Every year I ask my pops what he wants for Father’s Day. And every year he grumbles about not wanting anything and to please save my money for something actually important, for Chrissakes. So inevitably I end up buying something online he may like and shipping it to him with some sort of note. And then it gathers dust until the following year. Repeat ad infinitum.
This is the main problem with Father’s Day gifting: No matter how tight you are with your dad, finding him something great is nearly impossible. You want to buy him something he’ll enjoy, but he’s not so great about telling you what he likes. That ends today. This guide will help you find a solid present for the dude who brought you into the world, even if you both just now realized that the day is approaching. It’s a Father’s Day miracle.
The Ex-Hippie Dad
This type of dad probably drove you to the mall when you were 13 to buy your shitty $20 band T-shirts — and didn’t make fun of you. He deserves something nice for that. Sure, he likes music, but don’t be lame and get him some generic surround-sound home-theater system or headphones. Let’s be real, that’s just for you.
Instead, appeal to his nostalgia. Take him back to the glory days before having kids ruined his life. Get him a vintage record player, so he can listen to his vinyl collection. Or get him a vintage tee from a concert he went to when he was a real human and not a dad. You get bonus points because it shows you listened to his croaky rants about when music was actually good. He also needs a few new shirts, anyway.
The Outdoorsy Dad
He’ll like something he can use outside with his pals, but not something that reminds him of chores, like a leaf blower. That’s depressing. Try a nice pocket knife or a subzero sleeping bag, then take him camping. Even if you don’t like the outdoors, just suck it up. You guys can drink beer by the fire. It’ll be great! They also make a ton of tech-y camping gear now that’ll make him more comfortable in his old age, like this camping stove that also charges your phone. Plus, he can get sad about how technology has ruined the great outdoors, which it has.
But if he doesn’t go camping, don’t force stuff on him that he’ll never use. If he likes spending time outside, give him a nice lawn chair with a cup holder, so he can nap like a pro. You can also get him something to trick out his grill like a Bluetooth thermometer. But don’t get him a new grill because that old, trusty grill is his reason for living no matter how charcoal-encrusted it is. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a case of Miller Lite to go along with it.
The Work-A-Holic Dad
If your dad’s been going to an office every day for the past 40 years, he probably already has a solid collection of boring ties and “fun” ties. He also has enough sweater vests. Forget any and all office-wear. It’ll just gather dust in the closet.
Get him something he can keep in his office, like a World’s Best Dad mug. Sure, it’s cheesy, but dads love that shit. Alternatively, give him something like a tablet computer or a Chromebook, so he can come home after work and do more work. Don’t do this if some of your siblings are still living at home, though. Instead, just get him a card to tell him to not work so much at your kid brother’s baseball games.
The Relaxed Dad
This one’s tough. If your dad’s an old fart who’s spent years honing the optimal butt imprint in his favorite recliner, get him something that makes this lifestyle a little more fun. Don’t get him something that makes his brain work overtime, like a book about the architecture of Revolutionary War–era America. Don’t get him anything that requires movement away from said butt print, like camping gear. Your dad has also probably never tried a streaming service before, so don’t get him a subscription to your favorite one and spend hours showing him (and failing) how to use it.
Instead, try fixing up his old busted VCR and getting him some VHS copies of his favorite “classic” movies. You could also get him an old-school video game system plus an easy-to-play video game. Remember: If he loves the old stuff, don’t try and sell him on a next-gen console.
The key to finding the best Father’s Day gift is just being more thoughtful. You can get your dad something he will love if you think about other things he loves. If you accept him for who he is (instead of who you want him to be), you’ll knock it out of the park. And if you’re really stumped? Just take him out for an ice-cold Miller Lite. That’s a no-fail gift any dad will dig.
Nandita Raghuram is a Senior Writer at Studio@Gawker. She tweets here.
Illustrations by Sean Monaghan