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There are few milestones in life quite like a 21st birthday. In the US, of course, (though also in Mongolia) turning 21 means finally being of legal age to purchase alcohol! But even outside the United States, 21 is an meaningful birthday. It signifies that first all-important step into your twenties, and one of the most socially-active, creative and exciting decades in life. It also signifies a degree of maturity which your teenage years were most likely lacking.
As with any occasion of such symbolic importance, buying the perfect birthday present is not always easy. 21st birthday gift ideas are hard to come by, and the best 21st birthday gifts are not always the most obvious one. Thankfully, we’ve curated this gift guide full of unique presents perfectly suited to the newly-21-year-old. Make their 21st birthday celebration one to remember with one of the following…
By Cal Bannerman • Published Jan 2 2023
Clichéd it may be, but turning 21 in the US means tasting your first sip of legal booze. This gift box from Beer Hawk is a fun and affordable way to say happy birthday to the eager beer drinker in your life. With five different cans of craft ale, a signature pint glass, and even a pack of salty pretzels to go alongside, this is a gift surely any self-respecting 21-year-old will devour in seconds!
Depending on which month of the year you were born into, there is a particular gemstone attributed to you as a "birthstone". This stunning necklace, available in rose gold, gold, and silver, can be customized to include the twenty one year old's personal gemstone, set in the center of an exquisite chain. You can even, should you choose, make them up a necklace with multiple birthstones, depending on which colors are their favorite. The perfect 21st birthday gift for the birthday girl (or boy, if he's fabulous enough), this necklace is surprisingly affordable.
Minted is a site full to the brim with truly original art and gift ideas, but this one in particular really caught our eye. A set of three square-crop photos, set side-by-side on a crisp white canvas, and bordered by a frame of your choosing. Customize this with photographs of you and your loved one, sibling, child, or best friend, to remind them of just how many happy memories you've made together. Milestone birthdays are all about cementing the past and looking to the future, and this great gift says just that.
Generation Z are a generation more concerned with and educated about environmental issues and the climate crisis than any other come before them. Thus, when it comes to buying a great 21st birthday present life a leather jacket, for a newly-21-year-old the only option is to go faux. Turning 21, you're looking to reinvent yourself and embrace a more mature fashion sense. This faux leather jacket from trendsetters Mango does just that.
If you're looking to buy a 21st birthday gift that's a little silly, a little funny, and guaranteed to be unique, then we think this Amazon gift is a perfect choice. A tropical scented soy candle with a 50-60 hours burn-time, this candle from Cedar Crate Market reads "Adios Fake ID!" on the side; a gently humorous reminder that their days of turning to best friends' older siblings for liquor are solidly behind them!
We might carry the time in our pockets (smartphones) these days, but nothing quite beats the comfort and security of wearing a keepsake watch on your wrist. Vivienne Westwood's company, known for its decades spent revolutionising the fashion industry, has produced this unique gold and black watch, complete with Westwood pendant. An ideal 21st birthday present that will serve as a memento for many years to come.
Sticking with watches for a second... the newest generation of watch-wearers are tending ever more toward the smart watch: a watch designed with an AMOLED face to display not only the time, but the notifications and messages from your connected smartphone. If your 21-year-old is more likely to appreciate a gift at the technological forefront, then a smart watch like this is perfect.
The protection of the environment is on everyone's minds right now, with no greater fervour than in the minds of our youth. Those turning 21 today are more likely than ever before to be concerned about our consumption of animal-based products. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean they aren't also keen on looking good in faux-leather. This Lambert vegan leather bag can be worn four ways, and would be the ideal companion on a night out for their 21st birthday party.
Chocolate can be enjoyed by the bar of a cosy evening tucked up on the couch, or it can be presented in a gift box so unbelievably grand you'd think it was curated for a queen. As it happens, you can make your soon-to-be 21-year-old feel like a queen (or king!) with this tasting set from Godiva. 36 pieces of signature chocolate in one box are accompanied by another box containing 24 melt-in-the-mouth truffles!
Cards Against Humanity has been a true staple of young (and older) parties since it was first brought to the market a decade ago. Played as a drinking game, or just for fun, the principle is to match a context card read out by one player with the crudest, rudest, most ridiculous filler card in your hand. Not for the faint of heart, this is the ideal game for them to play at their 21st birthday party (once the adults are off to bed, of course!)
Whether it's a road-trip cross-country, or a round-the-world gap year, 21-year-old's tend to be keen to stretch their legs and see the world. This 'travel tech tidy' in tan is the perfect companion for any long voyage. With efficient space for all the wires, chargers, headphones and travelling tech you could imagine, send them off on their way with something to remember you by.
Lots of people will be buying the birthday boy or girl a nice bottle of spirits for their birthday, but we can guarantee you that no-one will show up with a bottle of spiced rum straight out of a fantasy movie. This Caribbean Rum has aromas of brown sugar and dried fruit, mixed with natural cinnamon and ginger to give it a tangy, sweet flavor. A bottle to be treasured (or devoured by the shot glass!)
If you've been flirting with the notion of buying your 21-year-old some nice tumblers for their birthday, so as they have something nice to drink out of at their 21st birthday celebrations, why not opt instead for something far, far cooler? Forgo the tumbler and give them instead a gift steeped in history: a glass (with stand) shaped like the ancient drinking vessels of the Scandinavian sea raiders, the Vikings!
When planning the perfect way to help a 21-year-old celebrate their birthday, most people go down the route of buying a traditional present. Not many people think of buying the celebrant 21st birthday decorations. This balloon arch kit from Etsy would make for a truly unique gift. It's one of those birthday ideas that's subtle, but will make the big day extra special for the guest of honour. Colored chrome, gold, and mocha, this balloon arch is not only gender-neutral, it also screams "grown-up", "stylish", "social media ready", and still manages to be a fun gift at the same time. Affordable too, the arch kit is available in various sizes.
Just like the tech travel wallet we suggested a little earlier in this gift guide, here is another thoughtful present for the likely traveller in your life. This compass pendant in sterling silver carries a protective message: "Adventure Awaits, Travel Safe". Turning 21 tends to signify a new lease of life. Be it finishing college, moving to a new city, backpacking abroad, or simply starting a new job, this pendant is a loving way to wish your 21-year-old well in their next big adventure.
So they've just turned 21... seems to us as though they'll be in fairly constant need of a bottle opener for the foreseeable future. Don't you think? This stainless steel bottle opener can be personalised with an inscription or monogram of your choice, just to make the gift that little bit extra special. Attached to a keychain, it can be kept on their person at all times, for whenever the desire for a cold brew should arise.
If you've never seen pebble pictures before, then you're in for a treat. A woman comprised of two colored pebbles is depicted in this particular picture, holding a wine glass, as if to celebrate her 21st birthday party! An attractive memento, you can even personalize this framed image with a heartfelt message to the birthday girl.
Here's a lovely gift set designed specifically to keep the birthday celebrant preened and pampered on the big day. Affordable and attractive, the set makes a particularly good gift from co-worker to co-worker, or at the birthday party of someone you're simply acquaintances with. Body butter, creamy shower gel, and squeegee, who wouldn't be delighted with this?
Milestone birthdays deserve to be marked in some way, but oftentimes the gifts you find on lazy gift guides do a crude job of remembering the date. This, on the other hand, has context, style, and longevity. Ideal for the 21-year-old who loves their computer and/or console gaming, the mug is classic white with a universal console controller on the front, sandwiched between the words "You Have Reached Level 21". A keepsake to remember their 21st year of life, but also one which will stand the test of time and keep a smile on their face every time they see it.
As part of wider 21st birthday decorations, these customizable wine labels are a totally classy touch at any party. Designed with 21st birthday parties in mind, simply give the Etsy seller your chosen personalized message, and they'll send you the size of champagne or wine labels you need. Peel their backing and pop them onto the bottle of wine for the big day, and you just know the birthday boy/girl will be posting bday pictures of themselves on social media holding up their custom booze.
Our surnames say a lot about who we are, where we came from, and what our families have been through throughout history. Smith's tended to have been blacksmiths, or some other highly-skilled craftsperson, whilst Bannerman's carried royal banners into ancient battle. This framed print from Menkind is customized with the 21-year-old's family surname, that family name's corresponding 'Coat of Arms', and a brief history of the family, all attractively designed and illustrated. A slice of family history to feel proud of on their birthday.
GameStop have everything - from the latest Xbox Series X game, to the newest VR Oculus console, the Nintendo Switch, smartphones and more. 21-year-olds tend to love gaming, regardless of gender or background, and a gift card to GameStop is just the gift to allow them to sate that gaming appetite. Available in denominations from $5-$500, the gift card is physical, too, so you have something to give them in person on the big day!
In a world of instant gratification and social media, returning to the physical realm has been on-trend of late. Record players (see our next entry), vinyl (and the entry after that!), and cameras being at the forefront of this reverse-revolution. This starter set from Polaroid includes the Polaroid+ camera, with five lens filters, an accompanying app, rechargeable battery, and autofocus. The set also includes the packs of film they'll need to start snapping straight away.
Vinyl is making a huge resurgence, which is a great thing because everyone knows that vinyl records produce the highest fidelity music-listening experience! At 21, you're at the vanguard of pop and alternative music. You're either in a band, or you know folk who are, and the likelihood is that you're out at music gigs every other week. Give them the gift of bringing those live concerts into their bedroom or living room with this stylish, minimalist turntable from JAM. With Bluetooth capabilities, it can even connect remotely to any Bluetooth speaker(s)!
Adele just dropped her long awaited fourth studio album, '30', to rave reviews. Vinyl has made a huge comeback in recent years, and as such most current artists tend to release their latest albums in LP format. Of course, you don't have to opt for this particular album or artist. Barnes and Noble have a wide selection of vinyl records with which you can give your soon-to-be 21-year-old the gift of a musical education! (Perfect when combined with the turntable above...) Why not DIY them a selection of music you think they'll enjoy.
This e-Gift Card from StubHub is a really excellent 21st birthday gift idea for those of us who struggle to settle on something more specific. StubHub sells tickets to thousands of events - from gigs, comedy shows, and sports games - all around the world. If you're unsure which event they might like to attend, why not just gift them a gift card with which they can choose? Available in various denominations.
Few gifts in life are as replete with nostalgia, happy memories, love and friendship as a photo gift. This hardcover photobook from Artifact Uprising is a gorgeous present wrapped in a photo of your choosing, and filled with images (presumably) of the birthday celebrant, perhaps with you, perhaps on their own. Be creative! You could fill this book with photo's of their favorite place, or even their dream destination(s).
Show me the person who doesn't enjoy the site of a fresh, hand-picked and hand-tied bouquet of colorful flowers and I'll show you a bare-faced liar! Bring some joyous color to their 21st birthday celebrations with one of these stunning bouquets from Flower Station. Have them delivered to you and bring them arranged in a vase, or get them delivered directly to the recipient with an extra special birthday message inside!
Etsy is full of creative and arty people offering highly-stylised gifts and cards. This card we thought was especially attractive. It is, in the example, written for you to give to your boyfriend on his 21st bday However, you can customize the text to say anything you want (brother, husband, wife, daughter, best friend, you name it!). If you're looking for a simple, attractive, and unique birthday card, this is it.
What's a birthday party without a cake? And what's a cake without an ostentatious, elaborate, golden cake topper declaring the birthday celebrant's age? If you've been left in charge of planning the 21st birthday celebrations, then you might be worried at just how much money you're going to have to spend to make the day extra special. Fear not! Combine this cake topper with the balloon arch and flowers also on this gift guide list, and there party will be one classy, fancy, beautiful affair!