Ask teens what they want for the holidays and many will say, without hesitation: "No socks. No underwear."
What do they want, then? Well, cash is good. Cold currency allows them to hang out at any one of a number of local coffee shops and restaurants with minimal supervision, and protects them from managers whose first inclination is to shoo them away.
Gift certificates are good, too. A few teens suggested Cheapo Records, 1300 W. Lake St., 827-8238; Cal Surf, 1715 W. Lake St., 822-6840; and Tatters Clothing, 2928 Lyndale Ave. S., 823-5285.
For about $10
For those spending under $10, calendars are a good bet. There's plenty of variety in the calendar sections of most stores, from National Geographic, Harley-Davidson and Marvel Comics to pinup or beefcake calendars.
If you can't find the right calendar at the bookstore, consider a blank book that can be used as a sketchbook or a diary. If you can't find the right-looking blank book, consider a gift certificate.
Where available: Border's Book Store, Downtown at 600 Hennepin Ave. S. or Uptown in Calhoun Square at 3001 Hennepin Ave. S. (Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Sunday, noon-6 p.m.)
Another great gift for under $10: ask them to name their favorite performers then go pick up a poster featuring that band, singer or rap artist.
Where available: Electric Fetus, 2010 4th Ave. S., 870-9300. (Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
For about $25
For around $25, you can also consider purchasing a magazine subscription. And not only can you help drag them away from their video games and DVDs, you can subtly steer them in a cultural or intellectual direction before they even realize it.
Teen girls are usually fans of Seventeen, or, if they're a little older, Cosmopolitan puts out a teen version with content that's a little more risque'. For an alternative to stick-thin models, consider Teen Voices, it's a progressive magazine by and for teen girls -- but it's still full-color and glossy enough to catch their eye.
For boys, Sports Illustrated or Sport Magazine is big, or you can consider the alternative Thrasher Magazine for skateboarders. Then there's Maxim and Rolling Stone for music and culture, or New Republic for that aspiring Left Wing activist or the National Review if the teen on your list is more of the Alex P. Keaton type.
There are also magazines for snow boarders, guitar players, video games enthusiasts, cat lovers, dog lovers, motorcycle enthusiasts, rap music afficionados -- you name it.
Where available: Many of these magazines can be found at your local library. When you find one the teen on your list will like, you can usually find subscription information in the magazine itself. (Teen Voices is not available at local libraries but is online at www.teenvoices.org.)
For about $50
A new bike helmet! Whether they're skateboarders or bikers, a new helmet with a flashy decal is always a good bet. You can feel great about possibly preventing a trip to the emergency room, and a savvy store clerk can easily hook you up with a fashionable model that kids will actually wear.
Where available: The Alternative Bike and Board Shop, 2400 Hennepin Ave. S. 374-0093. (Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m.)
For about $100
Consider a cell phone. Once seen as a senseless indulgence by parents, many now understand that this gift frees up their phone line and allows teens the privacy they crave.
Plus, it's like an electronic leash -- "Where's my daughter? It's 12:15 and she's missed her curfew!"
Where available: Radio Shack, 3007 Nicollet Ave., 824-4700 (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.).