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The Guy-gifting Conundrum: Ideas for Dad and Other Impossible-To-Shop-for Men on Your List

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for over two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.


This isn't acceptable, via Gone Digging.

Dear Holiday Shoppers,

When seeking holiday gifts for women, options are seemingly limitless—assuming said woman has a neck and ears there are always silk scarves and silver earrings. You can gift a female a lovely candle; a cheese board; this year's hot literary fiction title; a quirky totebag; a tube of luxurious handcream. Worst case scenario—if you're really, really stumped—you can show up with some great chocolate. And these are all less personal options for ladies you don't even know that well. Long story short: Women are easy.

Men are not easy. You cannot present most men a candle, or handcream, or a silk scarf (even if Louis Vuitton and Paul Smith make some really fantastic silk scarves for men). Men aren't generally interested in the latest Zadie Smith. And, I'm sorry, there's something a little tragic about handing a dude a box of Godiva.

Men are hard to shop for. And as men age, getting them gifts gets harder. Case in point: Your dad. How many ties have you bought your dad? How many times have you succumbed to settling for whatever the bestselling book in American history or science or golf is at a given gift-giving moment? Does your dad golf or play tennis? Then god bless—at least you can pick up some tees or balls. My dad doesn't—my sisters and I choose giftcards. And we mainly go with giftcards to restaurants—at least then my mom will make sure they get used.

I don't know why this is—and, I don't think I'm hard to shop for. I will gladly accept quirky totebags, cheese boards, luxury handcreams, and Zadie Smith novels. But I'm the exception.

Some theories: I do think men can be less vocally enthusiastic about their interests then women and the youngs—so the idea of catching and latching on to some excited aside from them regarding houndstooth umbrellas or ramekins or whatever is pretty unlikely. I also get the impression that if men need or want something—they just go out and buy it themselves. And they don't go to 37 stores to check options and prices. They just walk in to wherever they're closest to and buy it (or, even more likely, order it from their work computer). So they always seem to need less. Also: Can you imagine your dad saying he needed a new silk scarf?

Fortunately, in terms of dude-centric retail, we're in the middle of a bit of a renaissance and as such, gifts are getting easier. Even if the gifts are still sort of a shot in the dark, there are a lot more options. Think about it: The J.Crew Men's Shop; the Americana explosion; the man cave. There are leatherbound notebooks and limited-run woolen scarves and American-made backpacks. There are luxury umbrellas and monogrammed barware and high-end shaving accessories.

And it doesn't matter if you're not in New York—all these purveyors of masqualinity sell online. Peruse Modern Anthology for taxidermy, leather polish, and vintage barware. Check MiN New York for the best and most exclusive in shaving and fragrance or visit Birchbox Man (remember them) for monthly shipments of grooming and gadgets. Visit J.Crew's Liquor Store for easy-wear clothes and accessories by the catalog brand and others. And don't miss Hickoree's for quirky socks, unique stationery, and American-made ties and hankerchiefs.

Finally, Fab is a great source for all things designerly and quirky. Your man didn't even know he needed a jellyfish aquarium, a WPA print, or ergonomic Italian grilling gadgets.

Further, the whole experiential gifting phenomenon should not be overlooked—you can buy almost any experience these days. Skip the fleece vest and purchase a hiking trip; bypass the wine opener for a wine class—these options are virtually limitless and theoretically unforgettable. Visit Zozi to buy bike tours or paintball packages or even Mexican vacations. Living Social might be a little less manly, but they have all kinds of packages all over the country: Snowboarding, helicopter-flying, and gun-shooting included.

As an experiential aside: Food! Food is having a moment! The more artisinal and homespun the better. And that means there are a lot of food-related gifts ripe for the picking. In New York we have the Meat Hook and Brooklyn Kitchen. In your area there are farms and restaurants and community colleges that offer all kinds of classes and workshops: Google local classes on pickling, beer brewing, pig butchering, knife-sharpening, what have you.

Which leads us to our collective artisinal, hand-prepared, farmer's market obsession. You might not spend $9 on pickles for yourself but when your stumped on a dad gift and your dad likes a pickle? Just do it. There are small-batch coffees and local jams and cured meats and artisinal cheeses. Try McClure's for briny things and Murray's for cheeses and meats. For the hand-knit, the hand-assembled, the personally-sourced and independently foraged there's Etsy: Scarves, framed prints, decorative boxes, vintage objects. Search and you shall find.

If all else fails, if the subject of your shopping is really just that difficult, may I suggest chunky sweaters at Club Monaco, festive scarves and gloves from Gap, rumpled, easy-wear woven shirts from J.Crew, or the dress furnishings department at Macy's where you'll find ties of every width and color. And, of course, Tom Wolfe has a new book out—Back to Blood. Not a bad option.

· Love, Frank [Racked]