Let’s be real. Every blog now is doing a gift guide. And sure, a lot of them can be useful, but most are glorified Amazon wish lists that are more fun to look at than to use. They also tend to neglect the most important person in your life: you.

So this year, I’m going to do something different. I put together a gift guide for the most important person in your life, you. One that’s going to make you look better, smell better, think sharper.

Improving yourself is the best gift you can give to your friends and family.

Like those safety cards everyone ignores on planes say: Put on your oxygen mask first before attempting to help others with theirs.

Here are some of my favorite things you should pick up this holiday season for yourself:

Thursday Boots Brown Captain Boots

THE MOST COMFORTABLE BOOTS I’VE EVER WORN

Thursday Boot Company “Captain Boots”
$199 via Thursday Boot Co

Here at The Essential Man, I have a “no pitch policy”. I’ve seen too many style sites fall into the trap of recommending bad products because they’re getting paid a lot of money. I like to take a different approach: I don’t recommend any products I haven’t used, don’t own, or wouldn’t buy myself.

Thursday Boots, which I’ve worn on and off for the last 10 months. It is, by far, one of the most comfortable shoes (let alone boot) I’ve ever owned. I have pairs of $700+ dollar boots that aren’t this comfortable.

Thursday Boots represent a new market for men’s boots, an entry-level Goodyear Welt boot, and they definitely set the standard. What I love most are the rubber soles that give a solid grip, especially in the rain, and the classic style.

Polish it up and wear it with your suit, or dress it down with a pair of jeans and a bomber jacket. It’s an extremely versatile addition to your wardrobe.

To sum it up, it’s a perfect boot.

3sixteen indigo sashiko workjacket

THE DAILY JACKET

3sixteen Indigo Sashiko Work Jacket
$330 via Self Edge

When it comes to jackets, I have two requirements: versatility and pocket access. That’s why I love patch pockets on blazers, and my favorite casual jackets to recommend are either field jackets or bombers.

Lately, I’ve been loving work jackets. These jackets are based off jackets workers would throw over their clothes when they were doing manual labor. They tend to have big, easy to use pockets and be made of rugged materials.

This version by 3Sixteen is one of my favorites this season. It combines a work jacket style with traditional japanese textiles. Sashiko is an embroidery stitch that creates a unique pattern on the fabric (the subtle, vertical dotted lines), it also helps reinforce areas that get a lot of use. Like all products by 3sixteen, there’s no doubt that this jacket is going to look better with age.

flint and tinder sumpia air knit tee

THE SOFTEST TEE, PERIOD

Supima Air Knit Tee by Flint & Tinder
$38 via Huckberry

A common question I get with clients is how to decide is something is worth spending a bit more money. The simplest answer is this: It’s hard to make something great at a low price. I always recommend trying on clothes that are out of your price range, because the best way to understand quality and luxury is to experience it firsthand.

Case in point, Flint & Tinder’s air knit tee, one of the softest t-shirts you’ll ever wear. These shirts are made from Supima cotton (which Huckberry brilliantly describes as the “cashmere of cotton”).

Supima cotton fibers are longer than most standard cottons, making them feel softer and luxurious. Think about how prickly and coarse your hair feels when it’s short, versus running your fingers through your girlfriend’s hair.

That’s why Supima cotton is so soft. Once you try these, it’s going to be really hard to wear anything else.

Filson Leather Trimmed Briefcase

THE LAPTOP BAG I’VE BEEN RECOMMENDING TO ALL MY CLIENTS

Leather Trimmed Twill Briefcase by Filson
$325 via Mr. Porter

Backpacks make you look like you’re in college. Laptop bags feel a little too corporate and are just plain ugly.

That’s why for my clients that find themselves lugging around laptops and papers, I always recommend Filson’s leather trimmed twill briefcase. Despite the name, it’s actually more like a messenger bag with a handle. It fits a Macbook perfectly, and has a ton of compartments inside to help keep things organized.

It doesn’t scream “tech guy” like a lot of  laptop bags do which is why I love it so much. It’s smart, functional, and grown up.

diptyque feu de bois candle

A FIREPLACE IN A CANDLE

Feu de Bois Candle by Diptyque
$62 via Amazon

Have you ever walked into a nice store and the smell draws you in? Smells are a quick, effective way to really transform a space. If you want your apartment or office to feel more inviting, I recommend picking up a candle.

But I’m not telling you to run to the grocery store and pick up one of those candles that smells like fresh laundry or whatever a “Hawaiian breeze” is. A stylish, sophisticated guy requires a sophisticated candle. My all time favorite is Feu de Bois by Diptyque. The scent is a blend of rare woods that essentially smells like a crackling fireplace in the winter without the big ashy mess.

terrapin stationers custom engraved notecards

MAKE A STRONG IMPRESSION

Custom Engraved Notecards by Terrapin Stationers
$225 via Terrapin Stationers

The curse of technology: it’s allowed us to technically connect faster, but has made is just as easy to get lost in the crowd.

I originally had notecards with my name made when I was designing my menswear line. I would write thank you cards to my customers and include it in every box. Since closing my line, I’ve used these to reach out to people I meet at parties or events. It never fails to get me a compliment and connect on a deeper level. If you want to make a strong impression, whether it’s with future friends or business partners, nothing does the trick like a handwritten note on your own stationery.

Sure, it takes a bit more effort, but the rewards always favor people willing to go that one step further.

inis meain ribbed melange merino wool cashmere beanie

NO MORE ITCHY BEANIES

Ribbed Mélange Merino & Cashmere Blend Beanie by Inis Meáin
$110 via Mr. Porter

Most wools annoy me. My eyes get watery. My skin gets itchy. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve switched to mostly wearing cashmere. Of course, the only downside with cashmere is that it can get expensive.

The next best thing are blends, like this merino wool and cashmere blended beanie. The great thing about this blend is you get the volume and heft that a merino wool provides, with that bit of softness from the cashmere. If you hate how little protection you get from acrylic beanies, and how itchy a lot of wools are, this is the way to go.

bonobos-chinos

THE SINGLE PAIR OF PANTS MY CLIENTS CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF

Stretch Washed Chinos by Bonobos
$98 via Bonobos

Since I started The Essential Man, I’ve estimated I’ve had one-on-one conversations with at least 1,000 men about their personal style. (If you’ve ever answered one of my e-mails, you might’ve been surprised when I answer back.)

I’ve noticed a pattern with the guys that have started to dress better, and that’s their absolute favorite pair of pants: The stretch chino by Bonobos.

The chino are the perfect pants because they’re so versatile. You can dress them up with a blazer, or rock them with a leather jacket and boots in place of jeans.

Bonobos’ come in nearly every color, which is great if you find khaki colors a bit boring like I do. But what I love about them is that they now come in different cuts, including athletic, which are cut slightly roomier in the thighs. With a touch of stretch for comfort, I’m pretty confident these are going to be your new favorite pair of pants.

jcrew-mens-slub-cotton-shirt

THE PERFECT FALL BUTTON-UP SHIRT

Slub Cotton Shirt by J.Crew
$69 via J.Crew

When it comes to fall and winter style, one of the best ways to make your look less boring is by adding some texture. J.Crew’s club cotton button-up shirt is a perfect way to do that without having to go full chunky knit sweater.

Slub cotton is cotton with some knots and twists in the fibers (done on purpose) to give it a slight texture. What you end up with is a subtle upgrade to your everyday button-up shirt that’s easy to wear. My favorite this fall is the solid blue colorway, a great seasonal replacement to my favorite button-up shirt of all time, the chambray. 

burberry london cologne

THE COLOGNE ALL MY FEMALE FRIENDS TOLD ME TO RECOMMEND

Burberry London Cologne by Burberry
$60 via Sephora

For this recommendation, I used a very scientific process: I asked all my hot female friends what smell they like on a guy for fall. The one scent that kept coming up? Burberry London by Burberry.

That reason alone should be enough to get you to pick up this scent (just look at all those reviews on Sephora). In case you need some descriptions: think scent with hints of leather and cinnamon that smells warm, masculine, and sexy. As a lot of people put it: “It’s Fall in a bottle.”

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

AN ARMY OF MENTORS ON YOUR BOOKSHELF

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
$16 via Amazon

If you made me pick one item off this list to recommend, it would be this book.

One of the things that has affected my life in the past couple of years was being able to have mentors in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people in areas like business, personal development, and just recently fitness.

But I know from experience too that finding mentors can be tricky. Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans is the next best thing. Over the past couple of years, Tim’s been able to interview some of the most successful, fascinating, and top performing people on his podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show”.

People like Tony Robbins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, and Sophia Amoruso. He highlights some of the most important takeaways and quotes from each of his guests in his latest book “Tools of Titans”.

The book is divided into three sections: Health, wealth, and wisdom. He covers everything from time management, productivity, getting into shape, and what it takes to build million dollar businesses.

Get. This. Book.

Nike Metcon 2

BECAUSE LOOKING BADASS WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO PERFORM LIKE ONE

Nike Metcon 2 Training Shoe
$99 via Nike

On a couple of recent styling calls some guys asked for recommendations for gym clothes and gear.

Do you need to look good at the gym to have a great workout? No. But I do believe there are some psychological benefits to buying gear that looks great.

For me it comes down to how badass I look. When I look like a badass, I want to do badass things, like kill it in my workout. Besides, it’s not like it takes more effort to buy nicer looking gym clothes. Nike makes it completely easy by being great in terms of functionality and aesthetically.

A great example are Nike’s Metcon 2 shoe, a low profile shoe that targets people who do Crossfit or Crossfit style training. They feel great and look a lot better than those toe shoes. Since I wear mostly black at the gym, I love them in neon green for some contrast. You can get them in a ton more colors and even create your own using Nike iD. If you’re looking to upgrade your fitness next year, a great place to start is with your gear.

ace hotel robe

THE PERFECT ROBE FOR POST WORKOUT LOUNGING

Long Robe by Atelier Ace
$125 via Ace Hotel Shop

This is one of my favorite gifts that my girlfriend has even given me.

Robes usually fall into two categories: the silky Hugh Hefner type that gives off creepy vibes, or the ones that are made from a giant bath towel.

This robe is neither.

Made from a soft cotton flannel, cut like a japanese kimono, with two generous front pockets, the long robe is perfect for lounging around the house post workout.

Google Chromecast 2

BINGE BETTER

Chromecast 2 by Google
$35 via Google

I haven’t had cable since living at my parents house, and even then it’s hard to understand why anyone would get it. Especially if you spend a day using a Chromecast.

Sure, it works best when you have paid accounts for things like HBO, Hulu, and Netflix, but chances are you already do. And it beats watching your favorite shows on your laptop (or worse, your phone).

$35, plug it into the back of your TV’s HDMI port, log-in to your Wi-fi and you’re all ready to go to watch your favorite movies and shows on your T.V. controlled with your phone.

feltul eagle bike tool

A BIKE MECHANIC IN YOUR POCKET

The FELTuL Eagle by FELTuL
$49 via FELTuL

Own a bike? Awesome, you’re going to love this. 9 tools in one, 11+ functions. Smaller than a credit card, as light as 3 U.S. quarters (thanks to being made from aircraft grade titanium).

The FELTuL Eagle’s designed and made by my friend Rob Felty, an engineer and triathlete who was sick of carrying around a clunky multi-tool and a handful of loose gear to fix his bike during a race. So he took it upon himself to design and make a solution.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s now available on their site.

Even if you aren’t a triathlete, this is a must have if you own a bike in general. Bonus: he also included a bottle opener function, because why the hell not?

dknight magicbox 2 bluetooth speaker

THE BEST $30 I’VE EVER SPENT

DKnight Magicbox 2 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
$29 via Amazon

I’m usually skeptical when something is too cheap. But nearly 9,100 reviews with an average of 4.4 stars, I had to see what the big deal was.

I was quite honestly surprised. The sound from this little speaker (which is about the size as a box of butter sticks) is amazing for the price. It easily fills up my living room and maintains a solid bluetooth connection no matter where I am with my phone. The battery lasts for roughly 12-hours. For my use, which is usually an hour here and there when I’m writing or cooking, I can go without charging with for a week.

While it says it can be used to make and answer calls, I’ve found that function a bit clunky and to be honest, I never got it to really work. But if you’re looking for a portable speaker for your house or office to listen to Spotify or podcasts, I highly recommend you get this one.

blue bottle bella donovan coffee beans

MY CURRENT FAVORITE COFFEE BEAN

Bella Donovan Coffee Beans by Blue Bottle Coffee
$8 via Blue Bottle Coffee

A Blue Bottle Coffee recently opened up in my neighborhood. During a recently trip there, I asked the barista to recommend me a bean and she said I should pick-up the Bella Donovan.

I’ve drunk it for about a week now and absolutely love it. A blend of African and Indonesian beans, it has a nice, full body feel of a dark roast with a hint of citrus from the African beans. Not too acidic and beautifully balanced. It’s everything you want in a morning cup.

the daily stoic by ryan holiday

THE AUTHOR THAT HAS BEEN CHANGING MY LIFE

The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
$15 via Amazon

Life is stressful. Throw on top of that trying to start a business and you can feel like you’re losing your mind.

When I started venturing out on my own, I picked up “Meditations by Marcus Aurelius” after hearing Ryan Holiday recommend it on a podcast. Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emporer, and meditations was essentially his journal where he talks about challenges and how he mentally dealt with them using stoicism.

Think of stoicism and stoic thinkers like that wise old man in your neighborhood that you could go for life advice. It doesn’t matter what it is, he somehow knows the right answer.

I really attribute it to helping me be calm and deal with my challenges in an intelligent way.

Ryan’s latest book collects wisdom from some of the greatest Stoics (including Marcus Aurelius) and presents them in a “stoic wisdom of the day” over the course of 366 pages. You can think of it like visiting that wise old man every morning when you get your cup of coffee.

related garments underwear

MY NEW FAVORITE PAIR OF UNDERWEAR (AND SOCKS)

Related Garments Underwear and Socks Combo Pack
$29 via Related Garments

I met David Appel, founder of Related Garments, through my old boss Robert Geller. David is an L.A. based designer that has worked with literally everybody, and along with his brother Mike, they started Related Garments. (Get the name now?)

Related Garments focuses on underwear/sock sets made from matching fabrics, a super soft cotton with a hint of stretch. If you’ve read my previous list, you know how much I love my Ex-Officio boxers, but I have to admit that Related boxers have taken up 50% of my sock and underwear drawer. They’re super soft and comfortable and have a “non-rise” hem so you don’t end up with a diaper butt from all the fabric bunching up.

When I told David I was going to included Related Garments in my gift guide, he was kind enough to hook me and Essential Man readers up with a special promo code.

So click here to pick-up a few pairs of Related Garment packs, then use the code “ESSENTIALMAN” at checkout. You’ll get 20% off of all orders over $50

Anything you love that I missed? Share them in the comments below, I’d love to hear your recommendations.

peter@theessentialman.com'
Author

Hi, I'm Peter. I spent 11 years as a menswear designer here in NYC. Now, I help some of the most successful men look really good as a Private Personal Stylist and writer of The Essential Man. You can learn more about what I do by clicking here

  • Loving this list Peter and i could not agree more with the book recommendation, “Daily Stoic.” I really enjoy a lot of Ryan’s stuff.

    Thanks brother and happy holidays!

    • Peter Nguyen

      Thanks man! I agree. Ryan has been killing it lately. Have you read Ego is the enemy?

      • Yes sir. Great book. In July I went on a 10 day silent retreat and on the way back listened to it on audible. A real game changer for me.