Lifestyle

Why I prefer my Christmas gifts plain and simple


The other day, my daughter received a hot pink Christmas stocking as a kind gift from a retailer we know and love (and shall remain nameless). After thinking, “Gee, that’s lovely,” my next thought was, “I hope she loves it because it has her name permanently sewn onto it”.

In the fashion world, monogramming isn’t a new phenomenon. Louis Vuitton trunks have borne the initials of the well-travelled and well-heeled for more than a century. A made-to-measure suit will almost always come with the option of a monogram in the inner pocket. And many a man has received a pair of monogrammed cufflinks as a wedding gift.

Drink bottles, eye masks, notebooks, luggage tags and suitcases. Everything can, and has, been personalised.

Drink bottles, eye masks, notebooks, luggage tags and suitcases. Everything can, and has, been personalised.Credit: Dionne Gain

Fast-forward to the 2000s and brands such as The Daily Edited and Mon Purse took monogramming to the Millennial masses and made it the only acceptable way to wrap your phone, carry your laptop or toilet your dog. (I once received a poo-bag holder embossed with my initials. Surely, the dog’s would have made more sense?)

Over the past few Christmases, the personalisation craze has spread across most categories of consumable goods faster than you can say Barbecue Shapes (I still have last year’s gifted box of those, unopened, in my pantry).

This December, one department store’s “unique” offering – embossing your beloved’s name on a jar of Vegemite – feels like scraping the dregs of the customisation barrel. Meanwhile, a major discount chain is urging panicked shoppers to “get them a personalised gift this Christmas”, according to a radio ad currently on high rotation in my city. Since when did personalisation become so… generic?

Drink bottles. Eye masks. Notebooks. Luggage tags. Suitcases. Champagne. In my years as a fashion editor, I have received all of these bearing my initials. While some of them made sense – like an office mug, which somehow still gets swiped from my desk more often than I can believe – many didn’t. (The monogrammed lingerie was a particular low).

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At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I don’t need all this stuff. But sharing the loot with colleagues, or donating items to charity, becomes a lot more difficult when my initials are emblazoned across everything (unless, of course, they’re another “MS”, in which case, lucky them).

Monogrammed Christmas gifts often present a similar problem. They may seem cute and thoughtful – like you really tried – but they’re really just creating a headache, both for the recipient and the planet. A good handbag, for instance, can be passed down, sold, donated or regifted. But a bag with someone’s initials may be seen as a less valuable secondhand prospect, more likely to end up in landfill once the initial recipient has tired of it.

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