Put This On’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

December 3, 2020

It’s hard to believe, but this year is our tenth annual Gift Guide. Every holiday season, everyone on the PTO staff contributes to our gift guides, so readers can find the best possible gift across a range of budgets. Our goals: convenience, timelessness, and near-universal applicability. This year, our guide covers everything from foodstuff to wardrobes accessories to scented candles. If you’re looking for more suggestions, browse through our previous years’ guides. We still stand by every one of those suggestions.



Buy Something From Me

You know we have a vintage and antique store, right? We have everything from gold cufflinks to handmade pocket squares to a giant pair of teeth connected with gooseneck metal so you can simulate an enormous overbite in your own home. We keep prices modest, and there’s something special (that adds nothing to the waste clogging our earth) for anyone. -Jesse



A Thousand Clowns on DVD and Blu-Ray

A Thousand Clowns, the Oscar-winning seriocomic masterpiece starring Jason Robards, is out on DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time ever. If you haven’t seen it (or the play on which it was based), it’s the story of an unemployed comedy writer (Robards) and his nephew (Barry Gordon). The brilliant nephew, who goes by many names (long story), was dumped with Robards by his mother, and joins in Robards’ libertine life until CPS shows up and demands he get a job or give up the kid. Robards is deeply loving and immensely charming, but can’t bring himself to take a gig he sees as below him. It’s a heartbreaking and hilarious movie for anyone in your life who’s ever been a too-grown-up kid or a not-grown-up-enough grownup. It’s really, really funny, has the light charm of the French New Wave and is, in my book, an under-appreciated classic. (I recently talked about it for an hour or so on my friend Chuck Bryant’s show Movie Crush, if you still need convincing). -Jesse 



A Box of Baseball Cards

These days baseball cards are resurgent, though mostly because they’ve transformed into lottery tickets. Buy a pack (if you can find them, there are shortages), and you have a shot at a splinter from Shohei Otani’s bat, a square of Justin Verlander’s jersey, or one of Mike Trout’s chest hairs. There are still plenty of cards left from the last big card book in the ’80s and early ’90s. Search for a set and “wax box” on eBay and you’ll find you can buy a whole retail box for ten or fifteen dollars plus shipping. If you know a sports fan (it works for football and basketball, too) of a certain age, they’ll have a blast opening packs and seeing if they can find that one 1990 Fleer card where Bill Ripken’s bat says “FUCK FACE” on it. -Jesse 



Velva Sheen T-Shirts

I’ve been sampling t-shirts lately, both for myself and for my friends at Wirecutter. I’ve loved the shirts from Lady White & Co. and Velva-Sheen. The latter comes in great colors and wonderful vintage-inspired multipacks. I’m a big believer in buying the really nice version of something for a gift, and while these are a bit expensive, they’re soft, stretchy, comfortable, and good-looking as heck. They make some nice graphic tees, too, but I think something simple is best here. -Jesse



Asian Grocery Gift Fruit

If you live in an area with Asian groceries, especially Japanese or Korean ones, you can tap into the tradition of gift fruit. They’re expensive, but given the practice of using them for gifting, they’re usually the best of the best. Look (or ask) for the specially-wrapped, very expensive (relatively) fruits, often at a counter by the front. Often they’re in foil, boxes, or individual styrofoam nets, sometimes behind glass. Get some $5 Asian pears or a $20 cantaloupe. There’s no such thing as too-nice fruit. And while you’re there get yourself some of that Kewpie mayonnaise, that stuff is great. -Jesse 


Luxardo Cherries

Years ago, I was working with a man named Dr. Cocktail on setting up a beverage program at an event. He was recommending all these fancy liquors, and I told him I couldn’t afford them. He said, “well, what’s important is: get the Luxardo cherries.” I wasn’t sure there could really be a difference between maraschino cherries, but boy is there. Luxardos are a luxurious treasure that you’ll want to eat with a spoon. You can get them online or at most big liquor stores. If your giftee is a drinker, you can add some rye whiskey and sweet vermouth and make it a Manhattan kit. If they’re not, that’s OK, maybe throw in some fancy ice cream. -Jesse 



Kapital Bandanas and Scarves

Kapital’s crazy, patchwork variation on “hobo style” isn’t for everyone, but I love it. Probably the most accessible (and least insanely expensive) things they make are breathtakingly beautiful bandanas and scarves. The bandanas are made of soft cotton, and are perfect for wearing as a neckerchief, even with nothing more than a t-shirt. The scarves, more expensive, are often made from compressed and boiled wool. My favorites this year are the ones that look like an eagle’s spread wings. My mom brought home last year’s version for me from a trip to Japan, and I wore it on tour, garnering innumerable compliments. -Jesse 




Beams at Home

You may be familiar with the Japanese brand Beams, or its sub-brands (like Beams Plus). You may not know they’ve created a series of lifestyle “mooks” (magazine-books) called Beams at Home. I don’t read Japanese, but my wife and I still love looking into the homes and lives of Beams staffers. There are now quite a number in the series (Beams at Home 1-4, Beams on Life, Beams Outdoor Book), but I like the original the best. There are pictures on every page, so no need to worry if your giftee lacks Japanese skills. There’s also now an English-language compilation of some of the best from the books called Live Small, Live Modern. -Jesse



Nidra Sleep Mask

All right, so this is a cheapie. For six or eight dollars, you can buy this bug-eyed sleep mask. It is so comfortable and blocks out light so well, it’s a genuine miracle. I always have one in my dopp kit for travel and one on my bedside table for early sunrises. Combine them with some great earplugs and some nice chamomile tea and you’ve got a SNOOZE PACK. If you’re in the right state, maybe throw in a CBD tincture, and you just made yourself a PREMIUM SNOOZE PACK. -Jesse



An Aran Sweater

In the aftermath of Knives Out, 2019 was the year for Aran sweaters, but you could hardly find a more classic knit. Plus: what about that fish guy from The Mandolorian? I’d say you should buy one actually made in Ireland, like these from Aran Sweater Market. You can also go vintage: try searching eBay or Etsy for “sweater” and “Ireland.” -Jesse



Classic Showbiz Books

I had a horrible year, and in the middle of it, I asked my friend Elliott for some book recommendations that had nothing to do with the world as it is right now and nothing upsetting in them. He handed me two treasures: The Studio by John Gregory Dunne and The Devil’s Candy by Julie Salamon. The former covers a year of Twentieth Century Fox in the waning days of the studio system. Want to read about Gene Kelly planning a movie about the pulp nerd-hero Tom Swift? Or about the insane money spent on animal wrangling for Doctor Doolittle? This is the book. The Devil’s Candy covers the making of The Bonfire of the Vanities, and it’s both sympathetic and unsparing in telling the story of a true Hollywood fiasco. We see inside every part of the production, as Brian de Palma and company make the long series of small mistakes that lead to a disastrous film. It’s juicy and fun and genuinely never mean. -Jesse



Yussef Kamaal

I want to include an album recommendation in this list, and this album gets my highest recommendation. I don’t think jazz and hip-hop (two of my favorite genres) often blend well, especially on the jazz side. The results usually sound like bad hip-hop or corny jazz. Or at least that’s what I thought, until a new generation of jazz players, raised in hip-hop, started incorporating some of the aesthetics of rap beats into real jazz. Yussef Kamaal is a duo from London, which stands with LA (home to Kamasi Washington and others) as one of the dual epicenters of the movement. The drums are punchy and surprising, reminiscent of the best Jay Dilla productions, and the keys are beautiful enough to hook even casual jazz fans. -Jesse


A Subscription to The Athletic

If your giftee is a sports fan, I have to say I’ve loved my subscription to the app and website The Athletic. They’ve gathered the best writers on my favorite teams (go Giants!) in one place, the app is clean and ad-free, and the price is very reasonable. It’s been a comforting refuge at a time when the broader world has been scary as heck, too. I hope the separation of sports coverage from other local news doesn’t end up being another nail in the newspaper’s coffin, but The Athletic offers a really good service for a really fair price, and I love it. -Jesse



Tane Jewelry

I wasn’t familiar with Tane until I made a trip to Mexico City last year. I found the top-end markets were offering some incredible silver, and it was all marked Tane. It turns out Tane is “the Tiffany of Mexico,” a nation known for silverwork. If you’re looking for a truly special gift, but not something as cliched as Tiffany, try checking out Tane. Sometimes vintage stuff comes up on Etsy or eBay, but you can also order new straight from the source. These gold cufflinks, for example, are absolutely breathtaking. -Jesse



Wooden Sleepers Candles

I bought one of these candles earlier this year when it became a “thing” on Blamo’s Slack channel. One person said it smells like an old pack of baseball cards, complete with the waxed paper packaging and the stale stick of bubblegum inside that cracks when you chew it. Another said it smells like a piped tobacco and an old leather chair. I think it smells like tobacco, vanilla, and fresh cookies baking in the oven. They’re about $20 or so, come in a nice jar, and have a rusted cap that makes it easy to put out the flame. Candles are always a safe gift and this one is better than most. -Derek



Gift Certificate to a Local Tailor

If you’re getting something for someone who has strong opinions about clothes, and seemingly owns every iteration of field jackets, sneakers, and sweaters, then consider this fail-safe solution: get them a gift certificate to their local tailor. First, it’s easy to find out who they use because clotheshorses are always all too happy to recommend their tailor. Second, you know they’ll use the gift certificate because clothes often need adjustments. Plus, your money will go towards supporting skilled workers who have a terribly hard time this year. If you need a recommendation in the Bay Area, I use Tailor’s Keep and Advanced European Tailoring. -Derek



A Charitable Donation in Someone’s Name

It has been a very political year. Chances are, you’ve probably seen some Facebook posts from friends and family speaking out about various issues. If you share their concerns and values, consider making a charitable donation in their name. Tisbest allows you to buy gift cards, which your giftee can put forward to any charity of their choice. GiveWell is also a research portal that allows you to see who makes the most of your donation (although, I would add, don’t like this sort of research paralyze you from the act of giving). Some people truly don’t want anything this year. In those cases, sometimes a charitable donation is the best way to speak to that person’s values. -Derek


A Market Bag

A market bag is the cheapest way to make someone feel fancy. Every time I carry one to the grocery store, I feel like Mrs. Dalloway on her way to buy flowers for a party. You can get one from Apolis, Food52, The Armoury, Steele Canvas, Etsy, and of course LL Bean. Makr and Frank Clegg Leatherworks have smaller totes, if your giftee is likely to buy groceries in smaller quantities. I use an extra-large Kapital milk bag, which I purchased at a heavy discount from Unionmade when they closed their store (I love the bag, but am not sure I’d recommend one at full price). I also like the idea of getting an Apolis bag customized with this famous Weeknd tweet. -Derek



Ikea Turbo Clothes Rack

My wardrobe volume is somewhere between “just has too much stuff” and “needs a storage unit” (I may get there soon). In the meantime, I’ve gone through a handful of cheap clothes racks to store off-season clothing. I like Ikea’s sturdy, plastic, almost sculptural Turbo rack best. It’s useful, inexpensive, and actually looks nice, with a matte finish and soft curves. -Pete



Emile Henry Salt Pig

At some point in the 2000s, I switched from diner-style iodized salt to kosher and sea salt, and I never looked back. Except when I need access to salt, because that stuff doesn’t fit in my salt shakers, and usually I’m going for a spoonful or pinch when I’m cooking. Which, this year, is pretty much every day. A salt pig, a countertop ceramic vessel with an unglazed interior, keeps your salt accessible, sheltered, and dry. Some salt pigs are literally pig-shaped, which is too cute for me. The Emile Henry versions, made in France, come in bold glazes or austere black or white. -Pete




A Quartz Watch

Watches can be intimidating — it sometimes feels like you have to learn a lot about them before you can buy one. Movements, complications, 100-year-old brands; watch guys know more about watches than I know about anything. But a simple quartz watch can be a worthy accessory, especially if the design complements your aesthetic sense and wardrobe. It’s no secret that Timex makes simple, handsome watches under $100. I like some of the Timex designs at Todd Snyder for a little more money. And Swatch’s retro-modern designs are terrific. I appreciate $2,000 suits and $10,000 watches, but I’m glad there are $500 suits and $100 watches that look good and are fun to wear. -Pete



A Good Sweatshirt

A year and a half ago, I owned one sweatshirt that I would put on when my house got cold at night. Over the last few months, however, they have become an invaluable part of my wardrobe. Initially as a layering piece, but recently I’ve really enjoyed them on their own with high waisted, wide fit trousers for a kind of vintage athletic look. My favorites in my closet come from Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Velva Sheen, and I’ve been admiring ​Todd Snyder’s collaboration with Champion​ and this ​1930s style two-tone offering from Pherrow’s​-Spencer



“The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist” by Adrian Tomine

I don’t think Adrian Tomine set out to release a book about isolation into a world defined by it, but that’s what he did. Short, funny, and poignant, this is the sort of comic that can be enjoyed by anyone in your family who can read. -Dick



Wigwam 625s

100% wool and still made in the USA the same way since 1960, the Wigwam 625 “sports” socks go with me everywhere. They have become my sock of choice for all occasions (even for squeezing into black tassel loafers for a beer run to the Bodega). If the classic is too scratchy there are a million other models they make but I do prefer the ones without any non-natural stretch, for that authentic mid-century (or 80s does the 60s) vibe. -Dick



Wooden Sleepers Arc Logo Hooded Sweatshirt

Around this time of the year for the past couple of years, I unearth my only hooded sweatshirt, a dark blue beast I bought from Brian at Wooden Sleepers. Buy your actual size and after a run through the local laundromat marvel at the soft, bulletproof, cloth and the easy fit. I think these would make a great present for Dads, Mums and little brothers whose girlfriends will probably just steal it anyway. -Dick