We're Maryal and Chris Carter, the crazy-in-love couple behind the blog and the specs. Our love of chambray and mutual blurred vision unites us, and this is where we share our adventures in love, style, food, DIY and so much more, seen through our bespectacled eyes. Thanks for joining our journey!

Gift Guide: No-Fail Gifts for Men

Gift Guide: No-Fail Gifts for Men

Our first gift guide of the season has arrived and we felt like this was one of, or even the most important guide for us to get done first because it's all about the most awesome gifts for that hard-to-shop-for boyfriend, husband, dad, brother-in-law, random dude, etc. in your life!

I don't know about the rest of you, but when it comes to getting gifts for the dudes in my family, I feel like I have to get started really early so I can actually think of and then subsequently track down something that they'll actually love and use instead of "accidentally" lose at airport security on the way back from the holidays. If you're a dude reading this, I just need you to know that you guys are hard to shop for, like migraine-inducingly difficult even though you claim that you're a "simple" guy who likes "anything" or “needs nothing”. It's not true. That's a lie. We know you're secretly crying in the bathroom on Christmas morning after not getting that sweet limited edition, Navy Seal-approved tactical watch that also doubles as a hammer, staple gun, Swiss Army knife (and dispenses your favorite hair gel) that you so badly wanted, but failed to tell anyone about until after the fact. We may not be able to find such a unicorn, but at least give us a shot!

So in light of that, we both... Chris and yours truly... wanted to make sure that we fully collaborated on this gift guide and delivered only the ultimate, most awesome, no-fail, loved-by-all-dudes roundup of items that will elevate you to hero status in the eyes of the guy in your life. We're also explaining why each item is doper than dope and offering alternative items that are similar to each item listed because... options. 

Everything in this roundup falls under $250, and some of the alternative items listed are either nicer, slightly more pricey options or similar, but slightly less expensive options. See, we've got your back!

And now for the goods...


1. But Always Fine Bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald

If you're not familiar with Pappy Van Winkle, it's cool. I get it. But there's a good chance that if you're guy has an appreciation for a good bourbon or hell, good spirits in general that he's heard of Pappy Van Winkle. For the better part of the 20th century and even today, Pappy Van Winkle has been known as one of the finest bourbons in the world (Pappy's ultra rare 25-year-old Pappy Old Van Winkle will run you about $300 a shot), and this book will definitely up your guy's street cred with his bourbon-loving crew. Even if the man in your life isn't a bourbon fan or doesn't dabble in alcoholic beverages at all, the story of this American-made distillery's rise, its dedication to its craft and its heartwarming history is just about as inspiring as it gets.

2. Marshall Stockwell Portable Bluetooth Speaker

There's portable speakers, and then there's this Marshall portable bluetooth speaker that looks like one of their classic amps. Sleek, sexy and totally dude-approved. What's more, Marshall couldn't let this little guy go out the door without putting a little bit of their signature sound behind it, so it comes complete with built-in 2.25" woofers and 2-channel class D amplifiers. In other words, the sound quality is epic for a speaker of this size. We're also loving the larger amp-like Marshall bluetooth speaker in black and brown.

3. Bluefishing by Steve Sims

Before you roll your eyes at the inclusion of yet another book on this list, hear me out! Both Chris and I have had the chance to read this new book and we're not kidding when we say that everyone, men and women included, need to read this book. It details a badass guy named Steve Sims' career as what he calls a "bluefisher", in which he's made millions by making the wildest dreams of the rich and famous come true. You want to sing on stage with Journey? He makes it happen. You want to get married in the Vatican? Steve has you covered. But more importantly (and the reason this book is so good), Steve takes you through his journey from rags to riches and outlines the powerful lessons he's learned in humility, self acceptance, resilience and perseverance that have taken him places most people only dream of going. Get ready for your guy to have a serious man crush! 

4. SOREL Madson Moc Toe Waterproof

What's better than the gift of the perfectly stylish, yet insanely durable winter boot for the holidays? Whether it's your significant other or your dad, every guy needs a great pair of boots that they can put through hell throughout the winter, and these SOREL waterproof stunners are just the ticket. SOREL is known for their durability, craftsmanship and classic, but trendsetting designs, and the grey color of these is perfectly paired with just about anything. We also love the men’s and women’s versions of the brand’s 1964 boot. 

5. Bose SoundSport Pulse In-Ear Wireless Headphones

Pretty much everyone on the planet needs bluetooth headphones nowadays because their phones require it, every guy in my family included. Which forces people to grab whatever pair they can find quickly, quality be damned. This pair of Bose bluetooth headphones are ah-maz-ing and have just about the best sound quality you can get out of earbuds. They're awesome for working out (they're built for sweat and weather resistence), or just just puttering around and have a six hour battery life so you're not constantly charging them after a workout or long hike/bike/run. Bose's slightly less expensive, but extremely similar SoundSport pair is 100% awesome, too.

6. RayBan Folding Wayfarers in Matte Grey with Flash Lenses

If the man any our life is just puzzlingly difficult to shop for and you're unsure if he'll like anything else on this list (does he also hate puppies and ice cream? Had to ask...), then this is the gift for you. This is an item that every guy in my family owns and loves, and they look good (and cool) on anyone. The fact that they fold up into the most convenient little square and fit into an equally small and convenient square case is really the kicker, though. The matte grey finish seems to be a favorite and we love the flash lenses on this pair, but they also come in standard black and matte black as well. 

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7. Travis Mathew Sivanish Piqué Polo

If the man or men in your life love golf, or even if they just like cool golf gear, I've been hearing seriously glowing endorsements of this Travis Mathew brand as of late. Chris has tested what seems like every item they offer out on the course, and I don't think I've ever seen him love pieces of clothing more. And I totally get it - their offerings are stylish without being obnoxious, a little bit laid back without being sloppy, made from the most comfy fabrics, and have much better cuts and way less lame colorways than a lot of the other golf brands out there. We're also loving this jacket, this shirt and this pullover by the brand. 

8. Nike Air Max Vision SE Sneaker

The explanation for these sleek grey sneakers' inclusion on our list is simple - guys love the Nike Air Max designs because they're a great looking shoe, they're really comfortable to walk around in all day and they're well made, and I just love the way a guy looks in the Nike Air Max styles. Guys love 'em, girls love a guy in 'em. Need I say more? They’re flattering, if a sneaker was capable of such a thing. We both really loved this particular style and colorway when we saw it, and any guy would welcome the gift of a great sneaker that makes them look like a million, right? Chris also wanted to note that these Nikes from J.Crew are equally cool and on his list this year!

9. Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum

Don't be thrown by the word "parfum" in the name - Le Labo makes unisex scents and this one smells like heaven... guy heaven that is. If it were raining men, I'm pretty sure that this is what it would smell like. When they describe this scent, they say that it "captures the spirit of the American West and freedom", but, um, I just smell cedar, leather and sandalwood and I love every minute of it. Even if the guy in your life isn't really a fragrance wearer to your knowledge, this is one of those scents that he'll be so grateful you bought him. Yes it's slightly pricey, but take into account that it will last a really long time and if that still doesn't convince you, they also make a travel size as well as a pomade, which Chris also loves. Chris’ other pick for “best men's fragrance out there” that he thinks is also deserving of the investment is Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille

10. Garmin Approach S20 

This isn't just any other golf gift. No no no, it's the "in the know" golf gift for golf lovers and the guy who wants to improve his game and track his skills, but wants to still look cool while doing it. This insanely versatile, stylish watch not only has your standard time functions, but it pairs with your smartphone and can receive text messages and incoming calls, track general activity like steps, distance traveled, hours of sleep and more, as well as a bevy of super helpful golf functions like measuring and recording shot distance, course analysis for over 40,000 courses worldwide (you’ll see distances to the front, back and middle of the green, plus hazards, doglegs and layups and more), a digital scorecard and it pairs with the Garmin TruSwing™ sensor for metrics to improve your swing consistency. And that's not even the full list. 

11. Patagonia 'Better Sweater' Quarter Zip Pullover

Oh... you thought you were going to get out of this gift guide without me mentioning the Patagonia Better Sweater? That's adorable! But seriously, I know that I said this in our Father's Day Gift Guide, but this jacket-sweater hybrid by the makers of all things cool and outdoorsy is a staple in the closet of every guy (and girl, for that matter) I know. It’s super soft and warm, and like the RayBan folding wayfarers, this is the perfect gift for the man in your life that really stretches your gift giving abilities. It also comes in a full zip version and in tons of colors, like Chris’ beloved hunter green

12. Crafthouse by Fortessa Cocktail Smoking Box

Simply put, this is one hell of a fun gift idea for a guy! If you've been in a "cocktail lounge" or "hipster bar" as of late, you might notice that smoking cocktails is all the rage right now. And we have to say that we're totally not above it! They're really tasty and the flavors of a cocktail that has been smoked are like nothing we’ve ever tasted before. And it’s just a really unique and fun thing to have in your arsenal when friends come over for dinner or drinks. A gift that's pure frivolous fun and extremely unique for a guy you love? Done!

Men's Gift Ideas: Honorable Mentions

Peak Ice Works Large Sphere Ice Tray

The New York Times Explorer: Beaches, Islands and Coasts

RVCA Packable Anorak

J.Crew Brushed Heather Elbow Patch Shirt

Solar Power Bank Portable Charging Station

Where to Drink Coffee Book

Nike TW Dry Long Sleeve Polo Shirt

Seafood Lovers' Tool Set

Leica Sofort Compact Instant Camera

The Mixer's Manual

Bose SoundLink Revolve Speaker

Saxx Ultra Boxer Briefs

Herschel Supply Co. Brittania Briefcase

J.Crew Textured Half Zip in Polartec Fleece

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Fun Cold Weather Outfits For Men & Women

Fun Cold Weather Outfits For Men & Women

Thanksgiving: 3 Things We're Thankful For This Year

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