Arrrgghhhhhhh! It’s almost Christmas! Yes, it can be a time of extreme pain & near-homicide — but, my sweet, it does not have to be. For you see, my obsessive internet perusal has been put to good use, & I have a huge store of suggestions to spice up your gift-giving this year.
The worst, worst, worst thing about Christmas is wandering aimlessly from shop to shop, against a crush of other, equally meandering people, & trying desperately to think of a gift that will please Aunt Rita. Don’t torture yourself, seriously. Do your shopping online or decide exactly what you want & make it as painless as possible. I recommend taking a morning off work on a Tuesday or something, & getting it all over & done with in one clean swoop.
Before we begin, read my article on Gift-Giving, because it might give you some clues as to where to start. Why not, for example, give someone a themed gift? Make everything purple, or all Paris-themed, or all things for the feet. Think about what your friends like, & start dreaming.
I think Etsy is a fantastic place to buy gifts, because everything is made by hand, with lots of love, care & attention. I would much rather help a girl in California following her passion than give my hard-earned dosh to yet another mega-corporation! Their search function is great — just type in a random word & I always search by “Most Viewed”: it tends to spit up the most interesting things!
Mme. Fortuna is one of my favourite Etsy sellers. She creates gorgeous, one of a kind jewellery with a fabulous old-time bohemian feel. Her Captain Time necklace is really special, I am totally in love with it. I also like her Pendulum necklace & Victorian Lady Magical Charm necklace.
Jewellery is a really great gift to give. I especially love it because it’s kind of like having a token of someone’s affection on you all the time. Blood diamonds are totally gauche (not to mention artificially overpriced), so buy your friend or lover something fun, instead. I love this Super Sprinkles Heart necklace, as well as this Sparkle Heart & Leather cuff by Marty Flint. So cool! Helpless Romantic do the ever-popular Say Anything You Want necklace (like Nubby‘s!), which is also available in Helvetica for all you font nerds! But of all these things, my absolute favourites are Jessica Kagan Cushman‘s faux-scrimshaw resin bracelets. (My votes go to “Truly fabulous people never get dressed before lunchtime” & “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.”)
If you know someone with an Elle Driver fetish, pick them out a crystal-encrusted eyepatch from Gasoline Glamour in their favourite colour! NYC-obsessed girls will love this NYC subway map hoodie — they might even share a hot dog with you. Dreamwoven do incredible sculptural knit hats for brave people, & these Vintage Letter Pins from Day-Lab will make someone very happy.
For people who love to smell good, Lush do a whole gamut of amazing Christmas products. I’m not really into their pre-packaged gift boxes, since I think it’s a bit thoughtless, but buying someone a sweet, glittery hunk of bubble bath as an accompaniment to another gift will score you major points. Go & have a sniff of the Twinkle bath ballistic, Ruby Red Slippers bubble bar, Mr Butterball bath ballistic (so cute in his little hat & scarf, as well as being deliciously softening!), Snowcake soap & Snow Fairy shower gel. I promise you will not be disappointed!
If your friends tend to favour things which are more functional than beautiful, remember that the two need not be mutually exclusive. An organiser is an excellent gift, but only if you give it to the right person! I adore Moleskine diaries & I think they are pretty much the perfect present. If you don’t want to give a Moleskine — even though they are amazing, I understand that sometimes you want something a little more exciting — Lovely Design do beautiful Pocket Books. Instead of plain pages, all the paper is found & reused & there are envelopes too. It is the ideal thing to fill up with secrets.
Guys seem really hard to buy for, & it’s so easy to resort to ye olde standard fall-back presents like aftershave or socks. True, men do need these things, but why not surprise them with them on the 17th of March? Christmas time is about being decadent, so why not get them something that will blow their (holey) socks off?
I think almost any slightly-geeky guy (isn’t that about 95% of them?) would be over the moon with a watch from Tokyoflash. They are incredible & totally Hackers. Another knock-out gift for anyone with even minimal geeky inclinations is an Ecosphere. They’re enclosed ecosystems, & totally amazing. I was going to buy one for my boyfriend but they don’t ship to Australia, argh!
Pick him up a great record or something for his guitar; take him speaker shopping; buy him a comfortable (& stylish) armchair; take him away on a surprise vacation; buy a whole lot of plants for his office or a weights machine. Oh, & for any boys who love Notorious B.I.G., you absolutely cannot go wrong buying them this shirt…
Attention, women: Men aren’t actually that difficult to buy for — they like stuff as much as women do. It’s just that you need to shift your mindset a bit so that you start thinking like a guy. While it can be tempting to push an agenda onto a boyfriend, by buying him clothes so that he looks how you wish he would or by purchasing a handsome gardening tool-kit, remember that it’s his Christmas too! Buy him something he actually likes. Think how upset you’d (probably) be if he bought you breast implants! Anyway, you get the picture — please buy with him in mind.
I know that there are a lot of people who already have everything they need. It’s just the way things go — if they want or need something, most people will figure out a way to obtain it. When trying to buy for the person whose life is bursting at the seams with stuff, think about being useful instead of just adding to their collection of muck. Maybe they need a professional wardrobe organiser to come by & help them out. Perhaps they are constantly whinging about their sore muscles — get them a massage voucher. Or maybe they never really treat themselves — buy them a mani/pedi & a facial. They will thank you for it!
Another thing to consider is a gift that keeps giving — no, not an infectious disease! A subscription to an amazing magazine fulfils this requirement, as does a beautiful flowering plant or a year’s paid housecleaning. One of the coolest things my boyfriend ever did for me was going to the library to pay my $100+ late fines. Or if your friend has just moved into a new apartment or is feeling otherwise dissatisfied with their living quarters, why not take them on a shopping trip to IKEA?
Super-practical presents can really improve the quality of the recipient’s life if you choose carefully. I can’t think of a single person whose life wouldn’t get better if you bought them a good digital camera, for example. Similarly, most people would love a crazy camera like anything from the Lomo shop. Or you could even search thrift shops & Ebay for an old Polaroid camera in good condition. Documentation of your life is important & having more tools to do it with is always appreciated.
What about your friend with the antiquated cellphone? Maybe you could upgrade them this Christmas. Perhaps you could give your old laptop to a friend who is technologically lagging. We don’t always have to spend piles of money on presents — often it’s the thoughtful donation of something that someone really needs which means the most.
Finally, I tend to advise against giving anyone a voucher or gift card for a particular store, just because it’s so limiting. I read a statistic — which I cannot find for the life of me — which said that some huge amount of money is wasted on them every year, just because people will either spend $17 of a $20 voucher, or never use it at all. If you really & truly cannot think of anything to get your friends, just take them shopping. Set a limit & have a day of it — let them pick whatever they want. This way you’ll have a fun shared experience & they’ll get something they love.
Oh, & happy holidays!