If you haven't shopped in Oakland lately, you're missing out. A handful of new boutiques — all impeccably styled and stocked by people with an eye for design and sustainability — feature mostly local, independent, and eco-friendly labels. In other words, there are no more excuses for leaving the Town to spend your hard-earned dollars. We scoured them — as well as our other East Bay favorites — for some of the best gifts this season. Whether you're buying for your significant other, in-law, boss, or pal, you're guaranteed to find something for him or her (and maybe even for yourself).
Jessica Winzelberg Shield Earrings, $145-$250.
For a while now, the trend in earrings has been the bigger the better: long feathers, leather cutouts, dangly metal chains with giant stones — it wasn't considered hot if it didn't go past your shoulders. Now, as with many trends, the opposite is coming into style, and, quite frankly, the change is refreshing. The tiny shield earrings by San Francisco designer Jessica Winzelberg (available in 14K gold or sterling silver with pink sapphire) caught our eye; they're unique yet understated, appropriate for everyday wear but special in a kind of medieval way (which appeals to our inner nerd). They're a bit of a splurge, but hey, isn't she worth it?
Esqueleto, 482 A 49th St., Oakland, 510-629-6216, ShopEsqueleto.com
Juniper Ridge Trail Crew Soap, $35.
Usually, we're not fond of receiving soaps as gifts, just because most smell too strong. But the soaps by Juniper Ridge feature delightfully natural smells — literally. The Alameda-based company wild-harvests its organic ingredients in site-specific West Coast locales (scents include "Big Sur" and "Sierra Summer Pine"), so there's nothing synthetic about them. Goodstock is the only East Bay boutique to carry the company's new Trail Crew Soaps (liquid soap for the shower); we love its minimalist packaging and the fact that 10 percent of the profits goes to protecting wilderness.
Goodstock, 4454 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-658-7394, WeAreGoodStock.com
Customized Novelitas with Bell Jar, $75.
Some of the best gifts are the most personal ones. But if you don't have an artistic bone in your body, ask Piper and John General Goods co-owner Nicole Buffett to make you one of her customized novelitas. These teeny-tiny "books" (the size of a quarter or so) are handmade by Buffett, feature original artwork, and can be made on a topic of your choice (if you give her enough lead-time). They're whimsical, quirky, and usually have some "a-ha" statement at the end. To make them extra gift-y, she'll put it in a Bell Jar for display. It's a sweet touch.
Piper and John General Goods, 465 9th St., Oakland, 415-509-6791, Facebook.com/PiperAndJohnGeneralGoods
Beauty Shop Skirt by Desiree Salas, $68.
The problem with most modern clothes is that they're poorly made. Even designer-ish stuff with hefty price tags pale in comparison to everyday garments made back in the day. But local designer Desiree Salas is all about quality. Her clothes (made for real women's bodies) are solidly constructed with high-quality fabrics, and her designs have a timeless, clean, retro appeal. Her black "Beauty Shop" skirt features white piping on faux flap pockets for a delightfully cute (but not cutesy) take on the classic black skirt. It's available at her new Alameda "sewing room" and boutique (open Friday through Sunday), which aims to inspire sewers of all ages and abilities to maintain this sadly dying art.
Sewing Room and Style Lounge, 2434 Webb Ave., Alameda, 510-332-9807, Facebook.com/SewingRoomStyleLounge
Mercado Global Fold-Over Clutch, $76.
Have you noticed how expensive bags have gotten? Fashion magazines and blogs tell us it's no big deal to drop a few hundred on a purse, but that's just excessive. Which is why we like Mercado Global's fold-over clutch. Its hand-dyed, black-and-white pattern would go with many outfits; it's big enough to hold all our stuff without overflowing; and it's totally reasonable at $76. It also happens to be made by a company that employs Guatemalan women in order to break the cycle of poverty and help them get an education. Pretty awesome, right?
Atomic Garden, 5453 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0543, AtomicGardenOakland.com
Wintercheck Steel Shot Glasses, $30 for set of four.
I kinda wish I was a dude so I could shop at Standard & Strange. This tiny men's store — the newest addition to Temescal Alley — features impeccably tailored clothing from small designers you can't find in many other places (like socks knit in Japan). If there's a man in your life who appreciates details, or if there's a man in your life who you wish would appreciate details, shop here. For a no-fail gift option, opt for the Brooklyn-made Wintercheck Steel Shot Glasses, which feature a utilitarian, industrial (and very masculine) design — a unique take on the standard shot glass. They're shiny and durable, so no matter what your dude puts them through, these workmanlike receptors will be able to handle it.
Standard & Strange, 484A 49th St., Oakland, StandardandStrange.com
Stereo Vinyl Cruiser, $85.
New downtown Oakland boutique Oakland Surf Club, run by adorable couple (and new parents) Max Klineman and Ari Serrano-Embree, is targeted toward the surf- and skateboard-inclined: Its mostly indie-label inventory includes books, hats, shoes, jewelry, and clothing (for men and women); there's also an art gallery upstairs. Appropriately, the shop also carries skateboards, including the Stereo Vinyl Cruiser, which, despite its tiny size, is apparently for adults. We're told they're extremely popular right now, and we can see why: Compact, colorful, and made to look like a vinyl record, the plastic board has whimsical, retro appeal as well as a reasonable price tag. And, as a bonus, they come with matching sunglasses — so it's like two gifts in one!
Oakland Surf Club, 337 14th St., Oakland, 510-465-2770, OaklandSurfClub.com
Duluth Scout Pack, $112.
Psst ... messenger bags are out; canvas backpacks are in. We love them for their minimalist design and for the fact that they're often made by old American companies that have revived their brands. We're particularly fond of the slim, envelope-style Duluth Scout Pack, which comes in a variety of earth tones and features leather reinforcements — it's based on a classic design (the company has been around since 1882), isn't bulky (so you don't look like a student), and is apparently guaranteed for life. They're also handmade in Duluth, Minnesota, so you can feel good about supporting the US economy.
OwlNWood, 45 Grand Ave., Oakland, OwlNWood.com
Pact Three-Pack Men's Socks, $26.
Apparently no gift sold in the East Bay is without its good cause — even underwear. Pact — started by two Haas business school graduates — specializes in super-soft, organic cotton underwear, socks, and tees made in a non-sweatshop environment and benefitting various nonprofits. Its men's socks (which come in a handy three-pack gift box for the holidays) are festively colored, made of organic cotton, and benefit The Empowerment Plan, which provides jobs to homeless women in Detroit.
Convert, 1844 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-984-0142, ConvertStyle.com
Bridge & Burn Carter Jacket, $175.
We're kind of in love with Bridge & Burn, a Portland-based company that produces some classically stylish — but incredibly practical — outerwear (as well as shirts and dresses). They look like something your grandfather would've bought, but for the thirtysomething set. Take the bomber-style Carter Jacket, which is lightweight but lined (perfect for Bay Area weather), water-resistant, and casual but tailored enough to dress up. It's available at Slash, whose prices include tax, so it's about 10 percent cheaper than list price.
Slash, 2840 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-5994, SlashDenim.com