Christmas gift list 2021: Shawls, soap and Swan Songs

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It’s that time of the year again. So, with both apologies and thanks to readers that bemoaned the lack of this list last year, these are just a few of my favourite things...

In these lists we try to go beyond menswear into other beautiful, crafted things. There also tends to be less clothing because we want things that can easily be gifted, so less personal, unsized, but still precious. 

1. Buly moisturiser, perfumes, combs

€29 and up

If anyone you know appreciates both effective and attractive beauty products, it’s worth looking at Officine Universelle Buly, the French brand that was relaunched in 2014.

I’ve tried moisturisers, soaps and perfume, and they’re certainly effective (the scents are impressively original). But just as much of the appeal is the detailed designs and packaging, which of course makes them great gifts. 

If you can, it’s also worth trying to get to one of the stores, or the concession at Selfridge’s. It means you appreciate the full range of products - including the world’s biggest comb selection - but can also more easily have presents personalised or wrapped. 

2. Emma Willis dressing gown

£1,300

I have a real weakness of paisley - always have, ever since I was obsessed with Etro in my twenties. I’ve restrained myself from most paisley since, particularly ties and handkerchiefs, but this dressing gown might push me over the edge. 

The material is a hand-woven wool/cotton mix, with an unusual texture that sucks up a lot of the bright colours. There are subtler versions too - if you visit the Willis shop you can browse through all the swatches, and they’ll send samples to you at home too. 

3. Pentreath & Hall matches

£9.50

Pentreath & Hall, just off Lamb’s Conduit Street in London, is a treasure trove for gifts. The mix of homewares, antiques and decorative items always manages to be tasteful yet a little eccentric, and very British. 

I'd recommend a host of things, including the stationery and the tableware, but there’s something pleasingly indulgent about the matches, particularly if they're used for lighting long table candles or incense. And that also means they make a high-impact but inexpensive present.

4. Swan Songs

£27

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book, a tribute to Parisian menswear by (pen name) Réginald-Jérôme de Mans.

It is eloquent, evocative, and succeeds wonderfully in communicating the beauty of the fine clothing the author has experienced over the years. The detail and enthusiasm makes you appreciate a drapey Arnys jacket, or wonky tie, even if it’s not your really style. And there’s a lot of knowledge and research on show. 

If there was any criticism, it would only be that the author’s verbosity and digressions sometimes obscure these points. And it is a budget production, which means the photography is not great. If only there were the money, or the backing, to pair these words with the photography of the blander and  commercialised coffee-table books that normally cover the subject. The wealth of information certainly deserves it. 

5. Aran blanket, Anderson & Sheppard

£795

A&S has a few beautiful blankets in the store at the moment (not online) and the hand-knitted Aran ones are sublime.

Last time I was in there was one in cream and one in dark olive, both with the distinctive Aran patterning, but heavy and spongey. They're wonderful across the knees or around the shoulders. I've got into the habit of doing the latter recently at my desk, when the heating is off in the middle of the day.

There are also two Fair Isle designs (one mostly navy, one most green), a lambswool and a cashmere cable knit, the first two being slightly less expensive and the latter slightly more.

6. Kinto travel tumbler

£35

This is just wonderful Japanese design. Trunk sells a range of these bottles for hot or cold drinks, and every time I use mine I appreciate the way the two caps keep the liquid contained, while also creating a measured flow of water (or coffee). 

There’s a good case that too many of these now exist in the world for them to have any positive effect on sustainability, but if you do know someone that would use one, and doesn’t have one already, this is the best I’ve used. 

7. Midori notebook

£14

Belongs in the same category as the Kinto tumbler. A deceptively simple notebook, you notice its key difference as soon as you open it: the binding is thread-stitched, which means it sits flat on the table. This is more expensive to do, but it makes the notebook very practical and satisfying to use. 

The paper is also fine but holds fountain-pen ink well, and isn’t transparent, while the cover looks like delicate tissue paper, with pleasing labels that can be added to divide sections. 

8. Bryceland’s Grecian slippers

£250

I was a little sceptical about this style of slipper previously. I wasn’t sure whether it would stay on the back of my heel, and thought it might look a little too unusual for my taste. But I was converted during the recent pop-up we organised with Bryceland’s, where I saw and tried those of Ethan and Kenji. 

The Bryceland’s ones are made with Bowhill & Elliott, but in the UK they don’t offer the style with a leather sole, which enables them to be worn outside (if only briefly). For that style, the other British maker, Broadland, is better. 

9. District Vision Keiichi running sunglasses

£205

I was gifted a pair of these back in 2016. At the time I thought I would never pay that amount for sports sunglasses, but I used them multiple times every week for running and cycling, and they performed better than any I’d had before (as well as, obviously, looking good). 

Last year they were broken in an unfortunate toddler-related incident, and I’m seriously considering paying that amount again. Even just for the nose pad, which was adjustable and, once adjusted, never moved no matter how fast I went. An indulgent but still practical purchase.

End, not Mr Porter, has the best selection in the UK.

10. Adret scarves and bandanas

Various prices

This is necessarily a niche recommendation, as Adret still don't sell online and so access is restricted mostly to the shop in London. However, the bandanas and scarves I enjoy most today are the the wax-resist ones Adam sells.

They are hand-dyed, which makes each one a little different, and more importantly the colours feel more modern than the bright silks most menswear brands still offer. I have a soft, buttery yellow handkerchief (unfortunately the hanks are no longer sold) and an indigo bandana, which uses a hand-cut copper Batik stamp to create its herringbone pattern. A dusty pink above is next on my wish list.

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Matt

The Midori Notebook is the first thing I’ve seen on these lists that I’ve owned before!
I’m a particular fan of dot-patterns for notebooks, as opposed to lined, gridded, or blank paper. Unfortunately Midori only did a limited run of dotted paper a few years back and seem to have stopped for the foreseeable. I did manage to snag a few before the run stopped but they won’t last forever.

Peter Hall

I use a Midori Travellers notebook as a note taking/sketch pad. They hold ink brilliantly with no smudging or feathering.
Matt.
LEUCHTTURM1917 have a very good line of dotted note books. I prefer the Leuchtturm paper,but, that very much personal taste.

JSB

Surprised to see the Midori notebook on your list. I have the MD Notebook in A5 size. If anyone does decide to gift this notebook, I thoroughly recommend you accompany the notebook with Midori’s plastic sleeve. If like me, you deposit your notebook in a bag or case to take to work, it will not be in that nice looking condition for very long at all. The plastic sleeve can be easily cleaned and what’s more, being like a library book sleeve is re-usable, provided of course you buy the same notebook again. Hope this helps another reader.

John

HI Simon,
In Swan Songs a mention is said to have been made of Artumès & Co Paris. See here: https://www.artumesandco.com/
A kind of attempt to revive Arny’s style thanks to a holdout.
In many respects, I think it would be interesting to have a review on this project. Be that as it may, your perspective on such endeavours and specifically on this one would be appreciated.
John

Nicolas Strömbäck

The Kinto tumblers are great, I have a few sizes for different occasions: walking to work, in the car and a larger one at work (we have the good coffee machine a few floors down).
On the note of Japanese design. Do you know of any brand that makes a kimono-style loungewear/homewear? I have seen Japanese people wear them, but seem to be unable to find it myself (maybe due to the language barrier).

Cheong Y

Hi Nicolas and Simon, there is a Kyoto-based company, with an online store in the USA that ships internationally via US Postal Service: Sou-Sou Kyoto. https://www.sousouus.com/product-category/mens-apparel/ The site is conveniently available in English. Many of the products are wool or cotton but others are blends which may include synthetics. All their designs can be worn on the street but I adapt them for home use as loungewear. You may need to go one size up, depending on the cut. Cheers.

Phil B

I think what you might be looking for is a “samue” or “jinbei” – A kimono-style jacket with matching trousers, in linen or cotton. They’re very comfortable, especially in summer. For extra warmth you can add a “hanten” padded jacket.
Both can be found online at varying price points.

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Dear Simon, Kinto travel tumblers look great. Is thus white band with writting around on it just a paper which is removed before use? I would hope so. Thank you.

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Thank you.

Frank

My apologies if answered elsewhere and for disturbing the thread, regarding purchasing a navy shawl cardigan—do have a recommendation. I know you mentioned drakes, but was unclear if the lambs wool or cashmere. I have a lambs wool in another color and like the look and density of the fabric but have found a bit itchy on skin. Private white is supposed to have one but appears to have a logistics delay. Anderson shep has one in a mostly merino blend with horn instead of leather buttons. I reside in the states, so a unsatisfying choice can be a greater pain for international return than more local. Thank you

Peter K

I bought a navy merino wool one from Spier and McKay. The price was good and I love it.
The navy might be out of stock but you can get on a waiting list.

robert kubek

Obsession with Etro? Didn’t see that coming. Please do elaborate. Oh the transgressions of our youth…

Ole Kristian

Simon, will you be reviewing anything from PWVC’s flâneur collection? Or perhaps something else from their autumn/winter collection?

Georgios

Simon hi, i asked you 2 weeks ago about the angloitalian suede boots and i decided to order them. Which color did you have in the photos ? The chocolate suede or brown suede ? Thanx for the help

Chris

Combs. Are you buying for someone else?

Cedric

I am awfully sorry if this is slightly out of relevance but I’m looking (nearly desesperately) for some advice : are there any place you would recommand to buy a dinner suit (RTW or made to measure, I fear my budget puts bespoke options quite out of reach) ? online would be a plus, actual situation is making travelling a bit more complicated.

Anonymous

Particularly enjoyed the diversity of this post, Simon, and the numerous links to investigate the various retailers, so thank you for a bit of enjoyable armchair shopping. 

I’ve noticed Grecian slippers popping up several times recently. I always thought those were for my father’s generation (to clarify, he was born at the end of the First World War), but I did pick up a navy pair on sale at Brooks Brothers about a decade ago, which have never been worn. You have prompted me to try and find them and put them into service.

Concerning your comment on avoiding paisley, especially ties and handkerchiefs, I take your point although I still rue the day I passed on an Etro pocket square! As I can’t wean myself from employing a piece of fabric in the breast pocket (although aligning the colors closely to the jacket is always an option to make it disappear), do you avoid paisley pocket squares because you find the patterns dated or perhaps costumey in the sense of mimicking a stereotypical “English country look”? I continue to like all-over (vs. neat) paisley with tweed and admire the design, craftsmanship, and endless variety of the patterns. Thanks for your thoughts. 

Anonymous

Thanks. I’ll feel less like a dinosaur when I venture out into the wild, wild world with a hint of paisley. Have a good weekend. 

John

A query with respect to knitted silk ties that’s not wholly off topic:
Is there a real difference between these ties depending on whether they exhibit a seam or not on their back sides? Apparently, a price tag is not indicative of difference in quality. In the recent years, I’ve less and less noticed any mention of “made of mulberry silk” when it comes to knitted ties. What does that mean within the context of the menswear industry?
Thanks.
John