Father’s Day is a time to show our love and appreciation to Dad. It’s also a time to find the perfect gift for the guy who is inevitably hardest to buy for. That hasn’t stopped any of us from trying, though: in recent years, consumers have spent over $15 billion annually on Father’s Day gifts! Over the decades, great fathers have remained tried and true, but our budgets and gifts have evolved quite a bit. Let’s take a look back at Father’s Day gift trends through the decades.
The first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, after Sonora Dodd of Spokane, WA, convinced the mayor that fathers such as hers ought to be recognized. A Civil War veteran and widow, Sonora’s father had raised her, along with her five siblings, on his own after losing his wife in childbirth. Although Sonora had petitioned to recognize the holiday on her father’s birthday, June 5, the mayor pushed the date back to allow more time to organize the festivities, namely, for pastors to have time to prepare their Father’s Day sermons. Father’s Day has been celebrated on the third Sunday in June ever since.
At that first Father’s Day celebration in 1910, young women handed out red roses to their fathers during their church service. Large baskets of roses were also passed around, and attendees were encouraged to pin on a rose in honor of their fathers. Red roses were pinned for the living, and white roses were pinned in remembrance of fathers who had passed.
President Calvin Coolidge declared his support for Father’s Day in 1924, to establish closer relationships between fathers and their children, and to impress upon them their obligations as fathers. He did not, however, go so far as to issue a national proclamation. Meanwhile, Dodd had stopped promoting Father’s Day during the 1920s, instead devoting herself to studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. Popularity waned a bit, but not for long. Traditional gifts for dads included pipe tobacco and socks.
In the 1930s, Father’s Day regained traction. Dodd returned to Spokane and to her promotion of the holiday. She began raising awareness on a national level with the help of interested trade groups. Manufacturers of goods like ties and tobacco pipes joined her efforts. Additionally, a group of men’s clothing retailers in New York City formed the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day. Popular gifts included tobacco, socks, neckties, and hats.
The ‘40s began to see a great surge of support for Father’s Day. With so many fathers going off to fight in WWII, many saw Father’s Day as a way to support the war effort and honor America’s troops. Sugar rationing during the war made treats like ginger ale a special gift. Tobacco, neckties, and electric shavers also made the list of great gifts for Dad.
Changing attitudes toward masculinity and fatherhood in the ‘50s brought even more emphasis on the importance of Father’s Day. “King for the Day” became the holiday’s mantra during this time, and gifts of choice included Father’s Day themed cartons of cigarettes or canisters of tobacco, pajamas, slippers, electric razors, grooming products (like after-shave), sporting goods (particularly golf clubs), and menswear (especially shirts and neckties).
These decades saw less change in the list of popular gifts, but saw major developments in the actual establishment of the holiday. President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers in 1966, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day (although he stopped short of taking official action). But in 1972, the Nixon administration finally signed the public law declaring Father’s Day a permanent national holiday.
Whiskey made its way onto the list of best Father’s Day gifts in the 1980s. There isn’t really much more to say about that except that we lived through the ‘80s, and this kind of makes sense.
Electronic gifts began making their Father’s Day mark during these decades. Consider the mid-’90s tech-savvy dad, overjoyed at receiving a “screen phone that can store a Rolodex of phone numbers!” Or the turn of the century gadget-dad, opening a 1st generation iPod! Along with the continued popularity of clothing, grooming products, and sporting goods, the ever-emerging tech toys offered endless gift options for the family patriarch.
There has been a large shift through this decade. According to a survey conducted in 2011, over 60% of consumers said they planned to purchase Dad a gift related to electronics, clothing, or sporting goods, while just 6% reported plans for an experience-driven gift. In more recent years, however -- in keeping with millennial spending habits -- buyers are choosing to spend more on experiences than on things. In 2017, Fortune.com reported that the amount consumers planned to spend on a special outing with Dad (like a round of golf, a concert, or brunch) moved it to the top of the Father’s Day gift list. Following close behind are:
Wherever you may lean on the list of gifts for Dad, be sure to choose a gift that reflects what he means to you—and what’s important to him. Honor his wild this father’s day. If you have a dad who appreciates adventure, quality craftsmanship, and time-honored traditions, be sure to check out our wide collection of fine goods and apparel for men.