Having some trouble deciding what to get the BAMF in your life…or at least how to treat yourself during the holiday season? Fret no more, as I’m here with some unsolicited shilling with ten shopping days left before Christmas.
The simplest and, often, the most appreciated gift is the one that comes in a glass bottle and has often been aged several years. Some favorite spirits that’ll help you or your BAMF affordably capture the holiday spirit:
- Basil Hayden’s (Bourbon whiskey)
- Bernheim Original (American whiskey)
- Booker’s (Bourbon whiskey)
- Jefferson’s (Bourbon whiskey)
- Laphroaig 10-Year-Old (Islay single malt Scotch whisky)
Although Bourbon and Scotch have always been my traditionally preferred whiskies, American whiskey is currently enjoying a renaissance with labels like Bernheim Original and Michter’s providing some excellent outings. Most of the above offerings can be found in the $30 to $50 range. If you prefer to buy a whiskey that costs less than $30, just make sure it’s in a glass bottle. That plastic handle of Calvert ain’t gonna impress the boss.
As a voracious reader, I like to think that all BAMFs still appreciate the written word as much as I do. So what titles do you buy for the BAMF who reads everything?
- Hardy Ames – ABC of Men’s Fashion (Amazon)
- Bill Zehme – The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’ (Amazon)
- Alfred Tong – The Gentlemen’s Guide to Cocktails (Amazon)
- Josh Miller & Shawn Allen – Always a Home Game (Amazon)
- Jim Thompson – Pop. 1280 (Amazon)
I’m very lucky to have received the first three books on this list as gifts. I received Hardy Ames’ 1964 sartorial guide ABC of Men’s Fashion as a thoughtful gift, and it has helped guide much of the knowledge in my posts. It’s a very witty breakdown from the “golden age” of men’s style and worth inclusion in any BAMF’s library.
Bill Zehme’s meticulously-researched The Way You Wear Your Hat is the perfect analysis and tribute to Frank Sinatra, to whom every Clyde and Charley should look as a style icon. I am indebted to Teeritz (of The Teeritz Agenda) for not only bringing this book to my attention but also sending me a copy all the way from Australia. If you can track down a copy of Zehme’s book, it’s a worthy read and will instruct all aspects of your life from fashion to etiquette to cocktails.
And, speaking of cocktails, Alfred Tong’s The Gentlemen’s Guide to Cocktails is one of many cocktail guides in my collection, but it earns a special place on this list due to its similar format to this blog. It is truly the guide for the suave gentleman who likes to entertain, filled with classic drink recipes from the “golden age” of cocktails, Mad Men-style illustrations, and cultural context. There are certainly other bar books with more varied recipes, but this should be a staple for every gentleman’s collection.
Sports fans – particularly Steeler fans – would appreciate Josh Miller and Shawn Allen’s new book, Always a Home Game, chronicling the ubiquity of Steeler fans and bars across the U.S. It’s as much a travelogue as it is a tribute to one of the oldest and most winningest football franchises in the country.
And, finally, I had to include my favorite book, Jim Thompson’s pulp thriller Pop. 1280. Dark comedy seeps from every page of this page-turner about a slow-witted rural sheriff who slowly reveals himself to be much more cunning and vicious than he appears. While that may not sound like the basis for much comedy, it’s Thompson’s comic answer to his own classic The Killer Inside Me as the character bemoans his continuing hunger after consuming enough to fill four Orson Welleses.
Tired of hearing the same generic holiday music all season long? Switch it up and do your auditory glands a favor.
- Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) (Amazon)
- Various Artists – A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963) (Amazon)
- She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas (2011) (Amazon)
- Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960) (Amazon)
- Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (1960, originally The Magic of Christmas) (Amazon)
Other artists like Elvis, Bing, The Jackson 5, and James Brown also have some stellar holiday output, but I’m trying to limit these lists to the top five. Plus, you know what the above five albums all have in common? No “Little-fucking-Drummer Boy”.
Also, you’ll most of these albums are from the golden age of Christmas music, 1957-1963, before things got too schmaltzy and everyone and their mother decided it was a good idea to record a holiday album. She & Him are the only modern act worth including here, and their album is a nice tribute to classic sound while adding their own quirky modern touch. Frank, of course, dominates the list with the best of his three holiday albums.
Do you know a grinch who refuses to watch Christmas movies? Ensure that said grinch turns that frown upside down with these non-traditional holiday outings.
- Die Hard (1988) (Amazon)
- Three Days of the Condor (1975) (Amazon)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) (Amazon)
- The Bourne Identity (2002) (Amazon)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (Amazon)
Know the best way to make an action movie even better? Set it at Christmas. It worked for Die Hard (and Die Hard 2), Lethal Weapon, Jason Bourne, and even James Bond. Other great non-Christmas Christmas movies are Catch Me If You Can, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and The Thin Man.
My mother is the queen of Christmas movies; she owns almost every formulaic piece that Hallmark churns out between November and December every year with C-list actors, but – as I noted when I browsed her collection – it was missing some of my favorites. Last year, I was probably one of the very few sons who purchased Die Hard as a Christmas gift for his mother. To her credit, she watched it. (I also must note her appreciation for the traditional classics; she and I have a standing tradition of watching White Christmas while wrapping gifts every year.)
There are a few things I never leave home without – my wallet, my watch, a pocketknife, and a flask – usually full (or mostly full) of my preferred whiskey of the week.
Elegantly simple with a masculine touch from its military-inspired design, the Victorinox Swiss Army Infantry is my watch of choice. With its brown calfskin strap, stainless case, and black dial, it is a fine accompaniment to my entire wardrobe, fitting equally well with suits or casual wear.
The model I own, #241563, has unfortunately been discontinued but is still available for purchase on Amazon.
For years, I alternated between a battered leather chain wallet (gasp!) and a Pulp Fiction-esque “BAD MOTHER FUCKER” wallet. While part of me still advocates the latter, it didn’t do very well when pulling it out to pay for client dinners. For Christmas three years ago, I received an elegant Bosca tri-fold wallet in cognac brown that has served me well. It looks like some similar wallets are still available from Amazon.
Every man could use some booze on-the-go, and there’s hardly a classier way to carry it than in a classic stainless steel flask. This is one of the cheapest and most practical gifts you can give a man. Flasks can range from simple and silver (as seen here on Amazon) to ornate with leather and monograms abounding. In my opinion, the flask should reflect the liquor inside; something simple for whiskies like Dewar’s and Jim Beam while putting your 18-year single malt in a more individualist container… although that’s no way to treat an 18-year-old single malt.
Finally, a knife is one of the oldest tools in a man’s trade. Not to fall back on sexist stereotypes, but there’s just something women don’t get about the practicality and handiness of having a knife in your pocket. Aside from self-defense reasons, a knife can be wisely applied to a number of tasks from the mundane (opening a box) to the adventurous (cutting open a seat belt).
While I’m not nearly an expert when it comes to knives (instead I’ll go on for hours about movies, guns, and cars), I have found my Smith & Wesson CKTACBSD Special Tactical (Amazon) to be handy with its light weight and 3.5″ blade. Other suggestions can be found at Best Pocket Knife Today, a well-informed site that is currently heralding the Benchmade Griptilian and Spyderco Tenacious among its top knives.
Not traditionally found on lists of “What to Get Men for Christmas”, candles are finding a newly masculine renaissance thanks to Man Cans, an Ohio-based company started just four years ago by a savvy 13-year-old guy who realized that men don’t want to smell their offices to smell like lavender and cherry blossoms. In delicious scents like Bacon, Dirt, Gunpowder, New York Style Pizza, and – my favorite – Campfire, Man Cans are an excellent choice for any BAMF.
Feel free to share some of your favorite holiday purchases – and gifts – in the comments section!