The Thoughtful Art of Gift-Giving


The Christmas of my eighth year, I woke to a beautifully wrapped present from my grandmother under our Christmas tree. Inside was a neat, ironed pile of my dead grandfather’s dress shirts. I smiled and told her how much I loved them.

Later, in my room, I cried like the kid I still was. I didn’t want my dead grandfather’s shirts! I could barely handle his funeral five months before, let alone the concept of death. But the lesson was burned in my mind: You have to put on a good face when you receive a gift from someone who loves you — no matter how much you might hate it.

Now, I’m not claiming to be a perfect gift-giver. Over the years, I’ve been guilty of buying terrible presents for loved ones, specifically significant others. Is there anyone harder to buy for than the person you’re sleeping with? There was the gym membership for the guy I thought could stand to lose a few pounds (I know, shameful). The handwritten “coupon” for a massage (What am I — 5?). Or the set of comedy DVDs for the guy I didn’t think was funny enough. The main mark of the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Gift is the one that comes with implicit instructions: “Take this, use it, and maybe I’ll like you better.”

When I told my girlfriends about my wide-ranging experience of giving (and receiving) A-plus prezzies and total flops, they shared their own lessons on the Fine Art of Thoughtful Gift-Giving. Here’s what I learned.

1. Putting someone else’s needs over your own is the greatest aphrodisiac.
I love my friend Kerry Coddett’s story about how her boyfriend showed just how well he knew her in the form of an epic weekend getaway.

“I’m a wild party animal, but my boyfriend doesn’t drink or smoke,” she says. “As soon as we got to the hotel, he arranged for our room to have all my favorite snacks, drinks, cigarettes — he even got me a cute to-go cup so I could take my booze with me! It means the world that we’re so different, and yet he doesn’t judge me for the things I like to do.”

She’s shown herself to be just as tender — and crafty. “There was this PBS documentary called Eyes on the Prize that my boyfriend watched as a kid, and much of his worldview was shaped by it. I was able to track down the DVD box set at a store that only sold to teachers … by pretending to be one.”

2. There’s nothing worse than the regift.

Actually, scratch that. There is one: the straight-up, admitted-to regift.

My friend Maggie Serota has one of my favorite stories about the extreme thoughtlessness on the part of a significant other. “My ex bought this really nice Mecca track jacket — we were ravers, shut up — for this girl he had a crush on before he met me,” she says. “One day, he handed me the jacket and said, ‘I bought this for [whatever the girl’s name was, I forget] ’cause I liked her, but you can have it.’ I took it because it was a nice jacket, but still gave him a piece of my mind.”

3. If it says, “Look at me,” it’s the worst gift of all.
Sam Escobar provided me with an epic tale of a truly shitty offering. “My ex is a musician and somehow managed to hit that special intersection of ‘not very good’ and ‘extremely performative,’” Escobar says. “He once wrote a song that he claimed was ‘about’ me, but it was painfully obvious that he only wrote it so he could sing it in front of people at my birthday party. In reality, the song related to nothing in our relationship, and I’m pretty sure he wrote it before he met me … about his previous partner.”

4. Practicality is key.
Publicist Dara Avenius is often ushered to A-list parties for her job, and she recalls the perfect present from an ex. “I was having a bad day, and she surprised me with a pair of earrings,” Avenius says. “She knew I was reworking my wardrobe and looking for accessories that I could wear for the many red-carpet events I had to attend. It was clear she’d studied my style and came up with earrings that fit me so well.” Contrast that with another bestowal of accessories that was a major fail — and you’ll see why. “A girlfriend gave me a symbolic piece of jewelry (not an engagement ring, just a particular symbol that matched a tattoo of hers), which would be fine if she hadn’t given something similar to her ex — and the person she dated after me!”

5. There is so much romance in the “I’ve been holding on to this for years” gift.
Take my friend Sylvia Haider, who met her husband through work. Early in their relationship as colleagues, she says, “In an abysmal attempt to be funny, I started making up a story about ninja donkeys who would defend damsels in distress. The story flopped and was never mentioned again.”

Years later, when they were a couple, she says, “For the holidays, he gave me a crimson silk book with an illustrated 20-odd-page story about our relationship evolution centering around a ninja donkey (him) and a damsel (me). He’d been working on it for months (story line, rough drafts, illustration, coloring, etc.). He remembered every detail I made up during our initial conversation, researched and referenced my cultural background into it as well.” This beautiful labor of love, she says, is still her most valuable possession.

6. Impracticality can be insanely sweet.
Quinn Sutherland describes the first Christmas she spent with her boyfriend. “He knew I really wanted a Christmas tree, but we lived in an insanely small studio apartment,” she says. “He insisted, saying he’d bring home a little tree.” Cut to later that night, when her boyfriend called and asked her to come open the door. “He and a friend dragged this enormous tree up into our tiny home,” she says. “We only had about three ornaments, and the branches hit our knees when we sat on the sofa, but I didn’t care. I loved it, and loved that he wanted me to have a proper tree.”

7. If you’re feeling down about a disappointing gift, you’re not alone.
Twenty years ago, my friend Alison Freer received a trash can (yes, a trash can) from her then-boyfriend, complete with a cheap stick-on bow. “He goes, ‘It’s a trash can,’ as if I was partially sighted,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Thank you,’ while thinking the whole time, I’m going to dump you.”

Fair enough. Because if you give a garbage present, you’re guaranteed a garbage reaction.

This tip is for both men and women: exfoliate before shaving.

If you exfoliate before shaving will change your shaving experience drastically. Not only is regular gentle exfoliation good for your skin—especially the skin on your face—but it can give you a more productive and comfortable shave. Exfoliation clears the layer of dead skin cells and oils that naturally build up on your skin and has a host of benefits for a healthy complexion and fresh, healthy skin.

What this means for your shave is that there is one less barrier between your razor and a stunningly close shave. Think of it this way: your razor is gliding over your skin. As it goes, it is clipping the base of hairs where they come out of your skin—it’s not rocket science. But if there is a layer of shed skin cells then your razor has to work double time to get you the close shave that you’re looking for.

Regular exfoliation also reduces the chances of ingrown hairs, those painful and unsightly bumps that crop up when hair curls back on itself under your skin.

Find shaving brushes here.

Guys, did you know that facial hair can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water?

Facial hair, once swollen and waterlogged, loses resilience and puts up less of a fight against your razor. Showering before shaving is essential, and it is a good idea to spend a minute just dousing your beard hairs in hot water. What this means for you once you get started is squeezing every ounce of sharpness out of your razor and getting that great one pass shave. Think about this: if you have to make multiple passes on tough hairs, how long is your blade going to stay sharp?

Speaking of sharpness, contrary to popular belief, it is in fact dull blades that cause the most nicks, cuts, and scrapes—always use a sharp blade and a quality razor. Part of the reason is that finely honed blades will develop an uneven edge as they dull. You may not be surprised to find out that uneven is the opposite of smooth. Plus, instead of cutting through hairs, dull razors are often deflected off of them and as a result, they nick your skin.

If you are noticing that you have to press harder with your razor or it’s not cutting your facial hair well then simply change the blade. Incidentally, this is why quality razors have heavy handles; you should not be placing pressure on the razor while you shave. Multi-blade razors can be a little more forgiving but the same principle applies—don’t apply any pressure to your razor and let its weight pull it across your face.

So, fill your facial hair with water and brush on a good shaving cream. Find brushes here.

The Case against Foaming Creams

Why canned shaving creams are not worth the savings.

If you walk into any store that sells personal care items you will see shelf upon shelf of canned foaming shave creams. What many men (this also applies to women) don’t realize is that the cuts, nicks, and irritation that they assume are a normal part of the shaving process are really the product of using inferior shaving creams. They blame irritation on their razor, or they assume that they simply haven’t found a cream that ‘works with their skin’ yet. While there are reasons why your razor may be irritating your skin, more often than not, simply changing away from canned foaming creams will radically change your shaving experience.

Canned Shaving CreamThe Canned Option

What you may not realize about what comes out of your shaving cream can is mostly air. The parts that aren’t air are a bunch of chemicals and the rest is water. Then what pumps it out of the can is usually either butane or propane. No matter the manufacturer, the basic formula is roughly the same:

  • Stearic Acid
  • Triethanolamine
  • Lanolin
  • Glycerin
  • Polyoxyethylene sorbitan monostearate
  • Water


The result is that canned shaving creams are soapy and heavily perfumed. They sit compressed in the can until a dose of butane shoots the mixture out. When you watch the cream expand, it is the material soaking in air. When you apply the chemical cocktail to your face, everything that isn’t in contact with your skin is essentially wasted.

This means that the Santa beard your fast foaming shave cream gives you is mostly wasted product, and the product that is actually doing its job is mostly air. To review, shaving cream is meant to lubricate your skin so that your razor can glide across it. If there is an inch or more of product on your face then the excess isn’t doing anything for you.

Plus, on the microscopic level, that ‘rich’ lather is only given its structure through copious amounts of air. Air, of course, doesn’t protect your skin in any way. As a result, nicks, scrapes, and cuts are more common—no matter how sharp your blade is.

The convenience of the propellant in the can also means that users grow accustomed to shaving without a shave brush. While a shaving brush isn’t strictly necessary for a successful shave, a premium brush will greatly improve your shaving experience and your razor longevity. When a shaving brush is used correctly (applying cream in a circular motion) facial hair is raised and coated with lather. Your razor’s job is easier, and you will have a more uniform layer of protection for your skin.

The slender can, while convenient, if not properly recycled, contributes to landfill waste, and the production of cans is a more energy and materials intensive process than alternatives. Cases of cans cannot be shipped as effectively, that is to say that the number of units that can be fit on a truck is less than that of alternatives. There a numerous reasons why canned creams are simply inferior to non-foaming options.

Why Canned?

So if canned creams are so terrible, why do people buy them, and why are they even still made?

It comes down to money. Despite the waste, canned creams are still very inexpensive, and they make tremendous amounts of money for their manufacturers. At the end of the day, using a canned cream is better than using no shaving cream at all, but in many cases a bar soap will produce similar, if not superior, results.

Canned shaving creams, in addition to being very affordable, are also very accessible. Even grocery stores carry a wide selection of brightly colored and ubiquitous creams from name brands. In all fairness, some of the gel options are additionally convenient as they produce a clear lather which means that trimming, edging, and shaping of facial hair is easier.

990SThe Non-foaming Alternatives

Leaving the can on the shelf and investing in some non-foaming, high lather shaving cream will dramatically change your shaving routine. Non-foaming options have a myriad of benefits and tend to rely on more natural ingredients. Instead of using a charge of propane or butane, the lather is created by hand with a shaving brush. A high quality brush will retain an impressive amount of water to create a rich lather that clings to your skin preventing extensive waste and ensuring that your skin is well protected.

Because they don’t need to be compressed, non-foaming creams can come in a variety of containers. Tubes, applicator sticks, and shallow screw-lid containers to name just a few. Invariably, these containers require fewer materials than the production of aluminum cans and are more readily recyclable. My personal favorite are the shallow screw-lid containers because they offer a generous amount of surface area to grab a bunch of product with my brush.

In lieu of a cocktail of chemicals, these non-foaming creams—sometimes called soaps, butters, and pastes—often rely on more natural ingredients that are less harsh on skin. Many canned creams are heavily perfumed, the exception being those labelled ‘sensitive skin’. It is not uncommon for the dyes and perfumes in canned creams to further irritate sensitive skin. Remember, the act of shaving can remove as many as two of the uppermost layers of skin making it more vulnerable to irritation.

When applied with a quality brush, a non-foaming cream a quality brush, a non-foaming cream will raise facial hair and coat skin with a rich lather for a smooth and irritation free shave, whether you use a single blade or a cartridge razor. Check out this article to learn more about the difference.

The Disadvantages

Everything has a downside. The downsides to using non-foaming creams are largely convenience based. Compressed and canned creams are convenient, no question. Working up a suitable lather with a quality non-foaming cream, while a quick process with a premium brush, takes more time than using compressed creams. The non-foaming alternatives are often more expensive as well, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot.

My opinion is that the few extra bucks are worth it for the dramatic reduction in skin irritation that non-foaming creams offer but that’s a value judgement. My guess is that if you try a non-foaming cream you won’t want to go back, and combine that with a premium razor and a quality shaving brush and you will find yourself looking forward to shaving in the morning. Your skin will definitely thank you, and if you are in the habit of accepting thanks, consider giving a friend the gift of an astonishingly smooth shave. Check out our assortment of classically styled premium shaving tools for a shave that you will brag about.

Until next time, stay slick, stay stylish, and stay smooth.

How to Choose the Right Brush for Your Hair Type

Styling your hair can be an enjoyable and even sensual experience. Not to mention that it’s a highly important grooming ritual for maintaining healthy hair. Hair brushing requires the correct tools as using the best brush for your hair type will ensure its in optimum condition. As well as hair type, you need to consider comfort, convenience and aesthetics. Here is a guide on how to choose the correct brush or comb for your desires.


Your hair type

A few factors determine the condition of your hair. Its growth rate, texture and elasticity is down to nature, however, the overall health of your hair is down to other contributing factors like diet, weather and what products you use.

Hair types can be separated into categories;

Thick – your hair may become knotty easily, have lots of body or become frizzy due to humidity.

Thin – your hair is fine, lacks volume and may become oily quickly.

Normal – this type of hair can use most products and brushes.

Once you’ve identified your hair type, you’ll be able to select the best type of bristles and brush for your needs.


metalliThick hair

Brushes with plastic pins are perfect for those with thick or coarse hair due to the amount of control they offer. They can be used for detangling purposes or for light styling. Regardless of whether you have long or short hair, plastic pins make the ideal everyday hair tool.


On thick hair, cylindrical metal pins are perfect for very long thick hair or thick, curly hair. Metal pins will help to detangle your hair without creating static. Similar to a brush with plastic pins, metal pins can be used daily to detangle any knots and provide a soft, smooth finish, gliding gently through your hair.



TO DAY Comb Wide Teeth 19 x 4 cm

For styling wet or dry thick hair, try a wide tooth comb. This type of tool will glide through tough knots without breaking the hair stands.


Normal and Thin Hair

21.3 x 6 cm - Boar Bristle Brush
21.3 x 6 cm – Boar Bristle Brush

Boar bristles are ideal for normal or thin hair as they naturally condition the hair and remove the need to wash it daily. Natural bristles are ideal for daily grooming and particular styling purposes.

For parting and sectioning normal to thin hair, opt for combs with two differing degrees of spacing. Such tools will easily move through long or short hair as well as detangling.

The brush body

Depending on your styling needs, the body of a brush can have a significant impact. For instance, vented brushes are perfect for blow drying with a hairdryer as air can flow through the body of the brush.

A rubber cushioned base helps to polish the cuticles and reduce static as well as reducing breakage.

The shape of the brush is also important in terms of styling. Flat brushes work well for straightening and general grooming while round brushes work with the hair for shaping and smoothing. Combs are the best tool for working through wet hair, however, whichever tool you choose, ensure that you brush gently without exerting too much pressure.

Selecting the Right Shaving Brush

Gentlemen, to look your very best, you have to shave every day. The process is deceptively complex though is it not? It seems like shaving is the best thing you can do for your appearance, but the worst thing that you can do to your face. It doesn’t have to be that way, and your morning ritual can be significantly more enjoyable—not to mention easier on your face.

Natural bristles Ø 21 Shaving Brush

The first question everyone always asks is “do I even need a brush?”

The answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes. No, technically you don’t need a shaving brush but it makes using the kind of creams and soaps that are good for your face a joy instead of a real pain without a good brush. If you’re using a canned foaming cream that’s fine; I just don’t want to be the one to tell your skin that you hate it. We cover the reasons that canned creams are basically the Sahara desert for your face here.

This is a judgement free zone. If you use compressed chemicals and air to protect your face that’s fine, and this article can still help you get to the top of your shave game. Shaving brushes can still help your morning routine even if you use a foaming cream; your results will be significantly better however if you elect to use a non-foaming cream.

A Clean Palette

Believe it or not, your shaving experience doesn’t start when the razor starts cutting. Thinking about shaving as cutting hair of your face—or head for the guys that can pull it off—is only half of the equation. You know that you should shave after a hot shower, or at least after a hot towel. The heat softens up your coarse beard hairs and makes your skin suppler. In a totally masculine way of course; man supple is the term I would use.

Making the job easier for your razor alone can radically change your shaving experience, but there is much further to go yet.

A good brush will not only effectively cover your face with cream, soap, or oil but it will lift and separate your stubble or beard hair. When using one (even with foaming creams) apply in a circular motion to pick up each individual hair and coat the skin underneath with lather. If the hair is standing up with cream under it, then it is in a prime position to get sliced by the razor.

What this means for your shave is that your razor will be able to glide uninterrupted across your skin. That’s good news for your cheeks, but even better news for your jawline and your neck where cuts and nicks are more common while you negotiate the topography of your face. Also, with the hair elevated you decrease the chances of the razor missing a hair. More hair cut in the first pass means that you don’t have to revisit an area that you’ve already covered.

The Best Bristle

The world of brushes can be daunting at first. There’s different bristles and radically different prices for what all appear to be more or less the same. No problem, we’ve put together this handy guide to walk you through the selection process.

The discerning connoisseur doesn’t use anything other than badger, though there are other options on the market. Badger bristle brushes are the premium option for a man to get the most out of his shaving experience.

In many industries, you get what you pay for and shaving brushes are no exception. Badger bristle is the pinnacle of quality. The individual hairs are soft; they bend and move as one. But they are also densely packed which means that they will retain an optimal amount of water. Canned creams expand and ‘lather’ on their own thanks to a healthy shot of propane or butane as a propellant. Quality non-foaming creams or soaps rely instead on water to loosen them up and work a rich lather.

There are other bristle options on the market. The most popular less expensive alternative is boar bristle and to a lesser degree horse hair. Boar bristle is very affordable but the price savings come with a steep quality sacrifice. Boar bristle is much stiffer and no matter how densely it is knotted—the knot is the term for the density of the brush—it still doesn’t have the water retention of badger bristle.

In some instances, those interested in exploring the world of premium shaving options have tried out a boar bristle to start, didn’t see a significant improvement in their shaving routine, and decided that they didn’t need a shaving brush at all. Unfortunately if they had gone with a badger bristle brush they would be converts.