These are the best things we bought in 2021
On the bright side, we didn't panic-buy toilet paper this year.
By Sara Goldstein December 23, 2021
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What an incredible year it has been! We got out of our sweatpants, put on our skinny jeans and got right back to normal. Hahahahhaha. None of that’s true at all. In fact, 2021 may have been just as weird as 2020. We spent plenty of time at home and plenty of time getting back into the swing of things, but definitely felt unsure about all of it.
On the bright side, we didn’t panic-buy toilet paper this year. Instead, we got that dopamine rush from things that bring a little more joy (and in some cases, arguably less utility). From a cheaper alternative to the Ember mug to Vogue’s 2021 “It Shoe,” here are some of the best things we bought in 2021.
Best Things We Bought in 2021
Yoto Player & Starter Pack
Yoto is one of the best purchases I made for my kids this year. It’s a portable kids audio player that lets my children select their own stories, music, podcasts and other forms of audio entertainment. My favorite part is the simple credit-card sized cards that allow my children to change what they’re listening to—all without a screen or trying to manipulate an Alexa device. The Yoto solves for the issue of discoverability with audio for kids, and keeps them entertained for hours. The best part is that Yoto keeps adding into the experience: They can now have a monthly audio subscription to grow your content library, as well as a new audio creation experience, and their content library keeps growing by the day. It helps to keep my kids entertained, sans screen, for hours. Don’t forget to buy the card case, which is a lifesaver.
Liz Tenety, Co-Founder
OFFLINE Real Me High Waisted Crossover Flare Legging
One of my favorite things I bought this year is Aerie’s OFFLINE Real Me High Waisted Crossover Flare Legging (what a mouthful!) I had my first baby this year and wanted something comfortable and slimming because no one needs hard pants in 2021, especially after having a child and these deliver big time. I tried them first in black, got hooked and now have 3 pairs total. Another fringe benefit of these wonderful pants is that the material doesn’t attract pet hair like so many of my other leggings. I have a dog that sheds aggressively so not having to sticky roll myself if I need to run out of the house at a moment’s notice is a nice perk for me!
Jen Watro, Head of Audience Development
Zakia's Morocco• $8.99
The Kessa Hammam Scrubbing Glove
It’s hard to say if it’s my age or a never-ending pandemic that’s fueling a borderline unhealthy obsession with all things skincare. Maybe it’s both. In any event, I’ve tried unholy amounts of products and contraptions this year and surprise! My favorite one isn’t fancy in the least. Nope. In fact, it’s a glorified mitten. I wrote in-depth about my love of the Kessa Hammam Scrubbing Glove over the summer and it hasn’t waned even a little. I hunted it down after a glorious spa exfoliation treatment in hopes of keeping up my baby soft skin and it’s done all that and then some. Ingrown hairs? Never heard of ’em. Bumpy arms? Never met ’em. It’s a $10 2021 miracle.
–Sara Goldstein, Commerce Editor
Despite living in Vermont–a place with 9-month-long winters–for almost two decades and working from home for ages, I’ve never really been a slipper person. I’ve been gifted plenty of slipper-like booties and whatnot over the years, but never made a habit of wearing them for more than a couple days. Then Olukai changed everything. A few months ago I was gifted a pair of these bad boys and I have worn them literally every day since. From the second I slipped my foot inside and felt the cozy shearling cocoon around my chilly foot, I regretted every minute of my life not spent wearing them. (Is that hyperbole? No it’s NOT my friends.) I even sent a pair to my mom’s boyfriend this holiday who when asked if he ever had slippers this nice responded with, “Slippers?! I’ve never had shoes this nice.”
–Sara Goldstein, Commerce Editor
I told myself I wasn’t going to be one of those AirPods people, but when my husband got a free pair with a new computer, he gave them to me and I became… an AirPods person. And I LOVE being a pod person. With no cords to get in the way and (almost totally) seamless switching among my devices via Bluetooth, I’m addicted to them and impressed by how efficient they’ve made my life, particularly for my remote work life. I even tell myself that it would be awesome to run with them, if only I ran. Bottom line: if you’ve been resisting these the way I did, give in: your life will get a lot easier.
–Shannon Vestal Robson, Editorial Director
I LOVE a hotel robe moment, but I’ve never used one at home, instead just throwing on sweats or pajamas straight out of the shower. Then I met the Parachute Waffle Robe–and I’m never going back. It’s so soft, lightweight but cozy, and the perfect thing to put on when getting ready or doing my nighttime skincare routine. It also comes in cotton and linen, so you can have your own hotel robe moment at home, no matter what kind of climate you live in.
–Allie Litwak, Sr. Director, Brand Partnerships
Go With the Flow Leggings
When I buy leggings, most of the time they’re too long or too short, too tight or too loose, and never give me the coverage I really want. And even though I currently own 500 pairs of black leggings, the Knix Go With The Flow High-Rise Leggings are by far the best I’ve ever worn. They’re flattering, they’re comfortable, they’re great for exercising or to pair with your favorite sweater or hoodie. They’re also leakproof, which means they’re period-friendly and sweat-friendly. And I don’t know what sorcery is involved in the construction of the Knix waistband (for all of their bottoms and underwear), but they conform to you and your body. Simply put, they’re amazing and they’ve inspired me to incorporate a lot of Knix items into my wardrobe!
—Cassandra Stone, Trending Editor
I’m not afraid to say it: 2021 transformed me into a Peloton person. It’s definitely a big investment, but ponying up for a Peloton (the original bike is the cheapest it’s ever been!) really reduced a lot of barriers (read: excuses) I had around regular exercise, namely time and weather. For one, I can get in a decent sweat session in a short 20 minutes—exactly the length of one episode of Tumble Leaf. For two, I can work out without worrying about it being too dark outside at 6 pm for a run or my toes going numb when the temp drops to below 40 degrees. I also love that it’s more low-impact than running, and after having two kids, my pelvic floor is very grateful for this fact, too. I actually look forward to hopping on the bike now, and I am shocked to be able to say I’ve used it for 45 weeks in a row. (I mean!!!)
—Jessica D’Argenio Waller, Health + Wellness Senior Editor
Daily Moisturizing Lotion
I’ve been pregnant or nursing for much of the last 3.5 years—and add on pandemic stress and my skin is looking worse than my 8th grade school yearbook photo. After doing a deep dive into skincare Reddit threads, Facebook group advice and yes, even falling for targeted Instagram ads to rid my skin of bumps and pimples with no luck, I took advice from my colleague and bought Cerave daily moisturizing lotion (thanks, Cassy!). In less than 24 hours my skin cleared up and all the hormone-driven blemishes miraculously disappeared. I can’t guarantee this will work for everyone whose skincare routine no longer works after becoming a mom, but it did for me, and left me feeling a lot less self-conscious about all the changes my body has gone through the last few years. Bonus: a big bottle is only $12!
—Erin Lem, VP Content Strategy
Old Navy• $44.99
Extra High-Waisted Sky-Hi Straight Jeans
When TikTok told me earlier this year that skinny jeans were out, I was devastated. Flash forward a few months, and I own at least four pairs of straight-leg and wide-leg jeans. They’re so much more comfortable, and I love the way they look with a tucked-in shirt or blouse. My favorite pair is the Extra High-Waisted Sky-Hi Straight from Old Navy. I love the Curvy fit! And bonus points that Old Navy’s website has three different models you can view wearing the pants. Much easier to visualize what they’ll look like on. Oh and they’re always on sale, so they have been as low as $15!
—Kathryn Little, Senior Manager, Sales Marketing
Mr. Coffee• $11.99
In a world where trying to improve your work-from-home comforts has become very important, I could no longer abide my coffee getting cold. Enter this inexpensive coffee mug warmer, which successfully keeps me from getting up constantly to heat up the second half of my coffee. It’s also the answer if you’ve been lusting over the Ember mug but aren’t prepared to shell out for that.
–Shannon Vestal Robson, Editorial Director
Postpartum hair loss hit me HARD, and out of nowhere. All of a sudden, I was missing actual chunks of hair on my head. After researching possible options, I purchased Divi Scalp Serum. It was developed by a woman who had struggled with hair loss for years. After just three weeks of daily use, I am seeing more hair and less of my actual scalp. Admittedly, it’s a bit of an expense for a small bottle, but the serum has provided me with enough confidence to no longer wear hats to leave my house. – Hayli Craig, Content Operations Coordinator.
Classic Ultra Mini
Uggs are back, people! I haven’t worn a pair of Uggs in years (partly because I moved to the West Coast, and partly because I have PTSD from wearing them with skirts in my college years). But I was tempted by the Classic Ultra Mini, which were touted by Vogue as 2021’s “it shoe.” I don’t know about that, but I’ve never been cozier while walking my dogs – and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments too! They’re a cross between a slipper and a boot, so they look right at home with athleisure and casual outfits alike. Maybe just skip the denim miniskirt. – Allie Litwak, Sr. Director, Brand Partnerships