The designer speaks the language of aesthetic utilitarianism. His personal curation is deliberate, refined and sophisticated. He does not buy things frivolously and he does not buy frivolous things. He sweats details — the taper of a jacket, the visual balance of an end table‘s heft, the draw of a pen‘s ink. Because of this, he is inevitably the hardest man on the holiday gift list to buy for.
The key to mastering the designer’s gift domain is finding goods that have a practical use, are realized with an artistic vision, and are manufactured with quality materials and a plainspoken design. We’re talking about some of the best creations ever, made by men like Charles and Ray Eames, Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ives. But don’t be intimidated. The items below fit the man who seeks out gear with practicality, nuance and durability, all captured unobtrusively, with good design.
Apple iPad Pro
Apple is the postmodern poster child of clean design, and the iPad Pro is their latest device to awe users with its purity in engineering. The sleek tablet packs a hardware punch, with an A9X chip good for 1.8 times the CPU processing speed of the iPad Air 2. It’s compatible with the Apple keyboard and pen, has a battery life of 10 hours and can connect to wi-fi or cellular networks. The 32GB model is laughably light in storage, so make sure you spring for the 128GB version.
Like the aesthete’s version of Legos, ArcKit offers a freeform, glue-less model-making system for constructing buildings in miniature. The modular set allows for endless modification and is also compatible with 3D computer modeling software, like SketchUp, so you can easily calculate what components are needed to bring your vision to life. The base kit comes with over 160 pieces, which is plenty for the budding Frank Lloyd Wright.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin
Speakers aren’t allowed to simply sound good — they must look good, too. That means no trail of wires. The Zeppelin Wireless takes the acclaimed sound of B&W’s wired model, cuts the cord and improves the music. Two double dome tweeters and two midrange drivers pair with a 6.5-inch subwoofer to deliver studio-quality sound. It works with Bluetooth aptX to ensure quality isn’t lost in the wireless transfer.
The Gear Patrol Magazine
The best gift is something that the recipient wants but wouldn’t buy for himself. A basket of pears? No thanks. A trip around the world? Now you’re on to something. While we won’t be bankrolling a trip, we can get you close with Issue #1 of the Gear Patrol magazine, a journey from Wyoming to Chile to Norway (and more), plus product guides and an interview with mountaineer Conrad Anker. Seriously, put down that fruit basket.
Ernest Alexander Charcoal Wax Laptop Brief
“Everything you need, nothing you don’t” is the axiom of the sage man about town. Ernest Alexander’s Andy, with its slim silhouette and light padding, carries only the bare essentials — a laptop, or that iPad Pro — and little else. With a beautiful, water-resistant wax cotton canvas exterior, it’s a statement of good design that instills good travel habits.
Light and Ladder Desk Accessories
Brooklyn-based Light and Ladder makes small batches of superlative products for the home, all in the USA. This collection, featuring a leather blotter, pencil cup and catch-all, utilizes a mix of materials that includes wood, leather, porcelain and brass. Their designs are aimed at creating a functional, clean working area to inspire great ideas, or to allow the mind to simply sit and wander towards great things (daydreaming counts as work, right?).
Rado Coupole Classic Auto Watch
Often, the wristwatch is our best insight into what defines a man’s taste. For a designer type, this piece is all the more important. Rado’s Coupole Classic ticks the box of simple design with a clear taste for mid-century stylings. It features an automatic movement and a sapphire crystal: great Swiss watchmaking in a simplified, elegant timepiece.
MW Magazine Rack
Adónde, a Paris-based studio, is home to designers Laurent Serin and Javier Gutierrez Carcache. Their aesthetic reduces items down to their essentials; for this magazine rack, there’s little left to be removed. Appearing as an “M” or “W” depending on viewing angle, the design is a simple home for print that still offers a sliver of design character. The result is a sculptural item with one noble purpose.
Tanner Hardwood Wall Frame
Made in Portland, Oregon, these white oak frames highlight the beauty of their source without stealing attention away from the artwork within. They’re over-engineered with mitered corners and butterfly joints, adding a restrained touch that’s perfect for the man who enjoys the subtlety of fine craftsmanship.
Allied Maker x Gear Patrol Tilt Mini Lamp
Long Island-based Allied Maker is committed to intelligently designed lighting, crafted by hand. Founder Ryden Rizzo built this exclusive lamp for Gear Patrol. Its walnut base and brass shade were entirely made in the USA. The design aims to rethink what a small light can be; the lamp can be angled to accent a wall or illuminate a room with a small swivel of the shade.
Stagg Pour-Over Kettle
When it comes to items you use every day, it’s worth investing in something a touch nicer. The Stagg Pour-Over Kettle adds intelligent design elements to the standard kettle, like a range thermometer for water temperature readings, a precision-pour spout for optimal “flow rate” and a counterbalanced handle for easy pouring.
Muuto Groove Trivet
Maybe you’re not sure you or anyone you know absolutely needs a trivet. That’s fine. Here’s the soft sell: these are marble disks with an etched surface, made for holding hot pans. And here’s the hard sell: the marble is gorgeous, and the clean, crisp, minimalist Scandinavian design does not take that away from the material. So, in use or not, these elevate one’s countertop or kitchen table — making utility secondary.
MS021 Hybrid Camp Jacket
All insulated jackets are not made equal. Most keep you warm, feature a simple design and can stand up to some elements. Mountain Standard takes the insulated jacket a step further, tailoring the fit, integrating fleece sleeves into the design and adding simple analog elements like a buttoned placket and a small chest zipper pocket.
877 Workshop × Gear Patrol Keychains
Working with Berlin-based 877 Workshop, we created these handcrafted keychains to hold your possessions stylishly and securely. The keychains are made of braided rope or leather, with an aluminum clasp to secure the two loops. They reliably secure one’s keys and EDC, and the leather and rope will patina according to your usage over the years.
West Elm Industrial Concrete Side Table
For the design-minded, one of the most compelling aspects of a product is the play of its materials. In this side table, concrete and iron intermingle to create an element-forward surface that can complement a handful of other decor types: concrete boasts a varying, rougher texture, which pairs well with smoother surfaces like cloth or polished wood. It’s simple and unobtrusive, but, given a hand-cast construction process, it’s also entirely unique.
Design Within Reach Ven Collection
Jens Risom is 99 years old. His eye, however, is still keen. Design Within Reach collaborated with the Danish designer to create a new line of furniture, melding oak with stainless steel, or walnut with brass, in classic mid-century modern designs (and, conveniently, with customizable storage options). From cabinets to dressers, they’re superlative pieces that’ll anchor any room.
It’s always worth asking, right?
Thos Moser Hartford Lounge Chair: There is more to the Hartford Chair than meets the eye. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s composed of rich leather and sleek walnut. But its design also involves a deep iterative process of charting, mocking up and reworking seating angles and “human factors,” like how comfortable the angle of the seat is for a real human back. It’s constructed by both steam bending and CNC machining solid blocks of wood, a mix of modern and traditional procedures. It’s an heirloom seating piece, well worth the steep price.
More guides and gear to fill out your list
7 Coffee Makers For The Home and Office
A good coffee maker should be the cornerstone of any office kitchen, brewing top-notch coffee without sacrificing quantity and user friendliness. These seven fit that bill.
The Best Pens on Earth
Taking notes on pen and pad in a meeting looks miles more professional than tapping them into Evernote, signatures always look better in ink than scribbled on a tablet, and even the briefest handwritten letter looks more meaningful than any email could ever aspire to be.