What NOT to Buy Dad This Father’s Day (And What to Gift Instead)

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When you become a dad, there are several unintended consequences. A database of dad jokes appears in your hippocampus. You can never again rise from a seated position without groaning. And you become a conundrum to anyone who wants to put some money down on a gift for you.

That last trait can make finding Father’s Day gifts…complicated. Your loved ones want to honor your eye-rolling and groany presence, but they’re also fearful of getting you something that will only become fodder for yet another corny joke: “Oh great, another tie, just what I needed!”

Fear not. As both a son who has been attempting to solve the enigma that is his father for years and as a dad with five years of fatherhood and two children in tow, I know exactly what not to gift this year.

And, since I have also become a voluble dadsplainer (another unintended consequence of having a kid), I won’t stop there. I let you know not only what to avoid but also a suggestion or two of gifts you can opt for instead that might nab you some genuine appreciation.

What NOT to Buy for Father’s Day (And What to Gift Instead)

This list may be somewhat personal, but I’m operating under the assumption that most dads will appreciate things that enable rough-and-tumble adventure over those that lend themselves to prim-and-proper passivity. The following ideas have a pretty high likelihood of making the husband, dad, or paternal figure in your life indulge in a non-sarcastic smile.

(Photo: Courtesy Breeo)

Don’t Gift: A briefcase full of cheap grilling accessories. Yawn.

Do Gift: Owning a backyard is an incredible privilege…but the reality of it can quickly turn into a burden if you don’t choose the proper accouterments. Enter the smokeless fire pit. The X24 from Breeo anchors our outdoor space and allows me to play (responsibly) with fire and pretend I’m relatively responsibility-free like it’s 2008 again. (Only now I have three more roommates—two of whom are obsessed with s’mores.)

Golf shorts from Radmore that can also be worn while practicing yoga or lounging
(Photo: Courtesy Radmor)

Don’t Gift: A tour.

I love the Red Sox. I have loved the Red Sox since I was a boy. I have gone to Fenway Park many times. I do not love being asked to have forced fun somewhere I’ve been many times. Even if a paternal someone has not been somewhere, you may want to skip any sort of tour. No dad wants to be told what to pay attention to on a day when they finally don’t have to pay attention.

Do Gift: Often when one parent is able to enjoy themselves, that time is tinged with guilt knowing your whim comes at the expense of your spouse’s time. That is why the gift of time and permission to do you is true generosity of spirit. Tell him he’s welcome to watch nine innings uninterrupted or duck out during the seventh inning stretch to take a yoga class or actually pick up his glove and join a local team.

As an adjunct to this gift, go one step further and provide a gift of time “starter pack” with a few items to nudge him toward his own athletic adventure. These super soft Five-O Knit Performance short from golf brand Radmor not only look respectable but are stretchy enough for an impromptu Revolved Half Moon. (Or, for adventurous dads who roll at a different pace, a book on slow birding and a rugged monocular thoughtfully encourage a different sort of pastime.)

Kane Revive, a recovery shoe for dads
(Photo: Courtesy Kane)

Don’t Gift: Fancy footwear. Sigh. Father’s Day is not the time to enclose toes. Dads want feet that can breathe.

Do Gift: A sustainable shoe that can hide unsightly feet while still offering airflow and look super chill at a barbecue. That’s what we mean by dad fashion. Opt for a pair of Kane Revive recovery shoes for the parental figure in question. They maintain sporty vibes while taking a load off. Or, for anyone who struggles to tie or untie their shoes while their toddler melts down nearby, speed toggle laces can change their life. Enter the HOKA Transport rugged enough for light hikes as well as a heavy downpour of tears.


A blank gift card in a white envelope with a bow for Father's Day gift
(Photo: bluestocking | Getty)

Don’t Gift: A gift card to a mega-retailer. This is the equivalent of punting. Plus, they don’t exactly need your help the same way as small businesses.

Do Gift: A gift card to your local yoga studio, independent athletic store, book shop, coffee lounge, vintage record shop, or [fill in the blank]. Partner that with some guilt-free time to shop in person, which is becoming an anachronistic pleasure. Having a window of time in which I can simply browse without plying my kids with fruit snacks every two seconds is a blessing.

A duffel bag for camping in the color Chai by the brand Nemo
(Photo: Courtesy Nemo)

Don’t Gift: A tie. At worst, this reinforces dad’s need to conform to societal norms and be part of the machine rather than indulge his comfort. At best, a tie is indoor gear.

Do Gift: Outdoor gear! Maybe Father’s Day isn’t the ideal day for dad to rush off and utilize such equipment, but gifting it is a promise that an interruption to regularly scheduled domestic programming will happen.

It doesn’t need to be as luxurious as a comfy camping sleep system or a packraft (although how cool would that be!). A simple camping pillow or duffel bag suggests that someday soon an evening of staring at the stars will happen. Basically, you want to gift dad anything that implicitly says, one evening, not too long from now, you will not be trapped in the dinner-bath-bed gauntlet. Cue earnest appreciation.

This article has been updated. Originally published June 15, 2023.

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