Q I would like to show appreciation to a gentleman who gave me free advice about investing. A gift of homemade cookies doesn't feel quite right. Do you think a tie is an appropriate gift, or is it too personal?
A It is interesting that you used the term "too personal." I remember it as an old expression that my mother used, to refer to inappropriate gifts. Her interpretation of what items were too personal was far more limiting than mine. I believe it not only depends upon the type of item, but also the relationship between the giver and the receiver of the gift.
Intimate clothing, such as pajamas, a robe, undergarments, etc., are examples. While they are certainly fine as a gift to a husband, a close family member or a loved one, they definitely are too personal for a business relationship, such as a boss/employee, an acquaintance, or, as in your case, a semi-business thank-you. I can think of other clothing that could come under that appropriate gift category (depending, of course, upon price); this includes cufflinks, a casual watch, fun socks, a scarf, gloves and, yes, neckties. These also depend to a great extent upon how well the giver knows the taste of the person who will be receiving the gift.
Good gift ideas do not have to be clothes. Such less personal gifts include a Swiss Army knife, tickets to a sports event or a concert, gourmet food items, wine, a magazine subscription, pens (say, a luxe-but-affordable Cross pen, rather than an extravagant Montblanc), etc.
Indeed, there really is a huge range of items (clothing and otherwise) that make for appropriate gift items. As you may have guessed, high on my list are neckties. Even though many (if not most) men these days have given up wearing them, my regular readers know that I am a big fan of good-looking ties. It is my strong opinion that men, most of whom make all sorts of efforts to present themselves as not merely one-of-the-crowd, but rather as sharp individuals, do themselves a major disservice by skipping this easiest of all methods to set one's self apart in a way that others will notice and admire.
When a fine $800 suit may possibly go unnoticed, a really handsome necktie will not. Why forgo such an easy opportunity? So, yes, I would say that a tie could well be a wise choice, especially for a man in the financial industry, one of the fields where wearing a tie is still rather expected. When I give a man a tie, I often tuck into the package a small item called "The Tie Thing"; it is a tiny collection of cloth necktie-restraining devices that invisibly hold a tie in place.
This brings to mind another category of what I consider to be wrong gift items; they are not wrong because they are too personal, but I think of them as not-quite-right because they're the sort of things one keeps in his pocket and physically/actually handles often. They are closely tied to an individual's personal preferences. Examples are key chains, money clips and perhaps even wallets. Each person usually likes to choose these for himself. Even so, I did once receive a rather lavish genuine crocodile checkbook cover that I thoroughly enjoyed owning, not only because it was so handsome, but because it was far more luxurious than any checkbook cover I would ever splurge on for myself.
Whether or not you wrap each individual item in gift wrap, find a decorative paper gift bag to tuck them into. It makes for a nice presentation.
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