Choosing gifts for teens doesn't have to be a guessing game


November 29, 1992|By Elizabeth Large

What do you want for Christmas?

Alex, age 16: A distortion pedal

What's that?

What's Santa Claus going to bring you?

Lisa, age 13: Caboodles

What are those?

What do you want for the holidays?

Aaron, age 14: Dr. Martens

Who's that?

Well, you get the idea. Nobody said finding holiday gifts for teen-agers -- ones they really want -- was easy.

No, that's not quite true. In one sense, teen-agers are easier than anyone: No other group is so happy to receive just plain cash. And if that seems a little cold to you, you can always give a gift certificate. Buy it at your kid's favorite mall (available in the management office) for use in any store there.

"Clothes are teen-agers' biggest 'want,' " says Janice Biele, manager of sales and marketing at White Marsh. "And they like to choose their own. It's really evident the day after Christmas. The kids have a blast."

Of course, if you're hip enough to know what stores your teen-agers love, you can get gift certificates at individual shops -- a music store, for instance, so they can pick out a favorite CD.

Another possibility is an entertainment gift book from a movie theater, for both tickets and concessions. If you buy a gift book from a chain, the certificates can be used in any of its theaters.

But some of us like to have something more substantial to wrap. Chancy as it is, we want to find the Perfect Gift: something that will delight our kids, something they didn't realize how much they wanted until they got it, or something they really wanted and didn't know you knew. For those daring shoppers, here are some rules of thumb and a few suggestions that will point you in the right direction.

Rule of Thumb 1: If you think it's too old/sophisticated/hip/outrageous for them, it's probably the perfect gift. (This is a particularly good rule if you aren't the parent.)

Rule of Thumb 2: Go to the stores teen-agers frequent: Express, Merry-Go-Round, Reach the Beach, Accessory Lady, Stikky Fingers, practically any place that sells athletic shoes, music stores. Which leads to . . .

Rule of Thumb 3: You probably aren't going to know what those stores are and which ones your kids like or what to do when you get there, so get advice from their best friends.

Here are some specific suggestions from area malls -- they must be the experts, given the fact that teen-agers and malls are inseparable:

The hottest new brand of clothing is Cross Colors, according to Carla Stern, marketing director of Hunt Valley Mall. Deep, vivid colors are used throughout the line, which appeals to both sexes. Merry-Go-Round has Cross Colors jeans for $60 and T-shirts for $20. And you can't get any hotter than ornamental vests to wear with jeans; they start at $49 at the Limited.

Harmattan in the Light Street Pavilion of Harborplace has scarves, belts, ties and bags in the traditional African kente cloth for $20-$25. Teen-agers love the ethnic look, the bright colors and the patterns.

You'll find Romnee Western boots -- multicolored or plain -- for $120 at Nine West in Owings Mills Mall. The Western look is hot this fall.

Amaryllis in the Gallery sells New Age necklaces like the harmony ball (created by ancient Druids as meditative devices) or crystals (each stone means something different) on black silk cords. Prices range from $16 to $40.

Jazzy wristwatches in different shapes, colors and sizes are big with teen-agers. Sometimes they'll wear two or three. All watches at the Watch Out watch cart, Sam Smith Market, Harborplace, are $15.

Teen-agers planning to travel this spring or summer will love the Traventure Travel Pack ($185) at Eastern Mountain Sports at Towson Town Center. This versatile pack has an internal frame and can be used as either a backpack or a suitcase.

Crabtree & Evelyn at Owings Mills has a new teen perfume called Savannah. It's a light scent, and comes in smaller sizes with lower prices ($4 to $6) than the adult perfumes.

Perfume oils come in dozens of scents, but at the Body Shop in Harborplace three fruit ones are most popular with teen-agers: mango, fuzzy peach and strawberry. You can bring the bottle back for a refill to help the environment. Cost is around $4 a half ounce.

Immortalize your teen with a glamour photo from Be Dazzled in Marley Station Mall. The staff will make her look like a movie star or model with new makeup and hairdo, then snap a great picture. Prices start at $25.

For the right teen-ager, his or her own weight-training equipment would be an excellent gift. Sears at Hunt Valley carries a good selection, up to and including Universal machines for $130.

The Edge in Owings Mills Mall sells a neon telephone for $50- $100. There may be a teen-ager out there who doesn't want to own his own phone, but I haven't met him.

Speaking of neon, Spencer Gifts at Marley Station uses it in its Live Art ($130) -- posters with neon running through them so they look three-dimensional.

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