The Shop Rat 2023 Gift Guide
What to buy for others—and yourself, of course.
Hello, all you dirty little Shop Rats!
I hope you had a lovely holiday filled with delicious food and deals. My family spent the weekend watching Life On Our Planet, the new Netflix series about how life on Earth began… And went extinct. My mom has also never seen Mad Men, so we’re making our way through that as well. Her review so far: “Will everyone always be this sad?” (Yes.) Soooo it is in the spirit of mass extinction and capitalism-induced existential dread that I present to you: The Shop Rat 2023 Gift Guide!!! How’s that for a segue?
I love gift guides. They’re a great way to discover new brands and stores, and a rare opportunity for shopping writers to get creative. The best gift guides feel personal, and leave me with new ideas for how to surprise and delight myself. I mean others!!!
I also love giving gifts, and think people should Always Be Gifting (A.B.G.). The best gift givers have their eyes and ears open at all times. Oh, your mom has been meaning to watch Mad Men for months but doesn’t want to pay for yet another streaming service? Buy her the first season. (On her credit card, “by accident,” of course.)
To be a good gift giver you also have to be a sort of brazen snob. [Raises hand.] I’m here to give people what they don’t think or know they need. Men are the most obvious candidates because they need the most help, generally speaking. They smell bad; they wear flip-flops; and they think that Tropicana orange juice is healthy. Gifts are an opportunity to passive aggressively fix them.
As always, I encourage everyone to look for gifts at physical stores, pop-ups, and markets. The best gifts are oftentimes the ones you stumble upon by accident, out in the wild. But the holidays are chaotic, so I understand that sometimes you just need to have sh*t sent to your house. Below, some gifts I’ve given over the years, and others I’m considering.
Gifts to give others:
If you’re going to buy someone a food-shaped candle, I think it has to be absolutely disgusting to feel novel at this point. A Gohar World sausage candle looks downright civilized compared to this one.
I live in Park Slope, an area that my friend has dubbed the “Toy Store District,” and I’m constantly taunted by these incredible Lego flowers. I bought myself the orchids since I can’t keep plants alive, but would not be mad if someone got me some Lego roses, too.
I dated a guy for way too long because he wore this scent. (He did not buy me Lego roses.)
Speaking of men, my guy friends own these J.Press “Shaggy Dog” sweaters and I think they’re great.
For the friend who never has a lighter: a bag with a lighter attached.
I’m allergic to most pets, and seem to give off the impression that I don’t like them. Here’s a dog toy to prove that I don’t have a cold heart; I would just prefer not to touch your little beast.
You can’t buy yourself this pillow; someone has to buy it for you.
For Jess’s 30th birthday, I got her a custom Small Talk Studio shirt hand-drawn with all her favorite things. It remains one of the best, most personal gifts I’ve ever given! The brand’s custom orders are closed at the moment, but keep them in mind for future gifting, and check out their new collection.
My absolute favorite gifts to give are ornaments. They’re relatively inexpensive, and there’s truly an ornament out there for everyone. There are Croc ornaments and shrimp cocktail ornaments. I even found a Mrs. Claus playing pickleball ornament. Last year, my friend Sam alerted me to the existence of this meatball sub ornament, and I think it’s gorgeous.
If ornaments aren’t your thing, (or meatball subs), I’m also obsessed with this banorah.
Gifts to give yourself AND others:
I’ve said this before, but Eileen Fisher gifted me a brushed cashmere robe a few years ago, and it’s heaven. It’s currently sold out, which is a shame, but I feel like you can’t go wrong with a cashmere robe, period?? This one from Naadam seems solid. If you want one you can wear out of the house, I also love Lauren Manoogian.
Steff Yotka, head of digital content at SSENSE, Instagrammed this Miuccia Prada fan t-shirt during fashion week and I had to have it for myself.
I’m nuts for my Nuts4Nuts baseball cap.
And I fear this Odeon snow globe might be worth $150??
My brother told me to buy this projector instead of a TV and he was right. TVs are such an eyesore. You can put this thing anywhere and it adjusts to your wall. Currently on sale!
Hermès Chapstick: an oxymoron and the ultimate luxury. Do it!!!!!!!!!!!
Gifts just for you:
I’m embarrassed to say that I fell for that filtered shower head being advertised all over Instagram, and it changed my life. My hair is so much softer and happier now. You can find cheaper ones that do the same thing, but none are as cute, I think.
In these dry winter months, treat your hair to a K18 mask as well.
I started doing Melissa Wood’s workouts this year and it’s the only fitness routine I’ve ever been able to sort of stick to. Her videos are straightforward, just the right amount of difficult, and not too annoying.
I also started taking language classes at Idlewild. If you really want to learn, I think finding a tutor is best, but I’ve enjoyed getting out of my house and being in a classroom setting again.
A plea from me:
I’m so grateful that you’re reading this, but if you’re feeling generous, maybe consider upgrading to a paid subscription this holiday season? Your dollars—five per month, to be exact—allow me to devote more time and energy to making this newsletter the best it can be. All I want is to be able to keep working on it! *Just not at 2 a.m. on weekends.
You can also give the gift of Shop Rat, but honestly, signing someone up for an email without telling them seems kind of diabolical. If you refer your friends, you’ll get some months for free as well. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! Cheers.