It can be a little strange to pick out a gift for your guy friend. If you labor over it too much, you start to feel like you’re shopping for a girlfriend and, out of fear, you decide to stop caring so much and hurriedly settle on a band t-shirt of the wrong size. I get that. I’ve been there. But I’m now here to help.
Unfortunately, I am not eloquent or well read enough to try and analyze the psychological root of this strange male instinct to appear apathetic when it comes to friendly offerings but what I can provide are some gift-giving ideas that have served me well in the past and will help get you through birthdays, celebrations, and holidays without any real problem (and maybe even some pride and pleasure).
A couple things should be noted before we get going:
- All of the following criteria could very well apply to the process of choosing a gift for anyone, be they male, female, friend, or whatever.
- A self-made compilation CD is never suitable as a standalone gift for anybody, no matter how many nights you spent perfecting it or how awesome it is.
- Gift cards/certificates are not gifts, they’re white flags of surrender.
Now, with that said, let’s get to the list!
International Version of the Poster for his Third-most Favorite Movie.
This is a quick, slightly bizarre, but very individualized idea. The most important thing to remember in all gift-giving is to avoid the easy, default gift areas. If your buddy Greg’s favorite movie is Jaws, then there’s a pretty good chance he will already have anything you track down, related to Jaws (not to mention he’s probably sick of being associated with just one movie). Further, most of your mutual friends have probably already out-thought themselves on that front, realizing that Jaws is an over-tapped well and they’ve started giving Greg gifts associated with his second-favorite flick (let’s say it’s Bullitt)… avoid this tactic, too.
The key is to find a movie that he has a reasonably large interest in but something that he has not yet been oversaturated with every holiday for the last 14 years; something overlooked and almost “underground,” in its visibility. It usually will not be as obvious as it should be and that’s where the whole listening phenomenon becomes invaluable. Think about times when he made comments like “The Incredibles might be my favorite Pixar movie” or “how did 25th Hour not get one Oscar nomination?” and go from there. The “international” wrinkle is necessary because it shows that you not only pay attention to your friend’s tastes but you traveled across oceans to find him a sweet present.
The easiest and cheapest place to find international posters for American films is eBay. Don’t settle on a merely translated version of the theatrical poster, either – most movies create different artwork for international release (especially for Asian markets). Track down a poster that not only has a different language all over it but one that also doesn’t look anything like the poster he could find at the local Wal-Mart.
Note: frame it. Don’t ask questions, just do it.
It’s the Thought That Counts (…well, that and the money saved)
I know “homemade” gifts have earned a very bad rap over the years and sometimes reasonably so (even I, right there, used quotation marks because the word’s connotation is so negative) but the fact is, most anyone can concoct a very cool and reasonably unique gift with their own hands without giving up every ounce of free time and/or an exorbitant amount of money while also not appearing cheap or uninterested. It should be pointed out that the traditional definition of “homemade” should not adhere to your previous attempts – your list of options goes far beyond only a misshapen, glazed clay ashtray (Happy Birthday Nanny!).
Got a bunch of anecdotes from high school or college about your friend? Did you go on a memorable trip with him and take a bunch of photos? Publish a book on Blurb and send a signed copy to your friend. A professional-looking chronicle of some moments in time you shared can anchor his bookshelf for years, unparalleled in its exceptional nature.
Is your friend a big music buff? Find some old and cheap – but strangely awesome! – vinyl records at a thrift shop and turn them into something more. There are plenty of tutorials online about how to turn records into bowls, coasters, and much more. Make a record bowl, fill it with small, interesting gifts (homemade or otherwise), and you have a homemade gift basket that will see use after its gift-carrying duties have expired (I use mine as a change dish). Can you draw or doodle? A framed hand-drawn comic book style portrayal of your friend will take you a few nights’ work and less than $10 at Target but will be far more original and personalized than anything else you could find in that time, for that amount of effort.
The point is, while sometimes your buddy just wants a certain DVD or hat, and there’s nothing wrong with granting that specific wish, many of the things we buy for others (to say nothing of the things we buy for ourselves) are very transient, replaceable, and lack character. Do most guys, by nature, think long and hard about the distinctive quality of a gift that their buddy Scott gave them for Christmas eight years ago? No. Scott gave them Terminator 2 on DVD and that movie kicks all kinds of ass. But when you think about it, wouldn’t you rather get something that is literally one-of-a-kind and could only come from someone who is a big part of your life, rather than something of which there are 11 million copies? That’s what I thought.
Something Recycled, Something Keen; Something Functional, Something Green
“Going green” is all the rage, now, with these hula hoop kids and that extremely mainstream ideal may inspire some hesitation as a gift-giver but I promise you won’t look like a bandwagon jerk if you do this right.
The first step with this concept is to accept that this gift is probably going to have to be bought online (where all the best “environmentally friendly” small businesses currently reside) and that you may have to pay a little bit more than expected to save your planet. Trust me, however: it will be worth it.
Secondly, have an idea of what your friend needs/wants. The best way to find an appropriate gift in this rapidly growing field is to know almost exactly what you’re looking for going in – without an idea ahead of time, you will drown in an ocean of options and end up just buying your friend a gift card. Did he just move into a new place and now needs a little floor rug or a lamp or a clock or a CD rack or some drinking glasses? Did he just get a new job and now needs a new messenger bag or new belt? There’s no shortage of choices. Hundreds of great stores online deal in recycled/reused products; some turn “obsolete” objects into works of art, some transform those forgotten products into functional pieces of decor.
Check out shops like Uncommon Goods (‘Recycled’ under Collections), Verterra, Viva Terra, or Worn Rubber and – of course – there are thousands of recycled artistic goods on Etsy. Be sure to also routinely peruse a fantastic blog called Great Green Goods that will keep you up to date on all sorts of stores and sites churning out awesome “reclaimed” pieces.
You can do something ethical and helpful while also delivering to your friend a fantastic gift that he will actually use and, really, isn’t that the very reason you want to give someone a gift?
It’s obvious that this gift is only a good idea if your friend shops at Amazon frequently but still doesn’t have a subscription to this terrific service. Dually, this is probably the most expensive idea on this list ($79 for a one-year subscription) but it is also the gift that definitely brings repeated awesomeness into your friend’s life.
In short, Amazon Prime gives them free 2-day shipping on any Amazon item on every order for 12 months — there is no limit (additionally, it allows them to upgrade all items to overnight shipping for a paltry $3.99 per item). They can order anything and get it in two days: books, CDs, clothes, electronics… anything! When you also consider that Amazon generally sells everything for cheaper than any other retailer, it is a no-brainer easily worth ten times the 80 bucks.
Hook him up with this and you will be the man at least once per month for an entire year.
What?! An actual, specific, material gift? Yes, this is an easy one. However, just because it’s something that you can specifically (and rather effortlessly) track down doesn’t make it devoid of value or manly appeal.
Does your friend play pick-up football or soccer on the weekends in cold weather? Does he have an extended on-foot commute to work? Does he tailgate a lot? Is he still a full time student who has to endure lengthy walks outdoors from class to class on February mornings? This is a must-have for all of them.
It seems almost crazy that these aren’t more popular, based on their universal applicability, coolness, minimalist-looking style and effectiveness. They’re easier to keep track of and easier to “use” than gloves, they come in a bunch of colors – plus, they make you feel like you’re under center and calling signals at a playoff game in Foxborough in January (because B’Warmer is the official brand of the NFL and NCAA).
You can easily find them at Hit! Run! Score! as well as nearly any sporting goods store. Eastbay has a generic-yet-still-very-well-made brand and there are NFL team-specific styles available in many other places. It’s that simple, people. Put thought into your gift selection/creation process and it will not only feel endlessly rewarding when you hand that crudely wrapped package over to him (newspaper is not wrapping paper unless the gift is a sturgeon) but it will also do what that Far Side calendar could never do: improve the receiver’s day and strengthen the relationship. …oh, man, it is like shopping for a girlfriend.