Ask a guy what he wants for a present and he will often deflect the question with, “surprise me.” Can you blame him? Gifts for men are often either welcome-but-overplayed (single malt scotch) or nice-but-rarely-used (fun cuff links.) This year, don’t ask, but choose from these handsome, utilitarian objects that have stood the test of time.
1. Model 9090 Espresso Maker
1978, Richard Sapper
The first espresso maker released by famed Italian manufacturer Alessi, the 9090 has been in continuous production for almost 40 years and, like most of designer Richard Sapper’s work, looks like it has arrived from the near future. Made of chromed steel and cast iron, it is glossy and satisfyingly heavy. Recently updated to work with energy-efficient induction cooktops, the 9090 is available in a range of sizes. The seven-inch size is probably the best choice, perfect for making Sunday morning coffee for two.
From $193, alessi.com
2. Akari Lamp
1951, Isamu Noguchi
In the late 1940s, sculptor Isamu Noguchi traveled to Japan where he first saw traditional fisherman’s mulberry paper and bamboo lamps. Noguchi, at the height of his furniture design powers, launched the Akari series of lamps and continued to develop new versions for the rest of his life. First marketed in 1951, they continue to be handmade today. There are many biomorphic designs to choose from, some outlandish, but a simple, plain table lamp, which throws a soothing, soft light, will bring Mid-Century verve to any room. The lamp will arrive packed flat and must be carefully expanded by hand, a small link with the craftsmen who made it.
From $105, noguchi.org
3. Nature Writings by John Muir
1997, Library of America
Few men haven’t daydreamed about striking out into the wilderness and Sierra Club founder John Muir is their patron saint. Muir traveled America’s wild places in the late 19th century and, unlike the earlier adventurers who roamed the West, wrote primarily about their spiritual and restorative power. This collection of his most popular works, including “My First Summer in the Sierra,” 1911, and “Stickeen,” 1909, is available in all e-book formats but the Library of America’s hardbound volume is compact, heavy in the hand and handsome on a bookcase or bedside table.
4. Modern Farmer Quarterly
A more recent masculine daydream revolves around owning a simple farm, run on ethical principals and located, preferably, on the roof of a Michelin-starred pizza restaurant. Modern Farmer magazine covers food production with a range from hyperlocal to global, in a witty, contemporary voice. Founded by a former Monocle editor, Modern Farmer puts the beautifully-produced magazine at the center of an array of social networking channels.
$24 ( 4 issues/year), modernfarmer.com
5. Old Fashioned Cocktail Set
The old fashioned was already called “old fashioned” when Grover Cleveland was in the White House. A mix of whiskey, sugar, water and bitters, its non-fussy simplicity, plus its bracing bite, has made it a go-to for generations of men. San Francisco-based Umami Mart imports unusual Japanese barware and their Old Fashioned cocktail set includes a gold-tone trident bar spoon and spherical ice cube trays.
From $99, umamimart.com