An Expert’s Guide To Gifting Grooming Products
The darkest recesses of my bathroom cabinet are haunted by the gifts of Christmas past. Here you will find a bottle of Gucci Envy circa 1999 (half empty, most likely rubbing alcohol by now), a Clarisonic cleansing brush (I lost interest after a month of use) and a £500 bottle of La Prairie Platinum Rare serum that I was saving for a rainy day that never came.
This aggregate of dusty but well-intentioned items has outlived all my romantic relationships, relocations and reinventions. But to relegate them to the bin feels like a transgression on the spirit of gift-giving. It also suggests that I am a compulsive hoarder.
Grooming products might seem like popular and harmless gifts, but one misinformed purchase can swiftly destroy a man’s delicate ego. These items speak volumes about how a man is perceived by the outside world, so it is important to employ both effort and empathy when shopping for something quite so personal.
The safest route for a casual acquaintance is to select grooming products that aren’t about beautifying and appearance so much as ritual and indulgence. A body wash or bathing product, such as Haeckels Traditional Seaweed Bath, is likely to cause less offence than an intensive acne treatment. Similarly, a scented candle from Fornasetti is far safer than an eau de toilette that may not match the giftee’s scent profile (is he an oud man, fond of fougères?) or skin chemistry.
The rules are a little more relaxed for a man you know well. With a close friend, you can take calculated risks based on what you know about him already. Scan his shelves and look for gaps or potential upgrades in his routine. Four Christmases ago, I turned a Gillette man onto double-edged razors and he has never looked back. I also did God’s work by replacing his beloved bottle of a fragrance that shall not be named with the infinitely more elegant Green Irish Tweed from Creed. He is a better man for it.
On that note, know that shaving is a gateway drug for premium skincare. If you think your giftee would benefit from unguents and lotions, make sure your purchase has a recognisable place in his existing system (a pre-shave product or a reparative mask, for example). With this approach, you can guarantee that whatever you buy will actually get some use.
The man who has everything – and whom you know intimately – is more problematic. For him, something symbolic, rather than wildly expensive, tends to be best. Consider a personalised item such as an engraved razor or Byredo Unnamed eau de parfum, which comes with a blank label and lettering kit so you can title it yourself.
If the connection is romantic, then there is the option of a gift that reminds the recipient of you. At the height of a long-distance relationship, I couriered my partner a scarf that had been marinated in Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, a scent that he had unconsciously come to associate with me. It was a Proustian stroke of genius. The relationship may have ended, but I’m fairly certain that the scarf still reeks of me.