Gifts that get better as they age

About 99 percent of consumer goods aren’t in use six months later. Let’s strive for something different.

Gifts that get better as they age
Presents that will last a generation.Todd Quackenbush via Unsplash

Of all the consumer goods we buy, only about one percent of it is still in use six months later. That is a dismal statistic, especially when you consider how many of those products are made of plastic and metal that won't get recycled, but rather will sit in a landfill or float out to join the great garbage patch in the sea. Think right now about the last 10 items you bought. How many of them do you still like and use? Better yet, think of all the things you've given to other people because you felt obligated to give them something.

We’re so used to discarding things—clothes, shoes, gadgets—after mere months of use because so many products are designed badly or manufactured cheaply. Fight back against that degradation by buying stuff that will actually last. Your grandparent’s cast iron pan could get passed down to you just like a parent’s 1980′s-era flannel could be—and you could be that parent or grandparents someday. You just have to buy things that will outlast you. Here are some ideas.

Work boots

Boots for life

Boots for life
Redwing HeritageRedwing Heritage

We’re used to thinking of shoes (and clothes) as fairly disposable, but if you find a pair you love it’s painful to let them go. Enter: Red Wing. Their leather is thick and tough, which means the break-in period is long and hard, but five years in they’ll be not only the most comfortable shoes you own (the cork insole will mold to your foot) they’ll also have that vintage boot look. This is possibly the only store you’ll ever go to where they put decade-old versions of their products on display—that’s how great they are.

Bonus: even the women’s shoes have a Goodyear welt construction, which means they’re resole-able.

Cast iron pan

A cast iron pan

A cast iron pan
The LodgeAmazon

The classic. The thing you want your grandmother to pass down to you. Get it today and every time you use it, the seasoning will just get more set, making it increasingly nonstick. Use it to make skillet cornbread. Use it to make a Dutch baby pancake. Make a cast iron pizza. The possibilities are endless.

Mylar headphones

Headphones that sound better over time

Headphones that sound better over time
GradoAmazon

Most headphones just get beaten up over time. These have a mylar diaphragm that sounds best after 50 to 100 hours of listening, so your music is only going to sound sweeter the longer you keep them around. Now you just have to keep track of them.

Fermentation kit

A fermenting kit

A fermenting kit
MasontopsAmazon

Okay, so you can’t age this forever BUT with a fermenting kit, you can make all kinds of stuff. Sauerkraut. Kimchi. Pickles. Hot sauce. Go crazy. One of the beauties of pickling is that there’s not a ton of prep upfront and then you pretty much just check the lid for a few days and voila: impressive homemade pickled delicacies. Check online for recipes, then mix it up once you’ve mastered the basics.

Flannel button-down

A great flannel

A great flannel
L.L. BeanL.L. Bean

You’ve been searching for years for the perfect vintage flannel at thrift shops, but let’s face it: you’re never going to find one. Know why? No one in their right mind would give up a worn-in, soft-as-a-lamb’s-bottom flannel shirt if it were still in wearable condition. Just buy this one new and enjoy the way it gets better with every wash.

Fig tree

A fig tree

A fig tree

They're delicious.Plant Me Green

Fig season is fleeting and delicious, and if you or a friend is a fig fan then get thyself a tree all thine own. These little puppies grow well indoors but will take a couple of years to bear fruit, so patience is key here. It’ll all be worth it to pick a perfectly ripe fig in your home and eat it schmeared with goat cheese and a little honey while everyone is scrambling for the last ones at the market.