting in a relationship is often a far from joyous experience. In fact, it’s a minefield that can reveal a mismatch between two people; a poorly chosen gift highlighting a failure to grasp what makes your partner tick. That said, gifts can also be unexpected, clever and inspired, or just plain generous. Here are some tips . . .

Go for an upgrade. An upgrade is always a solid option. Identify something special in your loved one’s life, and then source a superior, more extravagant version. A splendid set of artisan-made brass coffee spoons for the committed coffee enthusiast, perhaps, or a vintage-look bicycle pump for the cycling fiend.

That sure-fire gift can be simplicity itself. While a good moisturiser never fails to ingratiate, men do love a high-end kitchen knife. And I mean high – go Japanese if you can. Tools are good, too. Some spirit levels are spoken of in the same hushed tones as works of art, and will prick the practical interest of even the feyest partner.

Recent gifts I have received from lovers include tickets for a special performance of a favourite opera – in another country – a gorgeous black sheepskin rug and a lovely antique fish knife and fork. I’ve (selflessly) gifted bed linen, and I mean actual linen. Never mind high thread counts, those with real money and taste go for low-thread weaves in a rustic style.

Art from the heart. Avoid gifting art or photography, unless you are confident of an individual’s aesthetic ethos. They will be forced to either reluctantly hang it on their wall, or end the relationship. Books on art and photography are a different proposition, however. Visiting niche luxury publishing outlets is a pleasure, and choosing a lavish volume is something one is unlikely to do for oneself.

For the gentleman. There are certain classic luxury items all men should possess, such as a tightly rolled city umbrella with a whangee cane handle (think John Steed in The Avengers). Or perhaps a fine, long shoehorn made from stag antler. And although socks are awfully cliché, there’s a place in Wales that makes bespoke cashmere pairs on a vintage sock-weaving machine.

Personalise it. A personalised inscription can be rather beguiling if executed well. Diaries are obvious, but luggage labels are useful, tasteful and, once inscribed, retain memorable-gift cachet for years. Personalised stationery is something men rarely get around to buying. Take this up a notch with hot-foil printed wallet-size cards.

For the longer term, it is now possible to give gift vouchers in the burgeoning arena of hair transplants. It’s far from cheap: think €10 per hair. The expense for a decent fringe comes in at around €5,000 – but it should last a lifetime. For someone who’s a trifle sparse on top, give the gift of hair. And say it with follicles.

Words by Tom Stubbs
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