Help me buy clothes for someone who hates clothes.
December 15, 2012 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Should I get my brother clothes for Christmas? Good gift ideas for an ABD?

I love my little brother. He is three years younger than me and I think he is the best. He is working on his PhD in atmospheric science and will be wrapping it up in May.

Every year, he jokes that for every time of clothing that he receives for Christmas, he will kill a kitten. However ... he kind of needs clothes. Most of his clothes are old, fraying at the sides, don't fit right, etc. And AFAIK, no kittens have died at his hands. I have gotten him silly t shirts and hoodies before and he has loved them.

Since he is going to be looking for jobs soon, I thought that I would like to buy him clothes but I don't want to make him sad. I already got him a funny t shirt but I don't know what else to get him. I thought if I did get him dressy clothes, I'd go for stuff that he doesn't have to dry clean so maybe the wrinkle free shirts and pants? I also don't want him to hate me.

Also, complicating factor - he's a big guy. I think his pants size is 40 x 30 and he's maybe 5'10" so I worry that part of the reason he doesn't like shopping for clothes is because it is really not fun when you're a bigger person which I totally get. But he needs clothes. His girlfriend is great and I'm sure she would help if I got him something that was tolerable but just a size off.

I'd also like ideas that are nice for ABDs generally - I thought something like a business card holder but I don't know that guys use them? I have a really hard time seeing him using cufflinks or tie tacks. I think someone got him a nice portfolio thing.

TL; DR: Interested in buying clothes for a 27 year old future doctorate who hates clothes. Help?
posted by kat518 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total)
What's your budget? If you want to splurge, how about one of those custom shirt places? His girlfriend can measure him, they pick out the fabric, and it can all be done online. There are suit places too if you really want to go all out.
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:52 PM on December 15, 2012

Can you do the clothes later, and get a tiny gift now like a nice coffee mug and an aeropress or moka pot or something like that now? Candidates need coffee. If he doesn't like getting clothes, he probably won't like getting interview clothes for Christmas.
posted by k8lin at 2:55 PM on December 15, 2012

How likely is he to return/tailor something that is "a size off"? Would he end up cramming it into a closet unworn? If the prospect of giving him clothes might "make him sad," yet you're determined to contribute to his wardrobe, what about gift cards to a few stores and maybe a book that tells him how to assemble a wardrobe/style? That way he can try stuff on to ensure a good fit and lessen the chance of feeling sad about receiving clothes as a gift.
posted by macadamiaranch at 2:58 PM on December 15, 2012

As an ABD who teaches and attends conferences throughout the year, I'm very happy to get professional clothes - I have to have them and not having to shop for them (or having someone buy items that are too rich for my stipend, like a new winter coat, good blazer, etc) is a big deal and great help to me. That said, if he's actively said he doesn't like receiving clothes (I, on the other hand, certainly do enjoy getting clothing), I can see how these gifts could be a bit of a downer if given in the stead of something more fun. Can you split the difference - give him some nice shirts (yes, absolutely wrinkle-free) and dress sweaters as well as something he'll find more fun/less useful? That could soften the blow, so to speak, on Christmas, when he receives things he certainly needs but may not actively want. Or perhaps gift cards or an appointment with a personal shopper?

(In my experience, some men need to be told, clearly and often repeatedly, that the items of clothing they see as "perfectly fine" actually look like crap - those with frayed edges, stains, etc. Professional clothes project an appearance as opposed to simply keeping one's flesh from the elements, which seems to be the aspect a lot of guys miss. Help your brother get a job. :) )
posted by AthenaPolias at 3:14 PM on December 15, 2012

Not sure why I'm giving a 0.02 cent opinion, but here goes.

I'm similar to your brother in that I could care less about clothes (and your description of his clothes sounds like what I wore ABD and beyond).

My guess is that since he stated that he does like it is a gift, then it is likely that he will be indifferent to it as a gift.

Good gift ideas for an ABD?

Since it sounds like his is in the final stretch (i.e. less than a year), then ideal gifts would be stress reducing things (and you probably know what they are for him), but think short escapism type book in whatever genre he reads, or short video game (short because he needs to write/do research).

Food, coffee, and/or even money can help reduce and just take care of minimal needs until he is done.

People definitely helped me with clothes prior to the first academic interview, and also prior to the first interview for a corporate job. What really, really helped (for me) was having someone that I was close to volunteer to go shopping with me...because clothes shopping is boring, stressful, and having someone who knows what to look for and can help reduce the stress for that helps. But it was the time that I valued, not any monetary association.

It didn't really matter to me until I had the interview invitations in hand...then I worried about the clothes stuff.

posted by Wolfster at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2012

My dude loves these - he owns two pair, wears them to work everyday. They're no-iron Dockers, they come in black, go with everything, and ordering online lets you not search through sizes hoping they have a pair that fits.

You're not giving him clothes, you're giving him 5-6 extra hours of his life that he doesn't have to spend shopping, or ironing, or writing an AskMe question to find clothes later.

BUT he probably wants something "fun" instead of clothes -- so maybe throw in an action figure or something :)
posted by amtho at 6:34 PM on December 15, 2012

$50+ J Crew gift certificate.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:48 PM on December 15, 2012

Are you/he anywhere near a Nordstrom? Maybe set up an appt with a personal shopper, so that they can pull appropriate pieces ahead of time and take some of the boredom and frustration out of the experience. I might even go so far as to do one appt now and one riiigghhtt before the men's half-yearly sale. A good personal shopper will let him know which pieces will be going on sale and will even try to hold a few things for him until the sale.
posted by vignettist at 11:48 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Assuming that he's going to go on the job/postdoc market in the coming 2 years, he is going to need to have a nice suit THAT FITS WELL as well as some nicer conference clothes. Academia, despite its reputation for not caring, does include people that will judge your professionalism (partially) by how you look.

Send him the following link. But trust me, having been on the market and being present for many job talks now, he needs to look nice on these. Some guys wear these baggy suits that look like they were bought at JC Penny when they were in high school and the tie pattern screams 1995 or worse, borrowed from Dad.

Here's the professor is in link on men and the job market.


Guys, go out to Macy’s or Nordstrom and buy a suit in the $300 range. If you can spring for $500 do that, but it’s not crucial. Have the in-house tailor fit you, and DO NOT LEAVE with the suit until it has been tailored for you. This will cost around $40 more. Buy two new Oxford cloth shirts and two new ties. Buy a pair of decent quality leather dress shoes, and buy socks that match the shoes or the pants. Buy a good quality leather belt if you don’t have one—make sure it’s fresh and not cracked!

Practice wearing the suit around the house, and wear it out to work for a full day and to dinner at least once before you go on a campus visit, to get it broken in. Iron the package creases out of your shirts. Try the suit and the pants and shirts on in different combinations...

... and plan out day one and day two outfits for the campus visit, with day one (job talk day) being the full suit...

...and day two being just the pants and shirt and a tie. You can consider wearing a nice Ralph Lauren-style half zipper jersey sweater pullover, with the Oxford shirt and the tie, for day two, if it’s cold, or if it’s a casual, West Coast sort of place...

Invest in a quality dress coat! It is conceivable that this you can find second-hand. Second-hand is a good budget option for everything but the suit itself, and the shoes, which need to be fresh and fitted.

Invest in a cool looking watch. The ties don’t have to be boring. Men’s attire expresses individuality in these small details. DO NOT CARRY A BACKPACK! Get a quality leather or microfiber briefcase. These can be found cheaply at places like OfficeMax.

Have your girlfriend or boyfriend or mother study your options and give you a stamp of approval before you pack.

And then, put on all these clothes, and commandeer a classroom in your department, and for god’s sake, give a mock job talk to a bunch of people who will tell you the truth.

posted by k8t at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2012

Oh, and the general advice is not to get a black suit - too funeral-y. Even though it would be efficient to get a black one. Navy or brown or grey is best.
posted by k8t at 8:38 AM on December 16, 2012

« Older Ferret Swiper, No Swiping?   |   How to help friends deal with daughter's death? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.