Father’s Day Gift Ideas

"Father's Day Present." Photo by Beth Nazario. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Lately I seem to be buying presents every week. Between birthdays, weddings and holidays, June seems to bring a lot of gift-giving. One of the upsides of a down economy, however, is that it is a good time to go shopping! While you may be groaning at the cost of gas and groceries, nearly everything else, and particularly discretionary items like gifts, are on sale.

Father’s Day in the U.S. this year is on Sunday, June 19th. Since I did a post on Mother’s Day gift ideas, I felt it only fair to do a reciprocal post for Father’s Day.

Dads are notoriously hard to shop for. For me, there are 3 primary reasons why:

  • Men have vastly different gift-giving preferences than women that, as a woman, I find hard to understand.
  • Most of the gift-giving industry is woman-focused so even a lot of men’s gift suggestions are not necessarily what men want but what women are willing to give men.
  • Perhaps reflecting long-standing differences in the economic status of men and women, men often buy what they want right away rather than waiting for a gift-giving occasion and hinting to their gift-giving family members.

If you are at a loss for what to get dear Dad, there are many Father’s Day gift guides to consult. For example:

But do these gift guides accurately reflect modern Dads? What do Dads really want anyway?

Fortunately, Joe Gumm, whose book 150 Secrets to a Happy Wife, I reviewed in April, provides an answer to this question.

“We all know what makes men happy: food, sex and sports. It’s not an ancient Chinese secret uncovered in a Dan Brown novel and it doesn’t take much effort to fulfill the needs on this list. . . . Granted, there are other things that make us happy, but for the most part, food, sex and sports are it. If you really, really, really want to make us happy, let us do all three at the same time.”

–Joe Gumm, 150 Secrets to a Happy Wife

So, there you have it. Three things all Dads want. According to Joe Gumm’s description, if dads were in charge of Father’s Day, the celebrations on this day would be more like a fraternity or bachelor party rather than the Norman Rockwell image of Dad sitting on the couch surrounded by family.

Now compare this list of real men’s desires to the typical Father’s Day gift suggestions, particularly ties. There is nothing on Joe Gumm’s list that requires wearing a tie. My husband despises ties and would find it a particularly disappointing present. For him, it would be the male-equivalent of receiving a vacuum cleaner. It is a reminder of his obligations, of being uncomfortable and formal . . . hardly something he wants to remember on a day to celebrate his achievements as a father.

So, with Joe Gumm’s guidelines in mind, I present an alternative Father’s Day gift list.


I have never met a man who does not appreciate a good, home-cooked meal. If you are a great cook, you could make the dad in your life ecstatic by cooking a meal of his favorite recipes. If you are an OK cook, try one thing that you do especially well. If you are a horrible cook, order take out from his favorite restaurant. To make Dad happy, today is not the day for salads and healthy recipes. On this day to indulge Dad, most likely you will need to ensure that the menu includes hearty items and a healthy portion of meat (such as steak, ribs, bacon or hamburgers) and a full-fat dessert. Any recipe by Paula Deen would be appropriate.


In a rare exception to the "no healthy food" rule, this chicken barley chili (from the back of the Quaker barley box) was a big hit at our house.
Homemade "Extreme Banana Bread" from this recipe was devoured quickly too.


While sex is the reason behind the whole holiday, I doubt that many families will be presenting Dad with a racy gift on Father’s Day. It’s just too awkward. Instead, consider indulging Dad’s other “passions.”

The average Dad spends a lot of time in the car. Give Dad’s ride a little TLC for Father’s Day and make him feel like he drives a sports car, whether he does or not. Treat him to a car wash/detailing. Upgrade his car accessories with rubber floor mats, nice seat cushions, a new car stereo or even a new key ring. Check the manufacturer’s website/online store for accessory suggestions for Dad’s particular make and model of car. Or, consider cleaning up/organizing the garage as a gift so that dad’s vehicle has rock star parking.

Honda Logo Black Tear Drop Key Chain at amazon.com.


Chevy Weatherpro All Season Mats - Set of 2 at amazon.com.

Universal Car Seat Cover Full Set with Airbags Ready and Rear 60/40 Split Fb060 Beige/black 115 at amazon.com.


Even Dads that aren’t handy appreciate good tools. Look for a tool that easily solves a current maintenance problem. If you don’t know Dad’s preference in this area, give him a technological upgrade in simple tools everyone uses all the time, like a hammer, screwdriver, tape measure or work gloves. If he has every tool known to man, perhaps look for some organizational systems to display them attractively and help him keep track of them.

Energizer 84020 12V All-In-One Jump-Start System with Built-In Air Compressor and Power Inverter at amazon.com.

The Bulldog Hardware 131588 Peg-A-System Ultimate Kit at amazon.com.

Pocket Size Folding Screwdriver Torx Set with Keychain Snap Hook at amazon.com.


Dads long to maintain an aura of adventure, excitement and danger. Some dads have dangerous jobs or hobbies and get this experience in real life. Other dads look to live out their adventures through video games, books and movies. For the gaming dad, consider a T-shirt, boxer shorts or pajamas that subtly and fashionably reflect his online persona. For the reading dad, books on science fiction, the military, disaster survival, espionage, money and power or key moments in history intrigue. For the movie dad, action adventure is the way to go.

Think Geek's Crest of Hyrule T-shirt at amazon.com.

HALO 3, UNSC Military Green Adult T-Shirt at amazon.com.

Playstation Cotton Boxer Shorts for Men by WebUndies at amazon.com.


Interestingly, Father’s Day does not seem to coincide with any major sporting events. If the Dad in your life is a sports fan, there are several easy gifts along these lines, including:

For the spectator/fan:

Help Dad make the right fashion statement at the next game day event. Every sports team has a licensed gear shop with many apparel choices. Give him a summer wardrobe upgrade he will enjoy wearing. Season tickets, and books or videos about the team are other good choices here.

Green Bay Packers Fan Pride Striped Moisture Wicking Men's Polo Shirt at amazon.com.

Boston Red Sox "Classic" T-Shirt, Red at amazon.com.

Adidas Miami Heat 3-Stripe Dream Short at amazon.com.

For the sports-playing Dad:

If your Dad is more into playing sports than watching them, check to see if his sports equipment could use a refresh. Long distance runners are always in need of an extra pair of shoes and tennis players can use a fresh can of tennis balls. Basics like socks and moisture-wicking shirts and shorts are good choices too as well as injury-treatment devices like braces and supports. Gift certificates for personal training or videos or books on Dad’s sport of choice would also make Dad smile.

FiveFingers KSO - Men's by Vibram at amazon.com.

Intech Ti-Cabretta Men's Golf Glove at amazon.com.

McDavid Thermal Shoulder Wrap with Gel Pack at amazon.com.

I hope this list has given you some fresh ideas for Father’s Day gifts beyond the standard tie. What other gift ideas would you add to this list? Please share in the comments.