If you’re shopping for a man this holiday season, chances are, you have no idea what he really wants. Whether it’s your dad, brother or significant other, most men are notoriously low-key or cryptic about requesting gifts, which means unless you’ve been quietly collecting clues all year, you may feel a little clueless when it comes to shopping for something they’ll love. Sadly, even a direct ask doesn’t always yield a wealth of options, as men are frequently inclined to think less indulgently than utilitarian.
“I don’t know why we do that,” laughs Donnell Baldwin of Mr. Baldwin Style, the men’s styling site he co-founded with wife Courtney Arrington-Baldwin (also the duo behind luxury wellness site Sanctuaire, which we featured earlier this week). “I’m generalizing, but like, I want like maybe one thing—you know, ‘I really need some white t-shirts.’ Like, really, really, really simple, really plain. And I don’t know why we do that. It’s kind of like, ‘No, I don’t think I really need much. I need some more socks, all my socks got holes in them,’ you know what I mean?
Unfortunately, yes we do—but while cellophane packs of tube socks and tees might be an easy get, they’re not exactly the gesture of love we were hoping to send the men in our lives this season. But Baldwin, who previously style editor of Mr. Porter after a substantial tenure at Ralph Lauren, makes a case for satisfying those most basic of needs.
“I have to admit, there’s nothing like getting stuff that you need versus what you want, and I think that if I had to make an assumption as to why a lot of guys say they don’t need anything, really what they’re saying is they don’t want anything,” he explains. “Like, yeah, I want a Maserati, but are you all going to give me gift cards for the car I want?”
The key to gifting the essentials is in prioritizing quality, says Baldwin, who graciously lent us his expertise as a co-curator of this list. Giving elevated or luxury basics puts an indulgent spin on even the most utilitarian of gifts, giving him what he needs—but better than he ever thought possible. And if you’re still in doubt, how about booking him a styling session with Baldwin himself? Now that it’s looking like we’ll actually be out of quarantine within a year, it’s the perfect time for a refresher on how to dress.
So, what do you get the man who claims to have everything? From those ubiquitous t-shirts and socks to high-end shaving sets and streetwear, we’ve got plenty of ideas to get our menfolk in the spirit of the season.
“This brand has created a new take on the classic scarf,” says Baldwin. “I love it especially because it snaps in place and looks great with many looks and it’s great for gift-giving. We always need a great scarf!”
“I‘ve got my eyes on a few of these tees and sweatshirts—it’s the simplicity for me!” Baldwin exclaims.” I love that these tees can be dressed up or down and just look so damn cool with everything. I especially love the “Teaneck” logo tees where the actual logo placement is around the neckline—promoting this excellent Black-owned brand with a hint of collegiate Black prep and giving me A Different World vibes all day!!”
Good Man Brand
If he absolutely must have that unadorned and most basic of items—the white tee—why not make it the one Russell Wilson favors? The Hi-Vee Tee from Wilson’s Good Man Brand is a high-end option made of premium cotton in a wide array of other colors (all of which are currently on sale) with a trim fit—and 3% goes to Wilson’s philanthropic efforts. There are also plenty of great deals to be found in their Holiday Sale.
Fear of God
“This brand speaks for itself. I mean...if you’re shopping for a stylish guy, this is it. This is the place,” says Baldwin of this luxury label. “There are so many elevated options here and you won’t be disappointed. Also, check out their collab with legendary brand Zegna as well!”
Twist It Up Comb
We’re sure our Very Smart Brotha Damon Young isn’t the only man who’s abstained from a haircut this past nine months, but effectively leaning into the longer-haired life requires the proper tools, making the Twist It Up comb an ideal stocking stuffer and an ultra-hygienic assist in cultivating the desired impact with all that extra texture.
If he’s more apt to accessorize that ‘fro (a la Questlove), we love the whimsical and culturally relevant designs of the straightforwardly named AfroPick, a Black family brand created “to tell the stories that need to be told.”
Okay, so maybe the pandemic has leveled up his at-home grooming game. If so, we always rely on Bevel for the most giftable blades in the game. This season, they won our hearts all over again with their new “Created for Kings” campaign, a short film narrated by New York Times bestselling author (and recent guest on The Root’s literary podcast), Jason Reynolds. Beyond the shaving bundles, there’s a whole range of great-smelling and performing personal care products, too.
If he’s embracing his #BeardGame during these unshaven months, Scotch Porter’s got all the goods to keep it lush and fresh—and right now, you can bundle and save. In addition, they have a full array of face and body care products and a new line of men’s fragrances.
Speaking of fragrance, Chris Collins has one of the best noses in the game, according to Baldwin, who says: “I believe you can never have too many colognes. I am a certified cologne-aholic so more is more for me in this department. I like the incredible assortment that Collins offers—they’re literally perfect for everyday or special occasions...his fragrances are incredible.” The former face of Polo-turned-scent maker’s blends may be to good to choose between, so don’t bother to choose for him; buy him a discovery set ($35) and supplement it with a gift card, so he can follow his nose.
Harlem Candle Company
Okay, so maybe you and your woes missed your shot to cop Drake’s debut candle line, but there’s a reason this New York-based candle line is making a repeat appearance in our gift guides this year: Baldwin’s ringing endorsement. “I have my eyes (and nose) on the ‘Holiday Nightclub Map’ candle as well as the ‘The Ultimate Luxury Candle Gift Box’ set,” he says. “I absolutely love candles, and feel like it’s the perfect gift for someone who doesn’t really need clothes or ‘fussy’ stuff to clutter their closets! Candles always have the ability to set a good mood and atmosphere in any space.”
The Aware Brand
There’s “woke”—and then, there’s Aware. We dig this brand for its positive take on streetwear, upgrading our now-extensive selection of sweats, tees and caps with a much-needed message of hope, love, and yes—awareness.
If he’s a denim connoisseur, why not gift him with a couture denim experience? Veteran denim designer and master craftsman Glenn Liburd runs this eponymous studio, where raw, washed and selvage-edged denim is sold in both his signature cuts and made to order for a fit your denim lover will never want to take off.
Union Los Angeles
We’re huge fans of this Black-owned artist and designer collective, which boasts a slew of streetwear brands and has played host to pretty much every Black designer sneaker collab released this year, including Golf Wang, Wales Bonner Sheila Bridges, and that elusive Hammons-inspired Denim Tears Chuck 70 (which may or may not be on my man’s Christmas list this year).
If he’s getting kicks, socks suddenly become much more gift-worthy—and Kind Socks strike the perfect balance between “need” and “want.” In fact, while founder Stephen Steele’s designs are colorful, fun, sustainable and ethically made, the origin of his brand was simple: “ As with all good ideas, Kind Socks happened in the morning when I couldn’t find a pair of clean socks,” he admits.
Since we’re on the subject of necessities, how about an instant upgrade on his boxer game with a few linen (yes, linen) pairs from Linoto? These breezy briefs are equally good under clothes or just around the house, and only get softer with every wash—as do their linen sheets, if the fella could use an upgrade on his bedding, too.
We love Johnny Nelson’s irreverent yet reverential fusion of Black culture and iconography in his jewelry collection—and we’re not alone. Whether featured on the pages of Vogue or worn by the celebrity set (even to the Met Gala!), Nelson’s designs always represent.
From elevated, tie-dyed lounge sets to custom-made suits, Waraire Boswell’s got that look. If the man in question is worth the investment, let our upcoming reemergence into the world be an incentive to get him clean and cut-to-measure in one of the designer’s incredible custom suits.
“I would be doing you a disservice by not recommending a brand that is near and dear to me,” says Baldwin of wife Courtney’s six-month-old brand. In case you thought wellness was just for women, he urges us to check out Sanctuaire’s thoughtfully curated men’s list of essentials in the brand’s Instagram guides, which includes crystals, healing face masks, hair products, etc., “highlighting items that men can use to help keep themselves centered, pampered and well taken care of.”