The Gen Z Gift Guide: What do they actually want for the holidays?
Stuff. So much stuff.
The other day, I got coffee with Chloe Lee, a very stylish and cool Gen Zer who I have known since she was in high school. (Please look at her Instagram. See? So stylish and cool.) This week, she and her sister launched Selleb, a marketplace for celebrity resale. Sort of like the Kardashian Kloset, the Kardashian family’s resale site, but infinitely better because it’s not limited to the Kardashians’ cast-offs.
For now, Selleb is a drop-style auction model — think Sotheby's for Gen Z — but Chloe has big plans for the platform and I can’t wait to see how it evolves.
Gen Z entrepreneurs like Chloe — and Jamie at Flox and Nadya at August — make me feel optimistic about the future of female founders and the evolution of the ✨girlboss✨. In the last few years, so many female founders have been canceled for a whole lot of complicated reasons, some valid, some less so.
Women already have a pretty impossible time getting funding, and it worries me that these very public takedowns — which very rarely happen to male founders — will deter the younger generation of women from starting companies, raising capital, and generally putting themselves out there in a way that is necessary to do these things.
OK, that’s enough! Go follow Selleb.
The Gen Z gift guide industrial complex
Every single publisher seems to have a Gen Z gift guide this year: Glamour, Wired, Huffington Post (“for the zoomer”), The Cut, Buzzfeed, GQ, Refinery29, Daily Beast, Insider, Wirecutter…I’ll stop there, but just know that if a publisher exists on the internet in 2021, they have a Gen Z gift guide. What’s funny is that so many of them seem to compile gifts they think young people would like, but few actually talk to young people to confirm this. Do young people actually want tiny desktop fridges for their face masks (???), or do reporters just see tiny desktop fridges on other “for Gen Z” gift guides, and assume it must be true? The best gift guide I read was published by SF Gate, and that’s just because the reporter actually talked to her 18-year-old cousin for the story. (Of course, that’s just one Gen Z opinion, but one Gen Z opinion is better than none.)
And that’s to say nothing of the TikTok gift guides that have taken over the algorithym this year. Some background on the trend from Glossy:
This year, more young consumers are turning to TikTok for their holiday shopping ideas as an informal alternative to the official guides put out by retailers and consumer publications. The #christmaswishlist2021 hashtag on TikTok has been viewed more than 34 million times, #christmaslist2021 has 10 million views and #christmas2021 has more than 800 million views. Many of the videos tagged under these hashtags are set to “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Gene Autry or “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande. And they show a montage of desired products, mostly focused on apparel, accessories and electronics.
So, to find out what Gen Z actually wants for the holidays, and not just want uninformed old people* think they want, I read every “for Gen Z” gift guide I could find, watched at least a hundred gift guide TikToks posted by Gen Zers, and spoke to a few young people to understand what they asking for (and are buying themselves) for the holidays.
Literally every Gen Z gift guide has Airpods on the list — but based on my on-the-ground research (by that I mean walking by Williamsburg high school down the block from me), they all already have them.
Dyson Hair Wrap
Far more status-y than the Revlon One-Step Dryer & Volumizer, but also like $500 more expensive.
Dr. Martens Boots
Gen Z’s preferred Doc Marten is the Jadon, a platform-soled lace-up ankle boot.
Specifically the Ultra Mini Boots in chestnut, but they won’t turn down Classic II Mini or Tazz platform slippers/
Not just any pair of Converse, but the Chuck 70 high top in brown (yes, brown).
New Balance 550
Sold out everywhere, but surely Santa has a plug. Bonus points for the Aime Leon Dore pair.
Pleasing Perfect Polish Set
Harry Styles knew exactly what he was doing when he announced his gender-fluid beauty brand just before holiday gift-giving season.
Vivienne Westwood orb
This, apparently, was the year Gen Z discovered Vivienne Westwood.
‘47 New York Yankees baseball hat
This one surprised me, but 9 out of 10 wishlist TikToks include this very specific Yankees hat. It’s worth noting that most of these TikTokkers do not appear to live in New York, nor do they appear to be Yankees fans. It’s a good hat!
Glossier anything, but especially the Glossier hoodie. The embossed holiday-exclusive Beauty Bag is also a favorite.
I’m ashamed to admit I’d never heard of this brand — earlier this year, Vogue said it’s a go-to for “the likes of Kaia Gerber, Hailey Bieber, and Kylie Jenner” in a piece titled “How The L.A.-Based Activewear Label Became an Off-Duty Model Favorite.” Anyway, they all want Set Active athleisure.
Dior Addict Lip Glow Oil
When I was a teen, I was wearing Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.
According to my research, they especially want the bonding oil — but they won’t turn down the No. 3. Hair Perfector.
They also want Gisou’s $46 honey-infused hair oil. So much oil!
Whether the coffee is actually good is inconsequential (though I hear it is!). What matters is that this coffee is made by Emma Chamberlain. Not by her hands, of course; it’s not like she’s grinding the beans herself. But her name’s on the package, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
Hair accessories are having a moment, but the only hair claws and barrettes Gen Z cares about are by Chunks.
Stuff, more stuff, just so much stuff
Plus: String lights and Barefoot Dreams blankets and Skims loungewear and desk organizers and Diptyque candles and that one Acne scarf and silk pillow cases and the The Five Minute Journal and, well, I could keep going but the sheer amount of STUFF is a little depressing.
To be fair, I was absolutely no different when I was 15. I can remember compiling pages-long Christmas lists of things I was sure would make me cooler, better, the best version of myself. Abercrombie cargo flares. Old Navy fleeces. Chi hair straighteners.
I didn’t have TikTok or or Skims or Diptyque candles, but in many ways, absolutely nothing has changed.
Everything I am reading, buying, watching, hearing, etc.
Reading: “On ‘Succession,’ Jeremy Strong Doesn’t Get the Joke,” New Yorker; “Babies Are Expensive,” Garbage Day; “Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die,” New York Times; “The Jessica Simulation: Love and loss in the age of A.I.,” San Francisco Chronicle.
Buying: After searching high and low for a coat that was neither a puffer nor a shacket, I landed on this gorgeous Reformation shearling coat. But it made me look like a linebacker. Not just any linebacker, but a hippie linebacker, like Sunshine from Remember the Titans, which is a good look, just not for me. So now I’m trying this sherpa coat from Alex Mill (which happens to be 60% off right now).
Hearing: “American Horror Story,” Earthgang; “Feline,” Juice Wrld; “Tabula Rasa,” Earl Sweatshirt; “We Set The Trends,” Jim Jones and Migos; “Pop Out,” Pi’erre Bourne and TM88; Life Of A Hotboii, Hotboii
Watching: I spent so much time this week watching gift guide TikToks that I didn’t see much TV, but I have big plans this evening to watch the new Sex and the City with some takeout and some wine, and I can’t wait.