For the Stylist: Merino Wool Hoodie
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Wool has become the new fabric de jour. It's warm, soft and most importantly, it does not retain scents. If you can't get your guy to wash his favorite clothing, wool is your fabric. (He may still stink, but the hoodie will smell fresh as new). I have given both these as gifts and liked them so much, I bought some for myself too. I now have two of each and wear them almost every day.
The Chrome hoodie is slim-fitting and has long arms as it was designed to be worn while riding a bike, though it's still great for those that don't ride, and it's also incredibly soft. I literally did not wash this for a year and a half, and Renee can attest to the fact I wear it three days a week all year long. It looks as good after all that wear as it did the day I started wearing it. I plan on giving my little sister the female version this year for Christmas. Shhhh, don't tell!
For the Stylist, No. 2: Ibex Hoodie
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Ibex is my favorite wool clothing company. They manufacture most of their garments in the USA using merino wool from New Zealand. I have found my Shak hoodie to be the most durable piece of clothing I own.
The lesson here: Men are simple creatures. You will have a much better experience with the men in your life if you embrace what it is that they like and what they are comfortable with and look to make improvements from there. It is often a wasted effort to buy something in hopes that he will change his tastes and preferences. If you are hoping to improve upon his style, it is best to take what he likes and put a high-quality twist on it; this way he will actually wear it.
Gifts that Last a Lifetime: Afghan Blanket
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Before I went off to college, my older sister wanted me to have a nice blanket that would remind me of home while I was away. One glitch: She does not knit or crochet. She hired a lady a few towns over to make one for me with yarn that I was able to choose myself. This meant that I was able to use colors that I liked and that made it more personal to me. While this is not a traditional gift, I have kept my blanket with me since college and still cherish it as I move on in life.
For The Music Lover: Audio Equipment
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Most people listen to music on a daily basis, whether in the car, the subway, or just while cooking dinner. It is surprising to me how tolerant people are of terrible audio equipment. Assuming that you obtain your music legally, people spend thousands of dollars over their lifetime buying music, then skimp on the equipment by paying as little as possible on speakers and headphones.
Last year for Christmas, my older sister and her fiancee gave me a pair of Audioengine A2 speakers. I use them everyday and it makes such a difference to hear the music as it was meant to be heard instead of through the budget speakers attached to a desktop or built into a laptop.
For the Music Lover No. 2: Headphones
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For the Cook: Knives
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If the man in your life does any sort of cooking, odds are he is using poorly made knives. It may seem counterintuitive but the sharper the knife, the safer it is. A sharp knife will glide through veggies and meat, and there is less chance of having to force it through, which can potentially cause you to slip and be injured. I have given to multiple people the Henckles Cermax 8-inch chef knife. It's razor sharp and incredibly durable, but it's also rather expensive and there are other knives out there that are a real bargain. If you care to splurge, go for the Cermax.
Tips: If you happen to receive the mailers from Bed Bath and Beyond, they do not expire! Use one of these to buy a Global or Shun knife, you won't be disappointed. Also, avoid buying strictly based on name, as Henckles and many other famous brands also sell lower-quality lines at these same stores. You also don't need to buy a knife block; they're a complete waste. I cook frequently and find i can do everything with my 8-inch and 6-inch chef and paring knives. Some people will need a serrated knife for bread too.
For the Cook No. 2: Cutting Board
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For Mr. Practical: Custom Belts
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In the same line as the wool hoodies, this is a good way to put an elegant spin on an everyday item. I came across Narragansett Leathers after reading Put This On, a blog about men dressing like grownups. Both Renee and I have purchased these belts and they are great. Unlike most stores these days, the owners at Narragansett Leathers will not take your order online as each belt is made to order. If you want to stimulate the economy this holiday season, support mom and pop shops instead of the cookie-cutter stores.
For the Reader: Kindle
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I think that books are an incredibly difficult gift to give. Unless you really know how someone reads, it is hard to assume that you will be able to predict someone's reading preferences. For example, the only people in my family who can successfully exchange books are my grandmother (my mother's mother) and my father, as they have the same taste in literature. So as the old fish adage goes, give a man a Kindle and he will read for a lifetime. With Kindles starting at just $80, there is little reason not to consider this as a gift option this holiday season.
For the Adventurer: Garmin 405
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If the man in your life is active or has any interest in being active (new year's resolutions are right around the corner) the Garmin GPS watches are awesome. I started running competitively about a year ago and have found the Garmin to be an essential tool. I use the Garmin 405 which is a slightly outdated model, which means there are some good deals online.
For the Adventurer No. 2: Garmin 610
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The newer Garmin model, which Renee purchased on my recommendation for her horseback-riding trip is the Garmin 610 (I want one of these). The reason having a GPS watch is so effective is because it gives you pace information while you're running which means that you'll know if you need to pick it up or ease up mid-run. Then when you are finished, you can upload all the information and it puts your run on the map so you can track your route. This works for runners, bikers or any activity that covers distance. As an add on, pair it with the heart rate monitor to maximize your workout efficiency.
Stocking Stuffers: Klean Kanteen Water Bottle
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These water bottles are great. I have three of these in different sizes. They have lasted for years and still look as great as the day I bought them. They are made of stainless steel and thus do not retain flavors like some plastic bottles do. They pay for themselves very fast as they eliminate the need for plastic bottled water and not to mention, are better for the environment.
Stocking Stuffers: Pocket Knife
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Stocking Stuffers: Swedish Firesteel
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The Swedish Firesteel is a fun gift for the outdoorsmen in your life. If they are anything like me, and they spend more time in the urban jungle than the real jungle, it will allow them to feel rugged. I used this to light the stove when the power went out and have used it to light bonfires when there are no matches. It even works when it's wet!