A guide to buying gifts for men

Husbands, sons, boyfriends, brothers, fathers and friends; everyone has a man to buy gifts for. But when it comes to actually choosing a gift that they will appreciate, there are many pitfalls. Striking the right balance between practicality and sentimentality can be a tough line to tread, as well as ensuring that the gift is something the man in question will enjoy. The traditional fall-backs of ties, socks and aftershave can only go so far before they become repetitive and unoriginal; something no gift-giver ever wants to be labelled as. This simple and practical guide lists some of the most thoughtful and unique gift ideas for the man in anyone’s life, and offers some helpful advice for those who have trouble choosing gifts that show how much they care.

The first step to finding the perfect gift for a man is to establish a man’s interests. Purchasing a set of golf tees would be relatively useless for a man who preferred his soccer, and the brandy connoisseurs among men might not appreciate a wine cooler as a gift. Asking a few discreet questions about a hobby or pastime of theirs can give vital clues as to what equipment they’d love to add to their kit, or what item they’re missing from a collection. Secondly, it’s important to consider the age of the man in question. A personalised bottle of wine or whisky might not be as appropriate to a young man as it would be for an older man, whereas a sophisticated technological gadget might not be the best gift for a grandparent or older relative who struggles with new technology.

Once the area of interest has been found, and the appropriate target age of the gift decided, the gift-seeking process can truly begin. For example, a young man who is constantly on the go and loves to have all of the latest gadgets might have all of the technological devices he needs, but does he have somewhere stylish and secure to store them when not in use? Protective laptop cases, leather iPad sleeves, mobile phone covers or other accessories for gadgets make excellent gifts for men who like to stay right on the high-tech cutting-edge. In other cases, older men who have a deep and nostalgic appreciation for music from their youth might appreciate a few vintage records in their original sleeves, or some novelty homewares or artwork in the shape of a vinyl. Deciphering a man’s passion, finding a hobby or unearthing one of his favourite pastimes, and then aligning it with an age-appropriate gift is the key to becoming a great gift-giver.

But what about the man who already has everything he needs? Finding a gift for men who have everything can simply be more of a case of buying them something they want rather than something they need. A luxury item, something to indulge in, something they wouldn’t necessarily think to buy themselves, but something that, once received, they realised they wish they’d had all along. Luxury poker or bridge sets make wonderful gifts for the avid players of card games, or even for the stylish few who love to furnish their homes with such items for decorative purposes. Photo frames aren’t something which a man would necessarily purchase for himself, and filling them with a family picture or a photo of a special moment can enhance the sense of meticulousness and attention to detail with which the gift has obviously been given. Also, there is a popular superstition which says that it’s unlucky to buy your own wallet or purse; this makes surprising a lucky father, brother or other half with a chic leather wallet or cardholder a thoughtful and considerate gesture (whilst ensuring they’re not plagued with so-called bad luck by buying their own).

Men who have everything they need may also look to become collectors; once they have everything they need, they can start to collect exclusive or one-off items which relate to their interests. Whether it is conventional stamps, sports memorabilia or musical instruments or more specific collectibles such as antiques or artwork, buying items to add to these sorts of collections are great gifts to give. Sourcing a special edition of a certain print or scouring the web for a specific item which may be missing from the set shows a level of kindness and consideration, as well as a keen awareness of a man’s interests. Autographed items from favourite celebrities, athletes or other famous names can also become a prized possession, if this is at all possible.

After finding a thoughtful and appropriate gift, many people like to go that extra step further and personalise their present. There are a multitude of ways to do this now, including bespoke bottles of whisky or brandy, engraved jewellery, one-of-a-kind fountain pens made to order and even personalised chocolates and sweets. These types of gifts show an extra level of consideration and effort has been put into a gift, and gives a man something which is truly theirs. The best types of gifts to personalise tend to be the ones which are generic; alcoholic drinks, watches and everyday items like mugs or socks work well to this end. Monogrammed cufflinks, ties, handkerchiefs and dressing gowns are also popular. But there are also ways to think outside the box when personalising a gift. Rather than simply opting for a name or monogrammed initials, using birthdates or other significant dates can have a similar effect. Inscriptions in different languages can send a resonant message, while song lyrics or other meaningful mottos can also give a gift that truly bespoke feel.

There are some relationships in life that don’t necessarily call for a truly heartfelt and personal gift. The relationship between many brothers and sisters is a playful one, as is the one with work colleagues and other friends. Novelty gifts are a great way to show someone that you care about them without coming across as too serious. They come in many different forms, but the best novelty gifts are the ones which are actually useful too. A joke gift is all well and good for around twenty-four hours after the gift is received, but if it has no other function other than to be funny, it may find itself consigned to the bin or the garage pretty quickly. Smaller novelty gifts can really come in handy; belt buckles or fridge magnets which double as bottle openers, Rubik’s cubes which have a concealed speaker and a USB port, or even something as simple as a money box which counts money as it’s deposited. They are light hearted and amusing gifts which also have a purpose and can be used in everyday life.

The convention for giving and receiving traditional gifts is enduring, but in recent decades there has been an emergence in the popularity of ‘gift experiences’, whereby the gift-giver purchases an exciting excursion for the recipient to enjoy. These can be anything from wine and cheese tasting sessions to skydives, tickets to sporting or musical events, driving Formula One cars or learning how to manoeuvre a speedboat. Rather than a tangible gift, these experiences can offer something which is often more enduring than a present: great memories. There are a few guidelines when giving this type of gift, and getting it right does require a bit of research or inside knowledge. If a man has a mortal fear of heights, purchasing him a once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon experience might not go down so well. Similarly, when buying tickets for sporting or musical events, it’s important to ensure that the man receiving the gift actually supports the team or likes the band! If anything, the key behind these gifts is a little common sense, but when they’re done right, they can create a special and unforgettable experience.

Where at first, the world of men’s gift ideas might seem daunting and relatively narrow, there are actually thousands of original and interesting choices. The resounding message is to know and understand the man in question, whether it’s through careful questions or simply being that close to him, understanding his hobbies, passions and interests is vital in choosing the right gift. There are ways in which thinking outside of the box can result in much more creative and exciting gifts, but sometimes the generic ties, socks and aftershaves can be the best method, and can be livened up if necessary with a little personalisation. Exhilarating gift experiences can provide everlasting memories for both the sender and the recipient, while there is nothing wrong with purchasing a fun novelty gift if the relationship calls for it. Buying for a man may seem to be difficult and time-consuming at first, but in practice it can actually be a fun and enjoyable process which, when done properly, can end up bringing the gift-giver and the recipient closer together.