BENJAMIN CHAIT ’16
With the holiday season already well underway, it can be difficult and overwhelming to come up with unique and affordable gifts for everyone on your holiday list. While there are no official rules about gift giving, some sort of guide could be useful.
Though it seems rather basic, the motto “treat others the way you want to be treated” applies when giving a gift. Remember to ask yourself when you finally found a gift, “would I be happy if this was given to me?” or “is this gift on par with what I imagine the other person will do for me?”
When it comes to gifts, people claim to love the extravagant, but what does extravagant really mean? Despite popular notions, nothing is more extravagant than a personal or heartfelt gift. Intimacy is always more luxurious than a costly price tag. When shopping, never buy a gift based on the item’s popularity, but always buy based on the person. Take about five to ten minutes per person on your list and start thinking of that person’s character, interests, and lifestyle, and then afterwards begin your search.
The problem facing most people is the balance between having limited funds and having too many people to buy gifts for. One way to solve this problem is to give a group gift when possible. If you’re in some kind of group like a sports team, club, Greek organization, or close-knit friend group it can be daunting and expensive to get a gift for everyone. A Secret Santa exchange is always a good idea. Secret Santa ensures that everyone will get a gift, but also that each person only has to buy one gift. Also due to its nature, the process requires thinking or learning about another person and his or her interests.
If Secret Santa isn’t for you or your group, perhaps consider a large dinner. If everyone agrees to dress up and go out to a nice celebratory meal, then there is no fuss over buying presents. The result is the greatest gift of all: memories.
Many if not most of us at Trinity have at least one roommate/housemate. For the holidays, it is a great idea for everyone to buy something for the room rather than for each other. A new pillow, a poster, a coffee table book, a bar set, or even a decorative antique given to the room/house rather than a specific person ensures that everyone, even you, can benefit from the gift. Most of our parents are from an entirely different generation than us, so they appreciate and utilize things we perhaps overlook or consider outdated. Day planners, notebooks, desk journals, and recipe organizers make great gifts for parents, aunts and uncles, and even for friends. For my birthday this year I was given a brown leather journal with the monogram on it and I carry it with me wherever I go. My journal is made by Gallery Leather. The Maine-based brand makes an amazingly large array of journal-like products in a wonderful variety of shapes and colors. The option for monogramming is always available and the company also makes great photo albums which can be gifted either empty or full of old photographs.
People tend to overcompensate when buying gifts for a romantic partner. This is perhaps the trickiest realm to master in terms of gift giving. Focus less on labels and prices and more on classic romance. Go to Things Remembered in almost any mall or online and get a classy keepsake monogrammed with either initials or a love note. Nothing could be more romantic than a couple’s photo in a large frame engraved with a deep and loving message. If you’re buying jewelry, look at vintage shops or small local business.
Never go to a place you know your significant other already shops at, in order to keep the price and return options a mystery. Never be afraid to ask a sibling, roommate or best friend for advice on a gift, sizing, or particular brand. If you can’t find anything that works, the most heartfelt and romantic gift is a mix-tape. Though it seems like a throwback in this digital age, it is a great way to show you care and also document your romance. A mix tape is a perfect example of taking inexpensive materials and making them priceless.
Sometimes a perfect gift is collaboration—especially when a big cost is a factor. For best friends the element of surprise can be thrown out if the end product is worth it. If you’re shopping with a friend and they see something or try something on but the price is too high or the time to buy it isn’t right, go back and get it for them for the holidays. You know it will be something they love and they will appreciate your attentiveness. If you’re buying a gift for someone that you know they want but you know nothing about, don’t be afraid to ask them. For example I don’t know much about electronics, so if I were to every buy an electronic as a gift for someone I would open up a dialogue with him or her about the right model and software. Also, when buying any gift over $200 it’s always good to get a second opinion—but make sure it is from someone who will be honest.
With winter breaks comes winter vacations and thus a prime opportunity for gifts. A romantic weekend, road trip, or a weekend spent with friends is way to give the gifts of adventure and excitement. But if you’re going on a family vacation or know friends are going somewhere, get them something for their trip. A cool hat or vintage Patagonia are splendid presents for snowy climates.
Despite the cold, the winter is also a great time to think of a tropical climate. A beautiful cover-up from Tara Michelle can work for almost any woman on your holiday. The brand is based in Darien, CT and Nantucket, MA and specialized in resort and beach wear designed by women and designed for women. Callan Vessels’ ’15 mother, Tara, and her friend, Michelle, started the brand as an end to the search for the perfect beach cover-up. In addition, for men, Chubbies work as a perfect tropical weather gift and have great holiday patterns.
Monogrammed gifts go a long way—especially now that almost anything can be monogrammed. Even relatively cheap items like pens, golf tees, matches, beach bags, phone cases, and polo shirts can become one of a kind with just three letters. Not only is it cool to have monogrammed items, but when giving a monogrammed gift the immediate reaction is “wow, you took the time of day to find out my middle name and get me something very personal.”
Books are another great way to give personal gifts. Think beyond just the current bestseller list. Find old editions—perhaps even first editions—of a friend’s favorite book. It shows you care and applied effort. A great place to buy books is the Strand bookstore. They have an intimidatingly large collection of almost every kind of book you can imagine. If the person you’re buying for isn’t a big reader, remember that coffee table books make great gifts. For fashion lovers I recommend Blood, Sweat and Tears by Bruce Weber or Take Ivy. For the sports fan, you can’t go wrong with Greatest of all Time. This massive book is one of the best selling in Taschen’s history and is sure to please almost any guy on your list.
Old magazines make wonderful gifts too. Old issues of Vogue, GQ, Town & Country, and Sports Illustrated are perfect to adorn any coffee table and can easily transport the reader to a world gone by.
Films also make great gifts. Instead of new releases from Best Buy, look into the films by distributed by the Criterion Collection. The films are artsy and rare, and they’re packaged in the highest quality. Because the covers are redesigned with such great style, they stand out as the top tier of home entertainment for the educated mind. Lastly, the golden rule of gift giving is to give a gift to everyone who gets you one, while not expecting one back from everyone on your own list. My mother for examples keeps about ten pre-wrapped gifts—perfume, cologne, candles, baby clothes, and candles—which are ready to be given out on short notice. Buying an additional few versatile gifts to have just in case is really helpful, and if you don’t give them out, you can always keep them for yourself. One of the most important parts of a gift is the card. In my option, witty or shallowly heartfelt cards that are pre-bought are never acceptable. Instead get stationary and handwrite letters expressing your love, thankfulness, and holiday cheer that people will hold dear for the rest of their lives. And because it is the season of giving, make sure to give back. Volunteering with family and friends, giving money to The Salvation Army, or partaking in a gift drive to help those less fortunate is the best gift you can this holiday season.