The Men’s Christmas Gift Guide

Guest writer, Karl Plewka, brings you the ultimate gift guide for grooming geeks, fragrance fanciers and their beautyaholic admirers.

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Image Credit @ Burberry

Don’t get cheap on me boys and girls! At Chrimbo time I want my stocking well and truly stuffed with luxury, and I don’t mean Ferrero Rocher. In fact for the boy who has everything I’m surprisingly easy to buy for as long as it’s something expensive smelling, age reducing, body buffing or looks good on the bathroom shelf. Yes, you’ve guessed it: all I want for Christmas are products, products and more products!

The Bolly-guzzling, fictional fashion editrix Patsy Stone may once have declared, ‘You can never have too many hats, bags and shoes’, but for me, another bottle-blonde fash slag, one can never have enough night serum, Eau de parfum or the latest glycolic peel. Indeed friends have often commentated that my bathroom looks like The Harvey Nichols beauty floor on crystal meth but this doesn’t decrease my insatiable desire for all things slatherable and spritzable.

With the men’s grooming business estimated to be worth about USD 21.4 billion in 2016 (a statistic due in no small part to myself) here is proof that boys want beauty too. But apparently women still play a very important role in this market with a big percentage of ladies still buying men’s grooming lines as gifts or on behalf of partners.

So as the dreaded 25th of December draws nearer, here’s my little unconventional grooming gift guide that’s not just for the boys, they’re things the girls can steal back too.

HAVING A SKINFUL

I’m really product obsessed and have often whiled away the early hours hunched over my MacBook with glazed eyes peering hungrily at the Space NK website. And at the zenith of my addiction is skincare. Perhaps because I suffered skin problems in my younger years I have become a bit of an addict for all things that scrub, peel, cleanse, tighten, tone, etc. and therefore I truly believe skincare is a great gift idea–you are literally offering hope in a box–and here are a few of my favourites:

BOW Malin and Goetz

Malin + Goetz

Skincare Essentials Set

I actually spend every Christmas prostrate on the beach in Goa and I used to agonise over which skincare brand would work best on my skin when going from ten degrees in London to thirty five degrees in Mumbai. The answer became Malin + Goetz, a funky little brand from Chelsea, NYC, because their products are light, unfussy and feel fresh on the skin which is especially great in hot climates.

Their Grapefruit Face Cleanser, Vitamin E Face Moisturiser and Lip Moisturiser have all become an essential part of my long-haul toiletry bag. This ‘Skincare Essentials Set’ contains all three!

BOW Dr Sebagh

Dr.Sebagh

Serum Repair

I have often sat in the office of Jean-Louis Sebagh having needles stuck in my face, usually accompanied by a gossip and a good laugh, as this particular doctor is also a hilariously dry wit. About 5 years ago he introduced me to Serum Repair an amazing product that gives an instant smoothing and lifting effect to the skin. This Serum is especially great for men who, like me, don’t love heavy moisturisers and it’s also good pre-party to give tired skin a dewy, youthful glow. In fact Serum Repair is my desert island product and I seriously can’t live without it.

BOW Elemis Mask

Elemis

Post Shave Recovery Mask

In all my promiscuous years of flitting from one mask to the next this amazing product by Elemis stopped me dead in my tracks. The first time I used it people said how good my skin was looking which, at the time, I took as being due to my decreased intake of fags and booze but every time I used the mask the same compliments just kept coming. I don’t know what it does or how it does it but this little gem from Elemis reduces pores to virtual invisibility whilst amplifying a handsome post-shave glow. Good used in the morning, before work during the party season to avoid that craggy hungover look.

BOW Refinery Shave Gel

Refinery

Shave Gel

I must be honest I’ve always been a bit sniffy about this brand however on a recent long haul British Airways flight I discovered the brand of choice in the men’s First Class complimentary toiletry bag was in fact Refinery. I was kind of desperate for a shave pre-landing and felt rather held to ransom because all my own favourite products were checked into the hold. Like someone from Geordie Shore attempting a mouthful of foie gras I very gingerly applied the Shave Gel and to my great surprise instantly loved the amazing cooling feeling and delicious scent which I am told is the result of clove and peppermint oils. The slight razor burn I suffered was not the gel’s fault but the result of shaving in light turbulence.

BOW Sisley

Sisley Sisleyum For Men

Anti-Age Global Revitaliser

Sisley products are the skincare brand version of owning a Hermes Birkin tote and I’m insecure enough to love the feeling of people thinking ‘Wow! He’s doing alright’ when you whip out three hundred quids worth of Sisley suntan lotion on the beach in Mykonos. Needless to say my more surreptitious use of Sisley, and it kills me, is this moisturiser, which feels light, clean, and smells like it’s doing lots of good. My goal is to eventually own the whole range of Sisley so I can proudly display it on the mantelpiece, just in case visitors don’t need to use the bathroom.

PITS ‘n’ BITS

My favourite room in the house is without doubt the bathroom and I spend hours lovingly creating product arrangements around my shower and bath in the same way that perhaps Jane Packer might arrange flowers in a clients living room. A big part of any bathroom, in my opinion, is body care products that not only feel and smell good but also come in the kind of packaging you want to see when you enter this, your refuge from the rest of the world.

BOW Aesop

Aesop

Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser

I absolutely love the Australian brand Aesop’s products and if you can be bothered to battle your way through the braying, brushed-blonde yummy mummies who seem a permanent fixture in the Westbourne Grove store you’re bound to come away laden with the handsome, apothecary-style packaged and gorgeous smelling goodies. I love this Geranium Leaf Body Cleanser and when I’m in store I also usually pick up a bottle of Aesop Animal Wash for my pooch too. Now that’s what I call inclusive beauty shopping.

BOW Clarins Oil

Clarins

Relax Body Treatment Oil

God, how much do I love Clarins? I know they’re not the coolest or the hippest but Clarins to me is the Aga stove of the beauty world, i.e. familiar and comforting. In fact I literally grew up on the stuff. Clarins lined the bathrooms and dressing tables of both my mother and grandmother and I often wonder if perhaps my love of products might have started with a warming, Sunday night Bain aux Plantes whilst staying at Nanna’s. Today one of my most consistent beauty rituals is to slather on Relax Body Treatment Oil after a hot bath. Nothing beats the way your skin feels and smells afterwards and it knocks the spots off body lotion. An absolute classic.

BOW Origins

Origins

Warm Down Warming Lava Scrub

I’m an Origins fan and I’m not afraid to say so. This brand tirelessly promotes head-to-toe skin and body care and in my many liaisons with their products, I must say they do the best body scrubs in the business. Highlighting here my favourite ‘Warming Lava Scrub’, which has a weird, perversely appealing heating-up effect when liberally slathered over the body, apparently due to its content of volcanic ash. This is somehow an intensely masculine product but it might be good used by two scrubbers at the same time. But don’t ask me, how would I know?

BOW Cowshed

Cowshed

Bullocks Grooming Kit

I usually associate Cowshed products with massive hangovers at Babington House after weddings and birthday parties. But I do harbour a soft spot for the brand, the unpretentious packaging, quirky names (‘Horny Cow‘ LOLZ!) and the sweet way they feel obliged to name their men’s orientated label as Bullocks. Whatever, Cowshed does what it says on the bottle and smells great too so who gives a cows arse? This great little gift box contains a Bracing Body Wash, Soothing Moisturiser and Refining Facial Scrub.

JINGLE SMELLS

I can’t imagine life without fragrance. I literally douse myself with the stuff like a mafia hitman drenches a victim with kerosine. My love affair with all things fragrant probably started when I used to steal my father’s Eau Sauvage but ever since my tastes have become increasingly exotic. I’m actually like an addict around fragrance, sniffing my way around Liberty’s perfume room like an opium fiend chasing the dragon. And I really don’t care whether a scent is masculine or feminine, I don’t have time for concerns like that, it’s where the scent takes you that matters. Some may say a good fragrance takes you to heaven, in my experience the better ones take you to hell.

BOW Byredo

Byredo

‘Baudelaire’ Eau de Parfum

Oh Byredo, what can I say? You’ve got me so in love with you. I feel like my bathroom has become like an alter to you and your sexy little black helmeted bottles. I could wash in you, drown in you, possibly even glug you down because I need you inside me too! No, seriously, my name is Karl Plewka and I am a Byredo addict. This brand is so awesomely chic even one of my favourite writers A.A.Gill wears the same fragrance as me, ‘Baudelaire’. This scent named after he who penned ‘Les Fleurs du mal’ contains an intoxicating blend of black pepper, juniper and patchouli, but what is most apt here is that Baudelaire was a poet who first coined the term ‘modernity’ and that is exactly what Byredo stands for. Bravo!

BOW Kilian

Kilian

‘Vodka on the rocks’ Eau de Parfum

No one does better packaging than Kilian and each flagon of eau de perfum comes laid out like a sultry concubine on black satin in a ebony lacquered wood coffret replete with a tiny silver key on black fringed tassels. I’m currently in lust with the Kilian’s latest odoriferous offering ‘Vodka on the rocks’ a name, which means I can deliriously confuse my perfume with my favourite tipple (zero calories!) This latest pant-dropping scent is a narcotic orgy of cold spices, rose, lily of the valley and sandalwood. I smell trouble!

BOW Serge-Lutens-Bapteme-du-Feu

Serge Lutens

‘Baptéme du Feu’ Eau de Parfum 

I’ve indulged in many a post-boozy-lunch shopping trip in Paris (usually during the duller days of Fashion Week) and one essential pit stop is always the clitoral decadence of the Serge Lutens shop in Palais-Royal. The latest olfactory orgasm from the house is ‘Baptéme du Feu’, or baptism of fire, which is a fragrance for men and women launched earlier this year. It is classified as an Oriental scent, including gingerbread, tangerine and woody notes, which to me means sexy, heady and one stop away from an ashtray. J’adore!

BOW L'Artisan

L’Artisan Parfumeur

‘Mon Numero 9’ Eau de Cologne 

I always associate the sublime fragrances of L’Artisan Parfumeur with elegance so it’s really the perfect go-to brand if, like me, you want to feel constantly dignified, even when picking yourself up out of a skip at 6 in the morning. I tend to switch from cologne in the morning to Eau de parfum at Happy Hour but this horny little scent, featuring citrus top notes, could work all day for me, especially around the party season when the days have a habit of turning into night and the nights often run into morning…

BOW Tom Ford

Tom Ford

All Over Body Spray ‘Noir de Noir’ 

I’ve never been a Lynx boy and if someone had previously bought me body spray for Christmas I might have sprayed it Mace-like in their face. However Tom Ford’s All Over Body Sprays are perfect for the gym bag and are guaranteed to make the boys in the locker room choke on their protein shakes with envy. I’ve been a huge Tom fan ever since he once artistically shaved the G for Gucci logo into a model’s lady garden for an ad campaign. Indeed everything Ford does is whacked up to the gills with sex and decadence and that’s really how we all want to smell, like we are all eventually going to end up naked. Here’s hoping.

Happy Christmas XXX


Click here to read all about Karl’s Dr. Haus “Facelift” and stay tuned for the before and after coming soon!