Dads are famously easy to shop for for two reasons—1, most truly don’t want gifts, and 2, men don’t care.
Before we get to Dad, consider Mom for a moment. Mother’s Day is a tricky thing to shop for. What do moms want? You get her a cooking utensil and it’s insulting—“you think I like making all your meals?” You get her clothing and it could be an insulting size. “You think I’m a 12?!” Flowers die quickly and god only knows what books and fragrances she would enjoy.
When one thinks of gifts with which to shower Daddy Dearest on his special day, however, no doubt images of tools, grilling accessories, electronics and gadgets, sports team gear, fishing lures, and alcohol come to mind. All of these items are things a typical dad would be thrilled to receive.
But is your dad a typical dad? Will a handle of bourbon bring a smile to his face?
How to know what to buy your dad for Father’s Day
When thinking of your own father, you must first ask yourself a series of questions.
What does Dad like?
The most obvious question is the most important. Make a list and break it down. “Dad likes smoking his pipe, playing his guitar, tinkering on his motorcycle, and watching internet porn.” Could it be this simple? Is one of these items the answer? Maybe, but how do you shop for these things? He already has a guitar, so what do you buy him—replacement strings? Do you know what kind of pipe tobacco to buy for his smoking? Would it be weird if you got him a paid subscription to his favorite porn site?
What does Dad need?
In the days and weeks leading up to Father’s Day, keep a list of things you hear your dad say that he needs, or wishes he had. “Could really use a couple flashlights in this house.” Bam! There’s a possible answer. One must also consider whether this “need” would qualify as a gift. If he needs a new belt, sure. If he needs a copper fitting for a tub spout, keep looking. Also, be sure he hasn’t already gone out and gotten the thing he needs. People tend to buy things they require.
Does Dad seem stressed out?
An overworked, cranky, tired dad is actually an easy dad to shop for because there are so many obvious gifts. From a hammock to liquor to an afternoon of freedom, there are many ways to say “Hey old man, take a breather. We need you 100% out there.”
Does Dad collect anything?
You can easily add to Dad’s collection of sports memorabilia, stamps, coins, hand-carved wooden ponies, or unusually shaped Oreos with a quick trip to eBay. Very few types of collections have a true end point. Make sure you aren’t buying a duplicate, though! “Oh… thanks… but I already have six of that Precious Moments figurine.”
Does Dad like tangible gift items, or would he appreciate an event or experience more?
Maybe tickets to the big Jason Aldean concert, an upcoming baseball game, or a Joel Osteen meet-and-greet would perk your dad up more than any physical gift could. Just make sure his schedule is clear for the dates of the event, if applicable.
Is Dad in dire need of new clothes?
One item most dads really don’t want is clothing, but unlike most women, it’s hard to offend a man with a clothing gift. Just know that it also may not bring him much joy. If you’re going to go the clothes route, t-shirts, caps, and ties are the safest, especially if they’re emblazoned with the logo of something he likes.
Does Dad have a man cave?
If so, your gift possibilities are absolutely endless. Any novelty item geared towards men will work. A throwback NFL helmet phone? A Coors Light train? A pillow with a built-in beer koozie? A wall calendar with scantily-dressed babes? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!
Is Dad sophisticated?
This could be a tough question to answer, but it’s the difference between a good and bad gift. While each type is no doubt a doting, loving father, a scholarly dad and a dimwitted dad will undoubtedly look at gifts in two very different lights. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, really, just ask yourself this one simple question: can you theoretically see your Dad wearing a Jimmie Johnson NASCAR racing t-shirt out to dinner? That alone should tell you whether leather-bound books or custom Copenhagen holsters are on your shopping list.
Will a meal suffice?
Almost certainly, yes. A dinner out is the de facto Dad’s Day celebration. Let him pick, and let him drink a few cocktails, and he’ll be satisfied. If you still get him a gift, make it small, and present it to him at the dinner.
Does Dad actually want nothing, or is he just saying he wants nothing?
When you ask Dad what he wants for Father’s Day and he says “nothing”, which many, many dads do, does he really mean it, or is there a chance he’ll be sad that you got him nothing? Many dads really mean it. “I told you not to get me anything! Why are you wasting your damn money on presents?!” Other dads may say “Oh, you! I told you not to get me anything! This is so unexpected!” Which category can you see your dad falling into? If it’s the former, truly do get him nothing—it’s apparently what will make him the happiest.
Use past Father’s Days as a guide, if all else fails!
My Hot Take
It’s true, Dads are easier to shop for. Booze, tools, and caps have traditionally kinda been the fallback items in our house. Me personally? As a dad of a 3-year-old, I’d rather just have an afternoon of carefree drinking at the local pub to any physical gift. And I truly, truly don’t want anyone spending more than $25 on me, because at the end of the day that money came out of my own wallet.