Four years ago last week, Michelle Obama stepped into the public eye on election night wearing a red-and-black Narciso Rodriguez dress that launched an obsession. It was an obsession about what she wore and how she wore it – and that in turn launched the careers of numerous designers, popularised the concept of high/low dressing and upturned the unspoken law that said First Ladies must wear only American designers. Along the way, it redefined what “American” designer actually meant: Cuban-American (Isabel Toledo), Chilean-American (Maria Cornejo), Chinese-American (Jason Wu) and Nepalese-American (Prabal Gurung).
Last Tuesday, in the same situation, thumbs-up and hugging her husband as he officially won his second term as US president, Mrs Obama ended that conversation.
Benjamin Franklin was clearly not the present purchaser in his family. Presumably, in the late 18th century, that was women’s work. Otherwise, the founding father might well have amended his famous aphorism to read not, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes – and that every November grown men and women will spend hours wandering adrift in megastores and surfing the internet in search of the perfect gift for loved ones” – or something like that (Mr Franklin might have put it more felicitously).
Of course, finding a perfect gift takes consideration, understanding, empathy, energy. And in the interests of trying to alleviate some of the burden, beginning this week and for five weeks following, we offer our succinct suggestions for 10 really good presents – five for men, five for women – in six different categories, beginning with “plan ahead”.