Best Men’s Gifts for 2022
A department store insider’s tips for the minimally sufficient male-oriented gift\
Written by Cameron Mays
I work at a department store. To distinguish it as such is today’s random act of pity. Yes, it is a store. Yes, it has departments. The clothing, the houseware, the beauty products — it’s all what you might expect at Macy’s, JCPenney or Higbee’s, if the MTV generation didn’t invent the internet. Nevertheless, it is not a department store. It’s a discount store in a strip mall in the car-centric suburb of a city of department store-converted apartments. I prefer to think I work in the shaded woods where animal control dumps roadkill and it’s my job to sort the carcasses for the vultures waiting overhead.
As one might gather from the gaiety of my previous statement, I love working in a department store. It’s not because I enjoy working — I’d strike if there wasn’t a chance of returning to work. It’s also not because I like my coworkers — they’re all Michael Stanley fans. It’s because I love judging the buying habits of men. All day, I stock the schlock that some schmatte-clad schlepper will scoop up. Not only do I judge, I actively encourage these wack buying habits. I tell the sexagenarian John Carroll alumni a Nike golf belt is good for a wedding. I tell the vegetarian hipster doofi that an extra small Ricky Singh shirt holds up well on a bike. I tell the contrarian teenage bibliobibuli that a tye-dyed Nirvana shirt is punk.
Guys want two things: stupid consumer goods and reassurance about said stupid consumer goods.
If you’re unlucky, you might know a guy like that. If you’re really unlikely, you might be related to or dating a guy like that. And if you’re downright downtrodden, you might be expected to buy a gift for a guy like that. With the holidays fast approaching, there’s no doubt that you will walk through a department store to find something that might vaguely communicate any sort of human connection to these men. Don’t go empty minded! Let a professional help you sort through the rubble of the men’s department and get the best gift possible.
BROAP: A bar of broap (bro soap) can be identified by its overtly masculine name or its arborescent scent. Broap is noteworthy because it does far less than a Dove Beauty Bar but far more than the dude hallmark of just rinsing off. It’s perfect for any lacrosse player that needs a reason to be self-conscious or for my dad who will never use it.
HAWAIIAN SHIRTS: Cleveland’s Köppen classification is no reason not to buy this summertime classic for the holidays, but maybe the shirt’s adoption by white nationalists and Tarantino fans is. Buy a camp-style for the guy who thinks Crocker Park is cool, or an Oxford-style for the guy who thinks Hingetown is cool.
DESIGNER GRAPHIC TEES: Graphic describes both the t-shirt and the kind of murder I hope for anyone who willingly wears these. Regardless, it’s a great gift for any guy who doesn’t tip valets.
JOGGERS OR SWEATPANTS: I believe these pants to be the harbinger of the end, so gift them as such. Cuffed joggers will look great on all the future oil executives and chicken tender consumers in your life.
ANYTHING CAR-RELATED: Car stuff should be avoided as a gift unless it’s the reflective sun shield. The real gift comes if the driver forgets to take down the sun shield, wrecks their car and has to take the bus.
MEN’S COLOGNE: It all smells the same and it all smells like a middle school locker room. Considering the amount of men that still think “gay” is an insult, a bottle of Calvin Klein’s Obsession remains unfortunately timeless.
BASS BOTTLE OPENER: The sculpted fish-cum-utensil is perhaps the best gift you can get for any man. It’s the physical embodiment of “can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em”. The vapidness and emotional distance of the bass bottle opener makes cash seem like a Tchaikovksy concerto.
This guide is certainly not comprehensive. Like most humans, men can be relatively complex. Some drink coffee, some drink tea. Some wear pants, some wear skirts. Some wear patchouli, some can’t pronounce patchouli. How we define men has changed since the golden days of the department store, but one thing has not changed: the male inability to shop and gift. Thus, this guide is a useful tool for all men-knowers this gift giving season.
The general exception to this guide are the guys that work at department stores. Should you have the misfortune of knowing one and feel obligated to purchase them a gift, do not follow this guide. Escaping from a milk can would not excite Houdini. Similarly, buying a Nautica quarter-zip would not excite any department store veteran. For this select group, I recommend gifts from dollar stores. Not the Tree, Family, or General, but the dollar stores that don’t have names and reek of cleaning supplies. They want to be comfortable in the knowledge someone spent twenty minutes or less and twenty dollars or less.
The single exception to the previous exception to this guide are the guys who work at department stores and write about it. Though small, this cowardly bunch will spend the next six months complaining about your gift. I recommend following the examples of crows and gifting a piece of string or a weirdly shaped rock. A fast acquired readymade will save you time and money for something that will surely be used as article fodder.