Guy gifts

By Mir
December 12, 2006

Helloooooooooo! I am coming to you live (because it’s so uncouth to come to you dead) from an internet cafe. Why? Because my home internet is still completely hosed. Rather than share with you some choice words about my cable service provider, I thought I’d answer a question quickly. That way I’m not leaving you with a gaping void of non-posting. Now it will be a gaping void of a question. Yay!

Trisha writes:

Dear Mir,

Your amazing site has led me to many wonderful, affordable Christmas gifts, and for that you have my everlasting gratitude (and an upper-tier bookmark in my browser). However, I haven’t seen many suggestions for gifts for men…and my 25-year-old brother is the last person on my list. If, while scouring the Internet for deals, you come across the perfect affordable gift for a single engineer, please share!
Big Sister

P.S. Did I mention you are very pretty?

(You didn’t mention it, but I could tell you were thinking it. You’re very kind.)

On the one hand, I hate to do the sort of gender steretyping that holds that certain gifts are good for one gender or the other. On the other hand, most guys don’t want bubble bath, and most women are not intrigued by drill bits. So let’s just all assume two caveats, here, before I begin:

1) The best gift is the one you’ve picked out with great thought and care because you know and love the recipient. It’s a gift you know they want, and you put some effort into it.

2) Sometimes you have to buy a gift for someone you don’t know all that well, or whom you don’t like that much. Sometimes you need a few generalities to get you going. Providing you with a couple of generalities does not mean I’m sexist or stupid, it means I am going on the collective wisdom of years of gift-buying amongst myself and my peers and family, and pulling out a few things that may be useful. Maybe none of these will apply. I offer them to you with an entire shaker of salt. (And a bagel. Because I’m here where they sell them.)

Given those ground rules, here are some suggestions.

  • Gadgets. Most guys I know love gadgets, and that goes double for engineers. Does he have a Leatherman? A weather station? An atomic clock that projects onto the ceiling and fixes you breakfast? The more cutting edge the better, although of course you have to have some idea of what he already owns. This category includes toys, by the way. Most guys I know would be thrilled with a remote control car or the like.
  • Music. This one isn’t gender-specific, but most gadget-heads spend a lot of time plugged into their iPods. Do you know what kind of music he likes? Buy him some CDs. Don’t know? Buy him an iTunes giftcard.
  • Games. Again, it’s just my experience, but most of the guys I know are thrilled to get the latest computer games. Does he have an Xbox or something similar? Look for that system. If he just has a PC, consider a Sims game.
  • Mmmmm… beer. Otto once received a membership in the Beer of the Month Club from someone, and he found it amusing even though he’s not a huge drinker. Does your brother like beer?
  • Mmmmm… everything else. Hey, guess what! There’s a [fill in the blank] Club for almost everything. Check out the above link and then look at the left-hand sidebar. Pizza of the month! Wine of the month! Chocolate of the month! These are gifts that keep on giving, and if you pick something the recipient likes, it’s kind of a neat one.
  • Hobby gear. This is another gender-free suggestion. If you know someone has a hobby that requires “accessories,” that’s always a good bet when it comes to buying a gift. Does he golf? Paint? Play in a soccer league? If you know he has an interest, think of what you can buy that’s related to it.
  • Go domestic. Young bachelors aren’t generally known for their showcase homes. Likewise, they’re not likely to get excited about sheets. But a nice item for his house or apartment which he’ll appreciate is a great idea. If he cooks, cookware (or better yet, a funky kitchen gadget) works. If you know he’s sleeping on old ratty sheets, sheets might be an okay gift.
  • Magazines. A magazine subscription can be a nice gift if you buy something the recipient will really enjoy. I know plenty of geeks guys who count the days by their Wired subscription. And you can buy subscriptions on eBay for cheap, or check out Best Deal Magazines.
  • Gift certificates. When in doubt, you can’t really go wrong with a gift certificate (wasn’t I just talking about that in an earlier post?) in terms of fitting. Now, some people dislike the impersonalness of it, and some people think they’re great. I don’t know which (if either) category your brother falls into. Again, know your recipient. But if you’re completely stumped, there’s always that.

I hope that gives you a few ideas to start with, Trisha. I also hope my internet connection gets fixed sometime soon, so that I can get back to scouring the ‘net for deals for you….


  1. One word: TOOLS

  2. A gift certificate to the local home improvement store or fishing tackle store. And maybe a bib; guys tend to drool in those places. At least my guy does.

  3. We have a local movie theater that sells a “souvenir cup” anually which entitles one to $1 soda refills every time you bring the cup to the movies. They also sell a t-shirt which gives the wearer free popcorn. That along with a gift certificate for tickets to said theater would make a great gift for a movie lover…or me.

  4. Sheesh, how did I forget tools? This is what happens when I’m hunched over my laptop at the bagel place. My bad; tools, yes, definitely. Thanks, BB.

  5. I think barware items are a great gift provided he’s not a teetotaler (sp?). Like, a funky cocktail shaker with a cocktail recipe book. Or, a set of bar tools with two neat martini glasses. You could even throw in a bottle of vodka, whiskey, etc.

  6. Great ideas! Thanks~

  7. My brother-in-law asked for a Leatherman. What is the world is it?

  8. My husband has the atomic clock that projects onto the ceiling- he loves it. I add my recommendation for that gift to the lovely Mir’s.

  9. My husband doesn’t read this, so I’m safe in saying I bought him a Big. Power. Tool. for Christmas. I knew what he wanted, sort of, so I asked my good friend the building maintenance engineer for specifics. The point: Ask another guy. It worked for me.

  10. last year, i didn’t know what to get my engineer, so i got him a bunch of little things… but the one that made the most impression was a swiss army knife for his key chain – that has 1 GB of memory on an attached card. he LOVED it. still uses it almost daily, talks about how it was one of the best gifts ever… and it was super cheap. check amazon.

  11. A leatherman is one of those folding pliers/multi purpose tool thingies that guys carry on their belt. ‘Cause…you never know when you may need a pair of pliers.

  12. A comment about hobby gifts:

    Sometimes hobbyists would be disappointed with accessories that aren’t exactly what they’re drooling for. As an example, I’m starting to enjoy knitting. But I dislike metal needles. And I’m particular about my wooden needles — for example, I like 6″, not 7″ bamboo for sock knitting. So, it would be hard for a gift giver to get it right.

    OTOH, chocolate. Hard to get it wrong.

  13. Thanks, Mir, for answering my question! Love all the ideas you and the other blog readers have suggested, esp. the gadget ideas (he does love tools, but I think he has every one in creation at this point).

  14. Sophie – As Denise said, a leatherman has become the generic name for a folding multi-tool (think Swiss Army Knife on steroids). Lot’s of people now make multi-tools of varying prices and qualities:

    Now, I don’t know how picky your brother-in-law is, but Leatherman with a capital L is a particular brand name (see Some people, like myself, wouldn’t care so much who made it, but others might want the authentic article.

    I also wanted to comment on Mir’s gift list for single, male 25 year old engineers. I myself was once one (I’m still a male engineer). You could have stopped at gadgets. Gadgets are just toys for big boys. And tools = big gadgets. Hobby gear usually = specific gadgets (unless it is hobby clothing). Magazines are good if they are about gadgets. Gift certificates are good if you can buy gadgets with them.

    As far as music goes, it is a good universal gift if you know the person’s preferences. Same goes for movies and books. Yes, people think engineers are afraid of words, but we all started out as book nerds (see Asimov, Herbert, Tolkien, etc).

    We tend to like computer/video games. Check out game review sites like At Gamespot you can click on ‘reviews’, hit the ‘browse all reviews’ option, and you can sort by review score. You can also select the game platform (xbox, pc, etc).

    Beer is usually a safe bet. Younger and more computer engineering types may have a stronger affinity towards high energy drinks, not to be confused with power drinks like Gatorade. No, I’m talking about stuff like Red Bull or, better yet, Bawls. Bawls is the only drink I’ve seen sold by the case at CompUsa.

    Any XXX-of-the-month club is interesting. They usually add up price-wise, but are pretty fun. Um, I meant XXX as a generic fill-in-the-blank space filler, nothing pornographic. Unless that’s what you want to get him.

    Domestic is probably the most tricky category here. Domestic gadgets, no problem. Guys buy women blenders and juicers because they think gadgets are the coolest things that could possibly go in a kitchen. Not that women are the only ones in the kitchen. Er… just take my word for it, we want kitchen gadgets. Vacuum cleaner? Not so neat, unless it is a robot vacuum cleaner. Anything with the descriptor ‘robot’ is probably a safe bet. Stuff like sheets, towels, etc… a little more tricky. You need to know his tastes. Even if it is a style he appreciates, he might not be that enthusiastic about the gift at first but don’t fret! He will appreciate it a lot once he starts using it.

    Another great list, Mir! I think I just took up a bunch of space without really adding much content. The hazards of an engineer trying to write.

  15. My (male) best-friend is awful to shop for, because if he sees something he needs, he’ll go out and buy it for himself… even the day before his birthday! He’s a computer person, so I’m scared to buy him gadgets because he’ll have SUCH a strong opinion about them one way or the other. My most successful gifts with him have been:

    “A night out” – gift cards to all the local bars and eateries he likes, movie gift cards, and a hand-made coupon that offered to play designated driver for him. He really liked the variety, and I liked that the gift “lasted” a long time.

    Ticketmaster gift certificates – I don’t know when he has big work things coming up, but this way he can plan for concerts he wants to see when he has time to see them

    An ottoman – which was surprising, but it matched his furniture and was one of those things he wanted, but convinced himself he didn’t need. I know it won’t always be an ottoman, but I pay really close attention to those little cues throughout the year, sometimes it helps!

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