Finding the right gift for someone is hard. Sometimes it's not just about knowing what they want or what they like, but about knowing what kind of person they are, then trying to find something unexpected for them. Something they never see coming. Something completely unique. Gifts from the world of art, home goods, design, and personal items are the kinds of things that can often require a rather deep knowledge of the giftee, but can also have an impact that far exceeds gifts from other categories. The Verge team has compiled some of its favorite left-field items from the various corners of the web — art prints, wearables, and even lighting fixtures — in the hopes that someone out there sees that perfect gift. Then buys it. Then becomes a hero to a child in need. Of a super expensive light.
Introduced in the 1950s, the MA-1 is a classic of American design. It’s the original nylon flight jacket — warm, stylish, and versatile, with pockets everywhere and tight cuffs and collar to keep the wind out. If you’re a William Gibson fan, you might remember the Buzz Ricksons from Pattern Recognition as an MA-1, but the Alpha Industries version is both the original (the company is the descendent of several military contractors) and far more affordable than its Japanese counterpart.
Hurricanes suck. Especially when they hit bizarre places, like New York City. Luckily there are people out there who want to help others in need — and once in awhile they end up making amazing objects in the pursuit of a good cause. That seems to be the case with these two t-shirts, which depict classic NYC graphics in various states of trouble. New York’s loss is your gain… but also New York’s gain. 100 percent of the profits go to victims of hurricane Sandy — so you can get a great gift and do a good deed. And that’s pretty great, right?
The super rich and wannabe super rich love to talk about watches, but regular humans just need a watch that reliably tells the time and also makes you look like a total badass while wearing it. Meet the Seiko SNDA65, an anonymously named chronograph that’s anything but anonymous. Besides keeping time like a champ with Japanese quartz movement, the murdered-out, black-on-black look of the watch is enough to bring any design fiend into its orbit. Bonus round: Verge Editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky owns a version of this watch, and describes the timepiece as “tough as nails.”
We reviewed the Nike+ FuelBand back in March, and for our money it’s still one of the best — and more importantly, most engaging — fitness trackers on the market. Suited both for the gadget-obsessed and for regular humans looking for extra motivation, the device has become even more useful since its launch thanks to software support from the likes of Path. If the simplicity of the matte black original won’t play for the person on your holiday shopping list, the semi-translucent black and white models might be just the ticket.
Maybe it’s never occurred to you to give your friends a family a thermostat for the holidays, but what about a really cool thermostat? If you’re willing to go with unconventional gifts, the $249 second-generation Nest thermostat is a great choice. The device, designed by former iPod chief Tony Fadell, is lightyears ahead of the competition.
This 4-liter electric kettle can be your best friend whenever you need to make tea, fresh brewed coffee, soup, noodles, or anything else that requires hot (but not boiling!) water fast. It can quickly heat water to either 140, 175, 195, or 208 degrees Fahrenheit and keep it there for as long as you need. No more fussing with thermometers to get the proper water temperature for your delicate teas and morning coffee.
The lowly AeroPress, a combination of rubber and plastic, may cost less than $26, but it can produce coffee rivaling that made by machines that are many times more expensive. The simple formula of time and pressure let you control your brew, and make coffee that is sweet and aromatic without being too bitter. Any self-respecting coffee lover will want one of these, assuming they don’t own it already.
If you’re going to spend the money on fresh-roasted coffee beans, you better be grinding them correctly — that cheap spice grinder you bought for $13 isn’t cutting it. Don’t lie to yourself. Spend a bit more, and embrace the ability to control consistency and grind. The Baratza Encore offers a grind range from 250 to 1200 microns, which should be more than enough for making everything from an espresso to a French Press.
Art is cool. It can be weird. Sometimes it makes you feel… things. That’s certainly true when it comes to the paintings of Jeremy Enecio. The talented artist specializes in portraits (see his charming and bizarre takes on Louis C.K. and Stephen Fry), but also has some beautiful, abstract work that should light up the dark corners of someone’s home this holiday season. Bonus, while not available for purchase yet, he did an awesome portrait of Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s out of this world.
Do you know anyone who likes incredible illustrations of people’s heads exploding and shooting light out of the eye sockets? Oh who are we kidding? Everyone you know likes that stuff. So go get them one of these limited edition prints from the artist Tony Delfino, which are sure to be a collector’s item (or at least a topic of conversation) in the very near future. Be warned: there are only 50 of these each, so act fast if you want to make it happen.
Price: $20 and up
There aren’t a lot of heroes in this world. Christopher Walken is one. From his star-making Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter to the watch speech in Pulp Fiction to his tortured psychic in The Dead Zone — “The ICE is gonna BREAK!” — to cowbell-prescribing Bruce Dickinson on Saturday Night Live, the man is indisputably a legend. But what about the man behind that legend? How does he spend his time? In this painting by Brandon Bird, Christopher Walken whiles away a lazy Sunday drinking Tab and building a Transformer in his basement. Sounds about right to us.
Do you know someone with a need to send the world a message? In neon lettering? In their home? Congratulations, you’re going to enable their weird need this holiday season. It’s not a cheap gift depending on the sentiment, but it’s one that will be easy to identify. Just make sure you get the big transformer (right here) if your buddy is wordy.
Tarot cards are cool and mystical and will predict your future — if you believe in that sort of thing — but don’t they all seem to be lacking graphic, campy depictions of zombies? Well not anymore! We’re not sure if this set will actually help steer anyone in the right direction re: life, but at least it’s something cool to look at while being dealt the news.
If you haven’t seen the 70’s masterpiece that is World on a Wire, now would be a good time to check it out. Once you get a load of the funky, retro-future design of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder classic, you’ll want to populate your world and the worlds of others with like-minded objects. The Skog lamp series by designer Caroline Olsson should help start your collection. While not very cheap, they are very cool — and we’re pretty sure that whoever gets a gift this nice will be forced by the power of universal karma to do something fantastic for the giver. The possibilities are endless. Don’t wait to find out what happens.
Are you rich? Are you great at giving gifts? Do you want to outfit a friend’s pad with the most sci-fi chandelier on the market right now? This is the light for you — the Supergrau Furore. Clocking in at a painful 3,200 euros, this won’t be the easiest thing you spend money on this holiday season… but it’ll probably be the most unique. Assuming you have this kind of coin to drop on a loved one, you’ve only got one big issue to sort out: what color to buy. Because they all look pretty exceptional. If you’re really in a giving mood, we’ll take the copper version. Thanks a million.
Sure, clocks seem like lame, weird, old things that no one needs… but then why do they keep putting analog clocks on new gadgets? The answer is simple: clocks look cool. And the Newgate Bubble clock is one of the coolest. It also happens to be an affordable choice for the design nerd in your life — plus, it might help ensure future meetings are closer to on time. Remember, you don’t have to wake this thing up to find out what time it is.
From their studios in Stokholm Teenage Engineering has developed a plug and play laboratory for you to build your own kit. The OPLAB includes analog inputs / outputs, 3 USB ports allowing you to connect your iPad, Synthesizer or Laptop, and midi input / output. Connect pressure sensors like poke, tap and flip for midi control change. A fun accessory for the OPLAB is the TS-1 sneaker with a wireless sensor — use it as a virtual sustain pedal or trigger a kick drum simply by tapping your foot.
Horrific things can be fun, especially if you put them in nice packaging and include an assortment of candy with them. That seems to be the idea behind the Hoxton Street Monster Supply “Range of Children’s Tinned Fear” set, which bottles up candies under the guise of childhood fears, and sells them for cold, hard money. We don’t know how said candy tastes, but with packaging so delightful and bizarre… do you even care?