I really do feel sorry for boys. Not only will they never know how good it is to spend an evening in with the girls, but we ask them to walk an extremely slippery tightrope every year at Valentines.
For many men, buying presents is a bit like walking the plank - they pick something, close their eyes and hope you either love it or are exceedingly good at lying. Going for the obvious safe gift like some red roses and a box of expensive champagne truffles isn't always a savvy choice either, because although we say that it's the thought that counts what we really mean is that you must remember that conversation we had three months ago when we were dragging you around town and pick up on the single sentence in which we revealed, in code, the single thing that would actually make us happy on this occasion. We will drop obscure hints in the belief that we are being actually quite blatant about our desires and your obligation to fulfill them.
But, in all honesty, buying a really good Valentines gift for a boy can be equally tricky. And yes, boys deserve presents too. Especially if they are paying for dinner.
In general, men like useful things rather than Romantic tokens.
Clothes work. Shoes work. Gadgets, tickets to something you know they'll like, or really good quality leather goods are all acceptable alternatives.
A good pair of brogues is a perfect gift, especially if he's been wondering around in a pair from Topman for so long that they smell like a cheese factory.
Church's are the obvious choice, but there are a few cheaper alternatives out there. JFK has made me swear not to reveal the name of the brand I buy for him on special occasions, but a quick wonder down London's Jermyn Street offers plenty of ideas. I don't care how rare or expensive they are - trainers are not an acceptable Valentines gift.
Paul Smith, Jil Sander, Nicole Farhi and Acne are all great for good quality menswear and you can shop for yourself simultaneously. If, however, you are like me and cannot really afford any of these labels, Fred Perry and Cos are cheaper options which still deliver a seriously sharp fashion kick to a tired wardrobe.
But don't just buy something you think would look good on him. Rifle through his wardrobe and see what he likes and then go for the up-market version and keep it simple and classic - avoid garish prints and anything too slimly cut unless you are secretly coveting it for yourself and hoping it won't fit (which makes you a bad present buyer so shame on you).
From what I have gathered, what most men want from their clothing is to feel like themselves, but better, and to feel like you're proud to be seen with them, so your opinion is very important. However this is not an opportunity to buy them something drastically different unless you've sounded them out about it first or you risk looking like you're trying to change them (which you may well be, but being so blatant about it doesn't work). This is something akin to being given bad underwear by your boyfriend who seems to think that size 14 Ann Summers red lace is a good idea when you're a size 10 and like Stella McCartney.
If clothing is too risky, go for a plain black wallet in butter-soft black leather or a good quality leather holdall. And if you spend a lot of money and he doesn't, don't get angry. After all, the most important criteria for a Valentine's present is that you love it, not that it cost a lot.