November 2009 | Welcome back to Ask our Butler.
This month we start on the Ho Ho Ho – Happy … or as I refer to it - "Must I Sir?”  Yes, it’s that time of year where one must ask “What Christmas Gift am I going to buy for The Boss/Sir/Uncle Bob or Dad this year?”


Gift giving can be an exciting adventure or an experience as excruciating as a paper cut. Why can’t it be as simple as buying a gift for a 4 year old where the box alone pleases them? I’ll make no comments about, well, anything that would get me into trouble.

As a butler, I am often expected to buy gifts for family members to give to others that give the appearance of spending a considerable amount of time selecting the gift, when in fact they have no idea what it is until I show them, or the gift is opened in front of them!

What NOT to do… the cardinal sin is re-gifting! I don’t care what any television presenter named Oprah has to say, re-gifting is generally considered to be in poor taste, and most embarrassing if one gets caught!

My butlers’ tips for gift buying … A butler selects the perfect gift by doing one’s homework and keeping a diary of ideas … or in my case, a spreadsheet!

1. Write down their hobbies and interests
2. Note the type of music they listen to
3. Listen to comments made throughout the year and take notes
4. Observe their style of dress (can you see it?)

Some simple rules for buying clothing as gifts…

Shirts ... If the recipient is a little bit … (how to put this delicately) … ample about the middle, please avoid bold stripes or huge patterns. These tend to accentuate the matter and are not so flattering. Small check patterns add style and do not emphasise the girth. For casual wear, I recommend larger checks, bold checks, smaller geometric patterns as well as colour on colour patterns.

Neckties when buying a striped tie to go with a plain shirt, fine stripes or bold stripes are both suitable depending upon the recipient’s personality. An outgoing, confident man might love a bold striped tie, whereas for someone more reserved, a muted pattern or finer stripe may be more appropriate.

Cufflinks are practically fail safe! Cufflinks come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, price ranges and designs. As long as a gentleman wears shirts with double (French) cuffs they are always a smart addition. Opt for basic designs in silver, gold or perhaps mother of pearl if you are unfamiliar with their wardrobe. If you are familiar with their taste, then buying uniquely designed and colourful cufflinks can enhance elegant, sophisticated style.

Hand chosen sets … In an earlier article, I discussed how to select a necktie. Another wonderful gift idea is a coordinated shirt/necktie/cufflink package. Three gifts to wrap, but it’s a wonderful statement.

Gift Certificates Although Jeeves would have shot daggers at this suggestion, this is a gift giving option which is ideal for the hard-to-buy-for person when even this butler doesn't have an ideal suggestion. The Gift Certificate is a lovely way to say Happy Christmas, Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary, and allows the receiver to buy exactly what they like. Even I, as a traditional open-the-present-and-ooh-and-ah person, enjoy receiving gift certificates and then showing the purchased gift to the giver. Because, isn’t this what it’s about? Sharing the joy and heartfelt moment?

So, there you have it … Christmas gift giving.

Visit again soon, because next column will be the Butlers Guide to surviving Christmas! (aka how not to throttle the cook/partner when the turkey is still frozen after 6 hours in the oven/barbecue … don’t ask and pass the cooking sherry).

Yours in gracious (albeit slightly stressed at this time of year) service,

Mark
The Butler

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