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2008 gift guide: ac’s guide for guys

by Grace Bonney

Hey there, I’m AC, Grace’s fiancé, and I’ve been asked to do a roundup of gifts for her readers with boyfriends/husbands/dudes who might not be the kind of guys who read Design*Sponge. As some of you may remember, I did this last year, and I’m back again because either some of you found it helpful or Grace is just being straight up lazy this year. Anything’s possible.

So, because the economy is in the toilet and no one wants to spend a lot of money, it’s important to focus on the fundamental rule of gift giving: it’s the thought that counts. I’m serious! Think about it, we’re in the same economy that you are, and right about now we don’t want to spend a lot of money either. If you’re cool with one nice gift, or two small gifts, so are we. Just do us a favor this year: go with the fun gifts we want instead of the practical stuff that we need.

Today I’ll be giving you my take on “guy gifts” in the following categories: Accessories (aka, “guy jewelry”), Clothes, “Toys & Games”, and Media (Books, DVD’s, etc.).

CLICK HERE for the rest of AC’s guide for guys…

Let’s start with Accessories: Watches (the ones pictured can be found here, here and here), money clips, wallets, sunglasses, and fancy shaving accessories are usually pretty safe territory, especially if you keep it simple. (On a side note, personally, I’d avoid keychains and pens, no matter how nice they are. Seriously.)

The fun of gifting accessories is that, when done right, it takes something that a guy needs to use anyway, and makes it feel more…slick. In the case of having a cool wallet or money clip you’re like, “Oh, you need some cash to pay for dinner? I might have some right here in this…SHAZAM!” Or, these days, it could be the opposite, “I’ve got no cash, and you can tell this is so by looking right in here …SHAZAM!”

Either way: slick.

As for shaving accessories, I shave with a safety razor but would feel like a total bad-ass if I knew how to shave with a straight-razor. Knowing me I’d probably slice up my own face until I looked like Freddy Kruger (because it’s equally possible that I’d set myself on fire at the same time).

However, a professional, old school shave with hot towels from a classy barber is a cool gift. It’s one of the few ways you can (publicly) pamper your average guy without making him feel too girly. Unless he digs on facials or whatever in which case you may just live in LA. It’s cool.

For those of you who really know your guy’s taste well: (this is for the more adventurous of you) there’s clothes (shirts, jeans, shoes, etc.). However, before we get into the stuff that I like, I’ll give you some pointers on how to shop for your guy for those who need a primer on the basics (you know who are) – the rest of you can just skip to the list here:

  • For starters, even if some item of clothing is “cute,” “sophisticated,” or “very stylish” – this has no bearing on whether or not he’ll like it (not whether or not he has good taste).
  • However, if you think it’s “hot,” on the other hand – it’s fine. You can talk most guys into wearing anything if they really believe it makes them look hot.
  • Girls often think that if a piece of clothing fits a guy well, that that’s somehow good enough. Not so. Any piece of clothing can seem very UN-cool if the pattern, or the texture is off, even if it fits well.
  • Just think about your guy – does he like to draw attention to himself? If so, the bolder texture or pattern might be fine. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call. I suggest taking a good look at the clothes that he’s picked out for himself and let that be your guide (let’s not look for too long at the Guns N Roses/Metallica concert t-shirt he has because he went to the show when he was a freshman in high school and it was AWESOME. That would just be embarrassing for everyone).
  • Either way, regardless of what types of colors he normally likes, you can often be more experimental with colors than with patterns or textures. I have no idea why this is.

In any case, for clothing this year I’m liking Monarchy brand stuff (mostly their T’s, thermals, and sweatshirts). It’s a slightly edgier alternative to the completely played out Ed Hardy look (which is really starting to get on my nerves). Most of us can’t do Monarchy head to toe without looking completely moronic, but it can be a nice touch if used sparingly. If you know what style of jeans he likes and want to buy him a fancy pair, I think Earnest Sewn makes really cool jeans. Dress shirts are nice, but unless your guy is a for-real grown up, they’re not nice gifts.

Sneakers are tough to do right, honestly, so proceed with caution. However, one of my co-workers has these and I think they look really cool and comfortable. And I’m not the kind of guy who’s into hemp-y vegan-y stuff, so now I’m extra impressed.

Also, if your guy happens to like indie rock (getting a little closer to my type now…), might I suggest going to the websites of some of the bands he likes and checking out their “Shop” sections? For example, I have a Decemberists T-Shirt that I bought online and I really like. You can also usually find posters or other merch (that’s right I said it) on these types of sites as well.

Ok let’s move on to the much more fun category: Toys.

If they were available, and inexpensive, I’d recommend the Kindle. But since neither of those things are going to happen anytime soon, let’s move on. I don’t have a car, but if I did I’d definitely want a GPS system (I know this gift is soooo last year, but they’re actually more affordable and easier to find this year). And if I was going to get a GPS system, I don’t see how I could pass up a KNIGHT RIDER GPS system!?!?

If you thought that was juvenile, then you haven’t spent that much time with me… so let’s get down to it. Video game consoles are basically the last bastions of youth most of us 30 year olds have left (unless it’s just me, in which case, I’m totally screwed). If your guy doesn’t already have one and has said at any point in his life that he might want one, just get him one already and be cool about him playing it (within reason). It doesn’t matter which one (Xbox, PS3, or Wii). I swear, you’ll be his hero. It will make all his friends even MORE jealous that he has a good one like you. That’s not even an opinion.

[On a personal note, my friend Daryl got her boyfriend a PS3 for his 40th birthday this year. I’ll be shocked if he hasn’t proposed to her by next year. No pressure, Dave!]

If he already has a game system, and he doesn’t have Rock Band (2) well then, quite frankly, it’s time. Grace and I have spent our share of Sundays drinking beer and playing it with friends this summer (it’s not like there’s anything to do OUTSIDE) and it’s been glorious. (Our band: the P-Feet, named after our cats who track their litter all over our living room floor – thanks guys!) You don’t have to get the bundle with all the instruments; you can get them individually, which can be cheaper.

Here’s a list of some other games that came out this year that I really liked (And, yes these are all violent and awful. I’m sorry.):

And if he’s going to waste his life playing video games, he may as well be drunk while he does it, right? Have you seen this? If Heineken is not your (or his) thing, here’s another good one: The Beer of the Month Club. Grace’s mom got me this last year and I loved it.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have a man in your life that prefers reading a book to the imagined glory of video games…here are some books about Sports & Music that I’ve read that I think would make great gifts. Why these two categories? Because I think these are two specific genres of books that (to me) really feel like reading for fun above anything else. Many people feel obligated to buy or read books that make them feel smarter or like they’re learning something “important,” or like they’re reading “great literature.” Those books are great too (I guess), but remember we’re going with “fun” this holiday season. So if Sports or Music books aren’t his thing, you’ll want to skip to the next section.

Sports Books:

  • Boys Will Be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty – Jeff Pearlman. I’m reading this now, and all I have to say is it opens with one player stabbing his teammate in the neck with a pair of scissors during an argument over a haircut. Need I say more? Very trashy, but very fun.
  • FreeDarko presents The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac: Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today’s Game. – This is probably the only book on this list that could actually appeal to a design fan as well as a sports fan. It looks really, really cool.
  • Fantasyland, Sam Walker. I don’t even get into fantasy sports, but I loved this book. If your guy likes fantasy baseball, I bet he’ll love it.
  • The Blind Side, Michael Lewis. Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer, and I’ll pretty much read anything he writes. Filled with great characters.

Rock & Roll:

Other miscellaneous media gifts:

  • TV Seasons: These are really fun holiday gifts because you can curl up together and watch TV the way it was meant to be watched: on DVD. It’s so much better that when you eventually catch up with the show in real life (assuming it’s still on) that you’ll be disappointed and irritated that you have to wait a week for the next episode. And don’t even get me started on commercials.
  • Recommended for guys: Mad Men, The Wire, Entourage, Family Guy
  • CD Box Sets – these are becoming so outdated so quickly that I almost hesitate to recommend anything like this. BUT, I did pick this up this year and really loved it. It’s called “No Thanks! The ’70s Punk Rebellion”. It’s not for everyone, but I really liked it.

Also, if he’s into Sports and/or Music you’ll rarely go wrong getting him tickets to something. A game, a concert, you know what he likes. Tickets are great gifts. And don’t feel like you have to go if it’s something you don’t like. Believe me, if you’re not into it, we’d rather go with a friend. We’ll still love you for it.

Well that just about wraps it up. Finally. Just go with what he likes. Or with what I like. Whatever.

One last suggestion:

What do you do if there’s a few things you really want to get him but can’t? One need look no farther than (sweet, sweet) reality television for advice: strategize and form alliances. (Just ask Evelyn from the Island Challenge.) Pick the thing within your budget that you think he’ll like most, and YOU get that for him. Then, SUGGEST the other stuff that you wanted to get him to his family members or anyone else who’s getting him a gift (and they WILL be looking for ideas because believe me they don’t know how to shop for him either). It’s a win-win!

Thanks for listening to me ramble on about my own tastes and preferences. Good luck, and happy shopping!

Suggested For You


  • AC & Grace, this is perfection. But one word of caution to all the ladies out there: if you buy your guy a new video game system be prepared for him to disappear for a few months while he plays for “just 5 more minutes.” Good if you want some alone time. Not good if you ever want to eat dinner at the table together again. I learned the hard way!

  • AWESOME list!!!! Love the Decemberists shirt, the Heineken draft, and, of course, all things Mad Men! But the opening photo for the post? PRICELESS! LOVE it! :)

  • I’m not a crue fan or a guy for that matter, but The Dirt is an amazing read, along with the other books listed. Really this isn’t a guy oriented list, just a really great list of great gifts.
    And i’m actually in the market for a straight razor [violence, yes I know =( but scarily becoming an essential in my neighborhoods.

  • erika

    that and the “i just have to get to the checkpoint” line. i hear that one all the time. i’m well aware that he can hit “pause” whenever he wants but i always get the line about needing to go a few more levels so he can get to the “save” checkpoint. mmhmm… ;)

  • To follow-up Erika’s comment: buy him ten game consoles if you like, but do NOT buy him World of Warcraft. Just don’t. Seriously.

  • OK, I was seriously laughing out loud!
    “Get a Life 2 (not really a game, just making a note to myself here…)”
    Hysterical! And what awesome links! Did he really just link to a photo of Freddy Kruger’s face?!

    I’m sorry AC, but I think you just bought yourself another year of doing the guy’s gift guide!

  • Haha I really enjoyed reading this. I can hear my boyfriend saying ditto to just about everything.

    My favorite guy gift guide this year!

  • I can’t believe my Ps3 gamer nephew would prefer the Resistance 2 game over these beautifully red pair of holiday socks with gorgeous reindeer s in sequined green. Since I trust Design Sponges taste, I’ll have to trust yours too. Great list. Happy Holidays.

  • I just got my beau an Xbox last week along with GTA IV. Not only is that the only thing that plays on our TV, it is also the only thing he talks about now… “Did you know that I can do this? You need to see this” so on and so forth.
    The advantage of the Xbox is that it is highly unstable, so it’s not recommended to play for longer than 6h at a time…

    Jessie: I know what you mean. I don’t date Warcraft addicts, but I’ve lost several friends to it…

  • LOL to Erika/Grace. Also, the first photo of this post is awesome! Y’all are too cute. :)

    Sadly I got my boyfriend (who IS into fantasy sports) Fantasyland and he never read it. Reading, not so much his thing…

    Thanks for the guide, and ESPECIALLY the guidelines for clothes. I keep forgetting that just because he consults my sense of aesthetics, it’s on stuff he already owns. (I.e., Does this match? Not, Should I get this?)

  • My man agrees, this guild is right on point! Guess I’ll have to get him a ps3 this year. Love the photo!

  • Great list, but was the cheap shot at LA really necessary? Really, the hatin’ is getting old. Nice job alienating 13 million people. Oh, by the way … we all think you suck, too.

  • dude, that is an awesome post, except maybe the Monarchy. I’m totally off alliction/ed hardy and anything that resembles it. . And is that a picture form Hot Chicks with Douchbags? It’s the fella’s new favorite website. And I am so getting the Dallas Cowboys book for him. We are on the austerity bandwagon this year and he will love that. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

  • Hi guys! Glad some of you found this helpful. Couple quick things:
    1. The Knight Rider GPS talks like Kit, and the red lights move. Nuff said.
    2. Grace, I really do need to get to those “checkpoints” if I want to save the game and turn the thing off. Really! I’ll be done in just 5 more minutes…
    3. Yes, Monarchy. I don’t know if it’s cool or not, I just like it. You don’t have to. I discovered Monarchy when I was in…wait for it…
    4. LA! Adam, I love LA! I was just joking! (Glad I wasn’t wearing my Celtics hat in the picture!) Although I must say, you people *are* exceptionally well groomed. Or maybe I’m just a slob…ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE!!!
    5. Hot chicks with Douchebags? There’s a site dedicated to that? I love the internet.
    6. Lastly, I do have a blog although I rarely update it. I think my initials will link to it.

    Thanks again everyone!

  • The guide was great, but the commentary even better! Hilarious. I remember liking last year’s too, but I don’t remember laughing quite so much. Nice work, AC.

    Grace, no doubt about it, you must get him to commit to next year as well.

  • I can totally vouch for both the Free Darko book (got that for the hubby for his birthday–although I really wanted it too, since we’re both b-ball fans) and “fancy shaving stuff” (the hubby smiles every time he uses the shaving cream in a tin from L’Occitaine that I gave him last year). Definitely the best “Gifts for Guys” list I’ve seen! Great job!

  • I was really excited to read this post and especially when you began with how bad the economy is. Then I began to follow your links where the t-shirts were $50-$75 (OUCH!) and the jeans over $200!!! (my heart just stopped). That’s outrageous for clothing. Maybe I’m extremely cheap but in this crowd I think many of us feel that way especially when you’re in the company of bloggers who adore DIY in order to save dough.

    The other recommendations were great, especially for the gamers. My husband is obsessed (with a capital O) with Lego’s Batman game for PS3.

  • I have to say, the Knight Rider GPS is totally awesome. I saw it a while back, and I would have gotten it for my guy (except he already owns a GPS).

  • It kills me every time I see that KG thing. You know he’s an adidas athlete? The saying is “Impossible is Nothing”. You know adidas corporate wanted to scream when they heard him mix up the tag line. Jus’ sayin’.

  • Oh, and I will be getting the Cowboys book; might encourage my BF to start reading. Thanks for that!

  • :D informative and entertaining!!!

    i ‘d have to disagree with the wii vs xbox vs ps3 though..

    not sure any guys would actually go for the wii since it seems to be more targeted for kids :( i think my husband would be glued to the tv if we had a ps3 or xbox 360 instead :x especially because both feature really cool network things: achievements, chatting with friends, etc..

  • great post, AC. 2 things in particular stood out as highlights for me: 1) shout out to KG and the celtics (boston love), and 2) well-placed mention of evelyn from island challenge (i refuse to feel bad for watching those shows).

    i also wanted to confirm what others have said and i’m sure you know-you are most definitely NOT alone in your adult male video game obsession. i’m well on my way to accepting my bf’s addiction rather than fighting against it. now i have more ideas for games to get him :)

  • i love this. i loved it last year as well. more than anything, i love the visual of the two of you and how you’re rolling your eyes at him.

  • this is awesome! very very funny.

    one thing to add on the game list idea (based on AC’s list, seems like his idea is my hubby’s game collection):
    call of duty: world of war (or smth like that but it’s the latest call of duty).

  • AC! You did it again. I scored big time with your suggestion of the Iron Maiden Vans last year and couldn’t wait to see your picks this year. How did you know my husband was a Cowboys fan too?

    Love it!

  • A laugh out loud gift guide?!? Fabulous. Please do this every year, as your suggestions are not only awesome, but your writing style is highly amusing! My husband now desperately wants the Knight Rider GPS.

  • I am so happy to have found your website. What a great resource for artisan made goods. As a small retailer I am wanting to carry more items in my shop that are handmade art rather than “crafts”. I plan on spending some time here perusing all that you have suggested. Thank you!

  • I laughed out loud! really great post, and not only for the laughs, great ideas too!
    I love that Decemberists T-shirt, would wear my self…

    Thumbs up for the great work AC.
    You two are so cute on the introduction photo!

    BM from France.

  • Great list AC but I need to add one note in regard to the game systems. It really does matter which one you get because they are far from the same. The 360 is good b/c it’s come down in price because they are coming out with a whole new system in the next year or two so it might not be the best investment. The Wii is fun, but that’s about it. Overall the PS3 is where it’s at! Not only is it an awesome system but it will second as your new Blue Ray player among other things. So for the love of god get him a PS3!!!

  • This is great. And hilarious. Love it. Also, might I suggest Think Geek.com? You can’t really go wrong with something from there. In fact, I think I’ve shopped there for every holiday in the past 5 years. Good times.

  • it’s great and i’m not in your age brackett, i used your guide last year and bought speakers you recommeded, and it was his fav gift ever! so thank you. I think I ‘d get the knight rider this year, but i already bought Bob Dylan’s new bootleg series, collectors editon. oh well…….thank you!

  • Hysterical! Always enjoy this. Well done A&G. In my experience, the Wii gift leads to a proposal in under 16 days.

  • A couple months ago we got my husband the Beer of the Month Club for his birthday, using the same company you linked to. He has absolutely loved all the beers he’s received! And he’s a beer snob, so that’s saying something.

  • this gift guide is awesome! very savvy advice, and i can totally see my bf loving many of these items. i’ve tried to give him clothing as a gift but only with limited success. great book suggestions, too.

  • As far as computer games, might I also suggest “Left 4 Dead” (XBOX 360 & PC)? My bf loves it, but then again, the missions (“movies) can go on forever.. especially if his mates are online. With infected zombies, guns, team interaction, cinematic gameplay, and the fact that it’s portable on his laptop? It’s very dangerous territory, I mean, if you like eating dinner together.

  • AC — apology accepted! LA is an easy target, I will admit. But the LA you see on Entourage is only a small slice of life out here. Let’s be honest … I wish I rolled like Vince and the crew.

    I retract the last sentence of my original post. I just think it’s time Angelenos started standing up for our fair city!!!

    Again, good gift guide. I’ve forwarded it to several female friends.

  • OK, great recommendation on that basketball almanac! That knocks out 3 of my xmas list… and probably a copy for me as well!

  • It’s reassuring that so many others have a 30 something man glued to their video game system. I recently found out that I’m hosting a Rock Band new year’s eve party. I should probably start practicing…

  • AC- your gifts guides are right on. Last year, I got my boyfriend a Slingbox for Christmas and a XBox Elite for his birthday! For the Slingbox, he was like, “I didn’t even know something this awesome existed!” (Sorry, I took full credit). This year, I am diverting from the list and buying him a gift card to Lowes as he just bought a fixer- upper.
    Thanks though, I will bookmark this list for his birthday.

  • Best gift guide around! With your humorous tastes I wish you would write a gift guide for every day! “Introducing the Happy Monday gift guide!” Well done AC

  • For a great shave in NYC, I recommend The New York Shaving Company on Elizabeth Street (http://theshaveofnewyork.com/). I got the full shave/haircut package for my boyfriend for his birthday. He loved it! It’s a cute shop and the barbers are excellent. Now for Christmas he is getting a straight razor and a class at the shop to learn how to use it.

  • This gift guide is awesome! There are so many things on here that my man will love…things he’d even mentioned to me, but I’d forgotten about…thanks for the great ideas!

  • If you hadn’t done such a witty and useful post this year, you might have gotten out of doing it next year. Alas.
    Good news for us, more work for you!

  • I think we should try it and post the results of our experiment. They would be beautiful if it would work.

    What a good idea, Valerie. I might do that next time I mail a gift.

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