What to get dad for Father’s Day, his birthday or Christmas? While a lot has changed in the fifty years since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation urging the official observance of Father’s Day, some advertisers, books and pundits still play to the outdated stereotype of a dad as a bumbling caretaker or hapless cook. Here are several unique gift ideas for dads to celebrate the kind of man who parents actively, cooks enthusiastically, and dresses with a sense of style, written by a father who has received or who covets many of the gifts below.
This post was last updated on January 4, 2019.
Menswear gift ideas for cool dads
1. Not your father’s father’s tie. Some will tell you that gifting a tie to dad is cliched, but I for one love getting ties as gifts. A slew of entrepreneurs are helping men add a little flair to their style with fresh ties using interesting fabrics, textures, patterns and colors. If you leave enough time, order an ancient madder or grenadine tie from Sam Hober, an amazing Thailand-based purveyor of custom neckties. I have received several grenadine ties from Sam Hober as gifts and adore every one. If time is short, but money is no object, British luxury tie brand Drake’s Haberdasher has exquisite ties on offer. For more affordable ties, it’s hard to beat Paris-based menswear startup The Nines (aka House of Ties).
2. Brighten up his sock drawer. My young kids love picking out socks for me as Christmas gifts. They know I like bright colors and thick stripes, and have fun combing through Nordstroms, Bloomingdales and even TJ Maxx to find a pair I like. Sock entrepreneurs like Happy Socks (via Amazon), Unsimply Stitched and Alabama-based made-in-the-USA manufacturer Zkano, are making bright socks that can add a touch of personality to an otherwise understated outfit. You can find a variety of accessories at digital retailers including Stag Austin and Wittmore, or nab a subscription to sock-of-the-month services from Sock Fancy (via Amazon) or Southern Scholar, which delivers a pair a month for 6 months or a year. see Modern Fellows’ guide to the best places to buy colorful men’s socks online for many more options for buying men’s socks online.
3. Pocket squares, if he’s into that sort of thing. Pocket squares aren’t for everyone, but if you think your dad is amenable, find some patterned gems through DC menswear startup Hugh and Crye or Vanda Fine Clothing, a company which began life selling through Styleforum.net in 2010.
4. Suits, shirts, chinos and other menswear gifts with a story behind it. Modern Fellows assembled a #giftsforhim guide with more than 35 menswear gift ideas for guys from some of our favorite retailers including Bonobos, Everlane, Frank and Oak, Huckberry, Ledbury, Proper Cloth, Suit Supply and Todd Snyder. We think a gift means more when it has a story behind it.
Thoughtful gifts of books and music for your dad
5. A book for the cook. Bypass the “men don’t know how to cook” stereotype pushed by books such as Man Meets Stove, “a cookbook for men who’ve never cooked anything without a microwave,” in favor of Mark Bittman’s classic How to Cook Everything, or Esquire’s Eat Like a Man by Ryan D’Agostino. Combine the book with a tool or gadget, like the Lodge Double Play Reversible Grill/Griddle for making the pancakes found in Bittman’s book. (I make these pancakes regularly, and consult Bittman’s book regularly for guidance.)
6. Book ideas for stylish dads. Published in 2011, The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by JJ Lee is a terrific true story of a son’s often fraught relationship with his dad — not your typical guide to men’s style. It’s a unique read, though if you’d rather gift a book that focuses more on men’s style basics, see Modern Fellows’ guide to essential books on men’s style.
7. A musical trip down memory lane. Men of a certain age will recall childhood LPs and Phish bootlegs from high school. It’s a good bet most dads still have them lying around somewhere. Give dad a reason to dust off those tapes or records with a cassette deck, turntable, or combination player that can convert analog music to MP3s or other digital formats. The Pyle Retro Turntable with USB-to-PC Connection, TEAC CD Player and Cassette with USB Codec, or Pyle Vintage Turntable with Cassette/CD should do the trick. B&H Photo has a useful guide for other ways to transfer music from cassettes to a computer.
8. A versatile internet radio for the kitchen or bedroom. Growing up, I remember my mom having an old AM/FM radio (mostly tuned to WBLI Long Island) that was on most mornings in the kitchen. The walnut-encased Grace Digital Mondo+ wireless/ bluetooth internet radio is certainly an upgrade from that (it even includes a qi built-in wireless smartphone charger for your cellphone). It allows dad to program his favorite internet radio stations (including BLI) and stream music via bluetooth or the Grace Digital app.
9. Hard to find beer or wine. Companies like France44 and BeerShip will ship hard-to-find craft beer directly to your dad’s door. For the wine connoisseur, online wine clubs, such as Club W and Plonk Wine Merchants, which focus on affordable bottles, and Avalon, a Northwest wine specialist, are a way to encourage a wine lover to try something new.
10. Hard to find coffee. Alternately, investigate promising new coffee from a favorite roaster that isn’t available locally. I for one really enjoy the Queen Anne Blend from Caffe Vita.
Giving the gift of time to your dad
11. A day away. One of my favorite birthday presents of all time was an entire Sunday to myself, which began with drinking coffee and eating an amazing brunch at DC’s superlative Blue Duck Tavern, where I took my time crafting a piece on menswear alternatives to J. Crew, and continued through a visit to Bonobos’ Guideshop in Shaw and a tour of The Tie Bar’s showroom in Washington DC’s Logan Circle. Another idea? Give dad a day off with a gift certificate to a favorite bar to share with his friends.
12. A day together. Alternately, promise dad a day to do something he loves as a family. Instead of sending him to a Sunday afternoon baseball game with his buddies, get tickets for the family and buy him a hot dog and beer. If he says how much he loves the outdoors but can’t remember the last time he went hiking, carve out a day to trek together (for example in the Blue Ridge mountains, where the photo above was taken).
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