Every year the challenge awaits. The search to find that special, stylish gift for your father, brother, husband, son or significant other. Not just another power tie or plain white shirt, but something that will stand out in his wardrobe.
Color and comfort are two factors that distinguish the most fashionable gifts for men this holiday season. The basic shapes of shirts, jackets, pants and ties haven't changed a lot, but the range of colors is much brighter and more varied than in several years. Fabrics are soft to the touch and the cuts are easy.
Tempting ties: Men are experimenting so much with unusual neckties these days, that a gift of a flattering new tie isn't quite the cliche it used to be.
"People always joke about getting another tie for Christmas or a birthday, but ties are a really important piece of a man's wardrobe. And, it really takes a lot of thought to pick out the right one," says Eddie Steinberg, president of J. S. Edwards men's store.
The choices available range from geometric prints and hand-painted designs to tasteful Christmas motifs.
Wilmington Country Store in Ruxton has brought in Mulberry Thai Silks, $42, that feature hand-screened abstract patterns on hand-loomed Thai silk, often considered the queen of silks, says Betsy Billiter, manager of the store.
Saeno on North Charles Street carries graphic abstract and geometric designs by artist Laura Pearson on Jacquard silks that go for $85 and J. S. Edwards offers a number of silk ties with artistic renderings of Chagall or Picasso prints at $57.50.
Joanna Kelly, a Baltimore native, hand paints designs on imported Chinese silk and then hand sews them to ensure that the patterns look just right on the tie. Her ties, $30, as well as cummerbunds and braces, feature splatter designs, created by paint-filled syringes. The choices include both abstract as well as conservative prints.
"This year purple and olive are popular colors, and fuchsia is still going strong," says Ms. Kelly, whose designs are available at Christmas at the Waterfront, a specialty store at 1610 Thames St. in Fells Point open from now until the end of the year.
For a man with a sense of humor, you might try a tie with a holiday theme. George Howard in Cross Keys and A. J. Borenstein's Eclectic downtown offer attractive holiday motifs such as candy canes, St. Nicholas, wreaths and holly prints for $45 and $45 to $85, respectively.
Tie bars, which are making a comeback, make great gifts for younger men who have never really had the chance to wear them. Scenic designs, such as the New York Skyline, or motifs of vintage cars, submarines or airplanes are available at J. S. Edwards for $25.
After neckties, sweaters are probably the most popular holiday gift for men. Natural fiber sweaters in cotton, wools, alpaca and cashmere in vibrant geometrics and sporting motifs are favorites among Baltimore area retailers. The hand knits or cashmeres can be quite pricey, but a number of stylish, sporty styles are quite reasonably priced.
Boston Trader sweaters in foulard and argyle patterns, $150, and Crossings' sailboat and golf motifs, $75, are available at Wilmington Country Store. Saeno carries alpaca,a luxurious fiber without the cashmere price tag, in abstract designs for $195- $250. Macy's has handmade Coogi sweaters from Australia in bright multicolored designs for $250-$300.
Perry Ellis cotton crew necks with a billiard motif, $110, are available at Saks Fifth Avenue in Owings Mills, while Hecht's carries another popular motif, golf, in cotton and lambs wool for ,, $58. For an extra special sweater, J. S. Edwards carries one-of-a-kind sweaters by Marienbad appliqued with suede and leather, $395.
And for the man who likes the look of a sweater, but not the bulk, try a sleeveless pullover vest of supple lamb suede in black, olive or brown from George Howard for $295.
Three new men's colognes are out in time for holiday giving.
Chanel makes a new scent, Egoiste, that's spicy and woodsy with a touch of vanilla, $28.50 to $50, while Ralph Lauren offers a new masculine, citrus scent, Crest, that is a tad lighter than the ever-popular Polo. Depending on the size, Crest costs from $30 to $40.
And, making its appearance in America is Cool Water by TTC Davidoff, the No. 1 one men's cologne in Europe. Cool Water, available exclusively at Hecht's, is a smooth blend of floral, fruit and spicy scents that is both subtle and striking. A number of products, such as cologne, after-shave and shower gel start at $20-$30.
For the football fans in your family, you might want to try the Superbowl XXVI Commemorative Cologne in a limited edition decanter that's available at Hecht's for $45 and comes with a pack of replica tickets to all 25 previous Superbowl games.
The selection in men's lounging wear is greater than ever -- most likely as a result of baby boomers' new tendencies to stick close to the home fires.