Giving gifts to your guy friends can be awkward … so awkward, in fact, that 12 years after our original post on this topic people still read it and email us for advice.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Gift giving to your best buds is the same as for anyone else …
- Thoughtfulness counts more than dollar amount
- Keep it simple and focused on the giftee’s interests
Stop for a moment and consider one of your best friends. Ask yourself, what are their main interests? Imagine he’s a poker nut … an upgraded set of poker chips or a slick new deck of washable playing cards is a fantastic gift. Simple, right?
Gifts Between Guys Are More Meaningful
In fact, the very thing that makes gifting between males so hard is what makes it great. When you give your bud a well-chosen gift it resonates all the more because, frankly, it’s so seldom done.
I’ll give you an example: Last Christmas, I got my brother-in-law the same thing I do every year …nothing, because my wife takes care of it.
My brother-in-law, however, got me a pair of Irish wool gloves with leather palms – the kind of dressy-but-functional piece I would never get myself. It was all the more meaningful because it was the rarest kind of gift – one between guys.
When Do Guys Gift?
The obvious occasion is birthdays. Your bud’s birthday – especially a milestone occasion like 30 – is the ideal opportunity to give a meaningful gift that no one else amongst family or friends will think to give. That’s why all of the gifts in this guide are ideal birthday gifts for guys.
Anniversaries, promotions, weddings, and – of course – all the standard holidays are also perfectly acceptable times to find gifts for male friends.
One general principle to follow: if it’s the kind of thing you’d get yourself, it’s probably exactly what your friend will appreciate. Happy (gift) hunting!
Gift Ideas For Guys From Guys
1. International Version of the Poster for his Third-most Favorite Movie
What do you get your movie buff bud who insists on Blu-ray because streaming totally ruins darker tones?
Remember our bomb-proof rules to gift giving (thought over money and following your friend’s interests)? This idea satisfies both perfectly. It’s unexpected, well-considered, and guaranteed to be a conversation piece for years to come.
The key is to pick a movie that isn’t your buddy’s #1 favorite, but second or third on the list. Either he’s already got the English-language version of that movie, or he will at some point. Another approach is to select a movie from a beloved franchise (Bond, Indiana … you get the idea).
Where do you find foreign language movie poster gifts? Ebay has tons of authentic foreign language movie posters for sale as long as you’re up for a little digging. For more affordable reprints, Amazon has plenty and so does RedBubble.
2. DIY … Everything
Your buddy is handy. He’s built tables, an Adirondack chair, and has a half-assembled canoe in his garage. What do you get someone so damn self-sufficient?
Simple. Give him another project to dive into.
Beer: if he’s a beer guy – or even just a food dude – a brewing kit is ideal for getting started with home artisanal projects. Plus, it can be enjoyed in the backyard after.
Amazon’s top-rated brewing kit from Mr. Beer is great for beginners – it only takes 30 minutes to get a batch started. For a more intermediate experience try Northern Brewer’s Essential kit.
Spirits: If your mate is more of a spirits guy, well, there’s a kit for that too.
If you’re not looking to add yet another DIY project to your buddy’s plate but you want to pay tribute to his self-sufficient spirit you can never go wrong with a new tool. Next time you’re chatting or hanging out, get him talking about his latest project and casually ask, “Huh, what kind of tools you need for that?” and he’ll spill the beans like a naive diplomat during the cold war. Mission accomplished.
3. Steak Dinner
A buddy of mine once took me out to his favorite steak spot – a hole-in-the-wall in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. We split the biggest steak I’ve ever seen and it was glorious. We still talk about it.
Steak is – culturally and culinarily – an occasion food, and the perfect gift to mark an important milestone … or just say thanks for being a bud.
Rather than hit the town, we recommend heading to your local fine grocer or butcher’s shop and selecting a prime beef cut (preferably dry-aged) and having a feast at home. Utilize our guide to reverse searing for a perfectly-cooked steak every time. Or combine this with the tool idea, gift him a sous vide machine and use it together that evening.
It's simple. It's a treat but not fussy. It's primal. It invites good man-to-man conversation. The perfect gift.
4. Great Booze
If your friend is an aficionado, spring for something you know is a cut above their every day sipper. When my friend gifted me a bottle of Glenfarclas 17 it was because he knew it was a very nice step from my usual Aberlour 12. Legendary.
If you know more about booze than your friend, consider giving them your regular jam and then having a conversation about why it’s your delicious workhorse.
If you’re looking for a great bottle of whiskey to give as a gift but don’t want to spend a lot of money, be sure to read Primer’s The 10 Best Whiskies Under $50 That Don't Start With Jack, Jim, Johnnie, or Jameson
5. A Keen Blade
One of the very best gifts I’ve ever received is a simple, discreet Kershaw pocket knife with a two-inch blade designed by Ken Onion (a legendary knife designer with a hilarious name). It’s so functional, straightforward, and – yes – stylish that it reignited my interest in knives and knife design.
Whether it’s a pen knife, pocket knife, field knife, vintage folder, or a hand-forged hatchet, blades and the craftsmanship that goes into them is endlessly fascinating and nearly always appreciated.
If your friend doesn’t carry a utility knife, consider picking up a quality chef’s knife from Victorinox. It’s a probably the most consistent, well-regarded name in consumer-level knives, period.
6. Gift Subscription to Premium Learning
Certain men value knowledge and experience over things. While excellent to count as a friend, they can be downright onerous to shop for when the occasion calls. In such situations, it’s always a good idea to think outside of anything that can go in a box and look for tools that can help your bud add a new skill.
Masterclass boasts seminars about writing, movie-making, and public speaking from world famous greats like Malcolm Gladwell, Martin Scorsese, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Best of all, if you buy a subscription as a gift, they’re currently running a promotion where you get one for yourself free.
Udemy is Masterclass’s slightly less world-famous cousin, boasting hundreds of popular courses from experts and craftspeople. Learn how to bake, design a logo, or code from working professionals.
If your buddy is a knowledge consumer, self-improvement nut, or just likes to learn new things, consider a subscription that furthers their interests.
7. Everyday Carry Upgrade
A man’s Everyday Carry is highly personal, so you might be surprised to see it on this list. We agree. That’s why we’re not recommending you buy your buddy a wallet unless you have an almost religious feeling about your own and want to spread the gospel.
You can, however, augment your friend’s daily kit with any number of useful tools and gadgets.
Consider a new pocket knife, light, phone case, water bottle, bag, multi-tool, or even upgraded keychain. All are highly practical, always-appreciated gifts for guys. It becomes even more impactful if you’ve observed (or heard your buddy) struggling with some aspect of their daily carry.
So eyes and ears open – you can almost certainly improve your bud’s EDC in a memorable, functional way.
8. Growth Tools: Journal & Pen
We all have that one friend – thoughtful, reserved, always ready to ponder the bigger questions (whether it’s about the Steeler’s new lineup or the mysteries of the universe). What do get someone who thinks such lofty thoughts?
Journaling is a powerful tool for self-reflection, productivity, and learning. Give your buddy a nice journal and pen to jumpstart their new habit and point them to our guide, How to Get Into Journaling: The One Thing That Can Change Everything.
You can never go wrong with a Moleskine and pack of Pilot V5 Precise pens (my preferred loadout), and Etsy has literally thousands of quality, customizable options. For a more guided experience, try a journal like the SELF Journal by BestSelf.