A Perfectly Imperfect Gift Guide (2021)

Some gift ideas, old and new, from Perfectly Imperfect guests.

Last year we kinda shrugged it off when people asked for a gift guide since it kinda felt like a waste of time when The Strategist, The Wirecutter, and the like, have had their referral link stuffed “Best under $50” esq lists ready to go for months.

But this year? We’re throwing our hat into the ring. Even if Kaitlin Phillips already dropped the best Gift Guide of the season.

In the last year, roughly 1,000 recommendations have been made on Perfectly Imperfect and I know you guys don’t remember them all. So we compiled the best gift ideas, along with some new stuff, in an easy-to-skim format. How kind.

So, if…

If your friend is into niche & cool ephemera How Long Gone host Chris Black says to check out Intramural Shop (or Leisure Center), “the selection is all over the map, from a wild group of Herman Miller branded drinking vessels, to Yashica pens, to an eight-piece set of Picasso salad plates”.

If you don’t know what they want they’ll probably appreciate a Hydro Flask water bottle. Everyone loves a good water bottle. Gutes from The Drunken Canal says that hers lets her to “pretend I am a high schooler with the metabolism of an athlete”. Nicole McLaughlin says this Coleman Autoseal Water Bottle is where it’s at “it’s the best. I got it as a gift and will probably take it with me to my grave“.

If they need better basics in their wardrobe, Jacob Keller has been refining his own wardrobe with Self Edge. “Self Edge is consistently my favorite store to buy long lasting, quality essentials that will keep you looking timeless.“

If they’re obsessed with vintage clothing Chad Senzel’s Vintage Gap Pocket Tee rec is great. They’re pretty cheap and easy to find on Ebay. Who wouldn’t want another soft, comfortable, and beautiful t-shirt? Vogue’s Liana Satenstein says to check out the vintage-dealing Olivias, @olaroche and @shop_reallifeasliv who “truly know how to source and have equally stellar eyes”. Chickee’s Vintage is a fantastic shop to check out, and owner Kathleen Sorbara says @maj_kiosk & @imevintage are two of her favorites.

If their IG feed is full of vintage furniture resellers PI Editor Alex Cushing says you can never go wrong with some nice vintage french goods, there’s something for everyone — beautiful furniture, kitchenware, and way more! Something more niche? Nicole McLaughlin recommends second-hand store displays — “I love that they're so massive, but they were probably made exactly like standard production pieces”, and Fraser Croll recommends Vintage Posters, having recently snagged a Les Mis original from the ‘87 run on Broadway.

If they recently moved or need to up their interior game Jacob Keller swears by his rug from Turkish Rug Empire, “They just look good everywhere.“ Alejando Gutierrez loves the handwoven rugs from Dixza.

If you don’t want to cook but want to wow your guests publicist and writer Kaitlin Phillips says to order Granrud’s Potato Lefse 6-8 weeks in advance of Christmas. If you’re wondering what the heck Lefse is, “Lefse is basically a sugary potato tortilla that you coat in butter, dust with white sugar, roll up, and stick in the microwave”.

If you want to cook and want to wow your guests get some high-quality & beautiful groceries from Daniel Emilio’s Alimentari Flâneur.

If they want to “freeze a moment of ripeness and wholeness in time” Vogue Senior Fashion News Editor Steff Yotka says to buy some Ceramic Fruits and Vegetables, “they’re completely ludicrous and absurd, but make me laugh”. Vogue’s Raven Smith also likes his grandma’s ceramic cabbage.

If they’re a home chef or just a millennial who watched a lot of Bon Appetit I bet they’d appreciate chef and writer Carla Lalli Music’s new cookbook, Where Cooking Begins. Potter Helen Levi loves chef Katie Lee’s Recipes, who also happens to have a new cookbook — It’s Not Complicated.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of bread but they enjoy bread PI Editor Alex Cushing has had luck with the beginner-friendlyno-knead bread” (maybe even pair it with a nice bottle of wine).

If they’re a home chef who lives in Brooklyn and wants to eat Frankies 457’s Sausage Cavatelli every day listen to Bijan and snag The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, “If my kitchen is on fire, this is the cookbook I am grabbing”.

If they cook a lot of rice they’d probably appreciate Carla’s Toiro Rice Donabe rec. She says they’re “heavy, simple, beautiful, and designed to hold heat and cook foods gently”.

If they like really nice versions of everyday kitchen tools they’ll probably be into Alison Roman’s Unicorn Peppermill recommendation, “This well made peppermill is a JOY to use, and if you cook even a little, this will make all your food taste better, I promise”.

If they like affordable kitchen tools Lauren Servideo recommends an air fryer, “Ovens take too long. Plus these things are relatively inexpensive -- I think ours was $30? Have fun eating the best brussels sprouts of your life. Plus you don’t use oil and that makes it healthier which means you can eat more“.

If you get thirsty around the holidays PI Editor Tyler Bainbridge thinks you should gift (or buy yourself) a bottle of Forthave Red Aperativo. It’s a deep shade of red, great for the holidays, and is basically a really nice Campari that’s made in Brooklyn. Drink it on the rocks or make a favorite winter cocktail of mine, “The Boulevardier”. Or just make your friends and family a couple of 50/50 martinis, like coolstuff.nyc’s Garrett Albury says.

If they like collecting print Jason S Wright says to check out Gut Magazine, “I have worked as an independent publisher in some capacity all of my adult life and I don’t think anything in that world has excited me as much as what Ami does”. Artist Elijah Anderson says to check out Record Magazine which has “lots of great interviews and photos dealing with these various topics”. Rachel Karten recommends For the Culture, “a new magazine from Klancy Miller celebrating Black women in food and wine”. As a biannual magazine, now is a great time to dive in, with just one issue in the archive. “After leaving my job in food media, I was feeling a little burnt out on consuming food media. This magazine changed that“.

If you’re far away from friends, family, or a lover and want to warm their heart Listen to Willa Bennet and Carla Lalli Music and write them a good ol’ fashioned letter. It’ll mean a lot.

If you get stressed out around the holidays Actress Annie Hamilton knows a place on Catherine Street you can buy a pack of cigarettes for $10.

If they’re someone who likes to keep it cozy in the winter Saeed Akil Ferguson recommends the knit beanies from Frederick Scott — “They fit great, the colors are amazing, they wash well!“ Jeremy Kirkland says to get the Haflinger Slippers, “You can't get comfy at home unless you're wearing slippers, and Haflingers are where it's at”. Need somewhere to soak those toes after a full day in slippers? Alexis Schwartz loves a good footbath.

If they’re always trying new skin, body, and hair products Grace Dougherty says to buy some Aesop Hair Oil, “it smells amazing and people will hug you for longer, what’s not to love??”. Coolstuff.nyc’s Anna Brettschneider says to try the Bathing Culture Body Wash, “This is seriously the best body wash to possibly ever exist? It has an herby-earthy-sandal-woody smell that I wish they could put in a candle”. Actress Dylan Gelula says to try Cerave Healing Ointment, which she says is “Vaseline’s superior”. Harry Hill swears by Sunday Riley's Fairy Godmother shimmering body gel. Elise Bang recommends Aēsop B & Tea Balancing Toner, “If you told me I could only have one fancy skincare product it would be this one”.

If they’re someone who values sustainability Nico Lazaro recommends the NY-based brand Package Free and the LA-based brand Sustain LA. “You can buy or bring your own containers and fill them with whatever products you need: soaps, oils, laundry detergent, ...even deodorant”.

If they like jewelry Tom Wright recommends 27Mollys, “All pieces are hand made to order by founder Brent Paye who’s an absolute legend. The time and love put into each piece really stands out, and the aesthetic is spot on. Love this shit!”.

If they’re always carrying around a bag listen to the burger god Shyan Zakeri and snag one of these ripstop bags from 1733, “Summer showers and cotton totes don’t mix, and they don’t do too well in winter either. The answer? Seventeen. Thirty. Three.”

If they love a dense book Director Caveh Zahedi recommends quite a few here. And PI Editor Alex Cushing says you should get them a curated book subscription, anything from Heywood Hill, where experts curate a monthly read, to Book of the Month, where the books are a little less niche (think Reese’s book club type books). Fraser Croll recommends the book Zodiak, “True crime is lame as hell, and does nothing for me but this is interesting. And dark AF!“

If they break things a lot or their fake nails fall off a lot Caroline Calloway says to get super glue.

If they need some new glasses Benjamin Edgar recommends snagging a few pairs of Moscot glasses in various tints, “I have a gradient, clear, jet black, etc and always want another pair”.

If they like drinking things out of tiny drinking glasses, like Alex David and I, snag some of these Libbey Heavy Base Juice Glasses (8x). Would you rather have 2-3 cold portions of beer or one beer that gets warm from sitting in your hand? Think about it…

If they like drinking things out of fun and colorful drinking glasses Susan Alexandra recommends her very own drinking glasses, which are “SO pretty and have such a nice "hand" (an industry term, don't worry about it!)”.

If they like to feel really really clean listen to GQ’s Sam Hine and buy one of these Goshi exfoliating shower towels. He says “I hang it in my shower and use it a couple times a week and it makes my skin feel clean clean. It’s the best $15 you’ll ever spend on grooming.” High praise! Quite a few people bought these after Sam’s rec myself included.

If they have a growing stack of photo books Sam Hine also recommended Marie Tomanova: New York New York which is a really great collection of photos documenting NYC youth culture. I’d also check out Actual Source, a shop which Alex Delaney says is “is absolute heat, even if you don’t drop terms like kerning, logotype, or visual identity system in conversation regularly”. I’d also consider "The Men's Fashion Book", Jacob Gallagher’s new book.

If they’re a film buff director Lance Oppenheim came through with a list of films that would be great gifts. Safe (1995), Bigger Than Life (1956), Short Cuts(1993), and Magnificent Obsession(1954) are all part of the criterion collection.

If they’re a film buff AND Chloë Sevigny buff PI Editor Tyler Bainbridge says to snag a copy of his favorite Whit Stilman film, Last Days of Disco “Chloë Sevigny, witty dialogue, disco, NYC, and nightlife, what more do you need in a film?”. Someone please buy me this.

If it’s a cold night around the holidays and you want some noodles I think Actress Betsey Brown’s Noodles Stewed with Young Curry Chicken at HK WONTON GARDEN rec is great, “It's my favorite dish in NYC and what I order every time. And that's not changing anytime soon.”

If they like coffee I think Alex Delaney’s Yonder Coffee Subscription recommendation would be fun. Jam’s Sam Jayne says to try Maru Coffee, which he says is “delicious”. Do they need a drip machine to brew those new beans? Dan Pelosi loves this Moccamaster. “I have had my Moccamaster for a little over a year now. I treated myself to the most gorgeous coffee maker in the land for Christmas in 2019. It’s not cheap, has literally zero bells and whistles, but is called “The Moccamaster”, comes in no less than 30 different colors, and makes the smoothest pot of coffee I have ever known. Add to cart!“

If they like tea Alexis Schwartz recommends Nettle Tea saying “It’s so unassuming. It’s not crazy aromatic, or even a particularly beautiful plant at first glance. But, Nettle is an all around, super-nourishing plant for humans“.

If they like the outdoors PI Editor Serey Morm says the Cliq chair is the perfect portable chair for hikes or a day at the beach.

If they need to fix their posture Seth Kaplan says the UPLIFT Standing Desk is “pretty sweet”.

If they like a bit of a thrill Molly Young says “buying stuff on the Dark Net” can be quite fun and “even if you don’t necessarily NEED a million tabs of LSD right NOW, navigating these strange corners of cyberspace is still a satisfying “skill” to learn”.

If they insist CDs are the new vinyl PI Editor Tyler Bainbridge says to grab them a copy of IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS RHYTHM off ebay, “This 2002 compilation from Soul Jazz Records is jam packed with gritty rhythm-filled post-punk, new wave, and experimental music from artists such as The Slits, The Human League, Gang of Four, This Heat, and Throbbing Gristle”.

If they live in NY but miss LA get a Chateau Marmont Candle, Brynn Wallner says it’s “a warm scent and it brightens up my mood instantly. I only light it when I’m feeling EXTRA homesick for Los Angeles because I want it to last forever”.

Perfectly Imperfect is a free newsletter featuring good ol’ fashioned recs from real people. Subscribe for curated recs like these in your inbox, 2x a week.

Follow Perfectly Imperfect on Instagram

Join the Perfectly Imperfect Discord

Follow TylerAlex, & Serey on Instagram