The ultimate Father’s Day gift guide—we tried and tested every item
It’s very possible I take this Father’s Day gift guide too seriously.
When I flip through similar articles published elsewhere, I’m often startled by how superficial they feel compared to gushy Mother’s Day guides. Did this other writer even spend three-hundred-and-sixty-four days a year on the hunt for the perfect objects for their annual Father’s Day gift guide? No? Well, some of us take fatherhood seriously.
Everything on here I’ve owned or tested, with one exception, noted below. It’s personal and geared toward my own interests, yes—but it’s also based on the closest thing this wacky postmodern world has to universal truth.
Think of this as not only a gift guide but an exploration of American fatherhood in the year 2021. The rituals, the responsibilities, our society’s evolving definition of masculinity—it’s all here, along with several ideas for what to one-click order for your dad.
Ugg Olsen Slippers
I don’t remember when or why I started wearing slippers, let alone when I got picky about them, but at this point in my life, I have a collection of very fine slippers. I also believe them to be an ideal Father’s Day gift because they’re the exact type of luxury item a man is going to derive enjoyment from every single day, but will balk at dropping a C-note on.
Eagle-eyed readers may recall that in this space last year I recommended a set of bison leather L.L. Bean moccasins. I have those, and they are indeed very nice. But it’s hard to beat these slips from Australia-born Ugg—a little more plush, but also a little sturdier. You really can’t beat the fluffy wool liners, which keep your feet both warm and cool. The sole is thin enough for comfort around the house but thick enough to sustain a direct shot from a Lego block. And, of course, they’re not lacking for looks. These are the slippers Tom Brady wears. If your dad says he doesn’t want the slippers Tom Brady wears then he’s a liar, a fool or both.
Third Eye Headlamp
For most dads, there’s no such thing as “too many flashlights.” Every glove box, junk drawer, bedside table and deep closet needs one. And of course you need a handful of spares in the basement in case there’s a blackout.
How many flashlights do I personally own? Twenty? Thirty? I’ve never counted.
This stylish headlamp by California artist Sean Anderson is my new FL1. At 168 lumens, it’s not going to blind anyone (you really want a laser for that—I’ve got lasers, too) but with six power settings and a retina-saving red light mode, it’s everything you need for most projects, and ideal for camping. Moreover, it’s light, sealed with an o-ring to make it waterproof and also very stylish. This is the headlamp you want dad wearing when you toss him on the Insta story during the annual family lake trip.
Yeti Colster Can Cooler
There was a time in my life where I found all manner of koozie and can coolers to be ridiculous. Maybe I’ve grown less rugged, or maybe today’s modern slimline aluminum cans pass their chill faster, but I’m a convert. I’d no sooner drink a naked can of Bud Light Lime than I would eat a prime porterhouse with a plastic spoon.
And so literally every hard seltzer or Twisted Mango Diet Coke that touches my lips comes from this golden chalice. Yeti is synonymous with premium chilling products and these can coolers are a worthy addition to their line. Sturdy, effective and easy on the eyes—Colster is it. If your father happens to be a hazebro, they also have a size for today’s trendy tall boys.
Milam & Greene Triple Cask Straight Bourbon
I know people who buy their dad the same bottle of booze every year. I don’t care how expensive and highly allocated that bottle is, to my mind this is boring. The pickier your pa about his hooch, the more fun it is to confront him with something new and interesting.
This is a weird one—and a fun one to discuss.
Milam & Greene is based in Blanco, in the heart of Texas Hill Country. The bourbons down there get oaky in a hurry because of the high heat and humidity. To balance that tendency, they’ve blended spicy three-year-old Texas bourbon with four and eleven-year-old Tennessee whiskeys to create a whiskey that has a lot going on—spice, fruit and vanilla all hit along with the oak. It’s cask-strength ninety-four proof, and like mine with one cube of ice.
Is your dad one of those guys who still talks about his seventies stereo, lamenting its sale? After hot rods, but before video games, hi-fi systems were the measure of refinement in youth and young manhood. And if your dad was at any point immersed in this world, he knows what these Stax headphones are, and he covets them.
Stax headphones—the company calls them “earspeakers”—are electrostatic, which means they rely on totally different technology than other headphones, using a very thin diaphragm to conduct an electric charge that reproduces sound. I could go on for a few thousand words here about electrostatic headphones, but you really need to hear them. Put on a high-quality mastering of Who’s Next?—in the opening of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” you’ll hear Roger Daltry clear his throat and Keith Moon squeak his drum stool. I recently introduced a friend to my own Stax headphones. His mouth hung open for an hour as he picked up things he’d never heard before on albums he’d heard a hundred times.
When it comes to Stax shopping, the SRS-3100 have a few advantages that make them a perfect go-big dad’s day gift. First, they’re actually on the cheaper end of the Stax spectrum (if you have to ask, don’t) and second, the classic rectangular housing (the top-of-the-line Stax are now round) are retro cool and instantly iconic to younger Boomers and older Xers.
I have several pairs of Stax headphones that are a half-century old, but before recommending these I asked the company to loan me a pair of these, which they kindly shipped from Japan. They really are magic—there is nothing like them. Warm them up, put on your dad’s favorite album, and look away when he cries a little.
Qi Wireless Charging Mat
If your dad is like me, his cell phone has seen better days and should be replaced but won’t be anytime soon. It’s been about two years since my charging port stopped working reliably, and so I’ve been wireless since. This is really only an issue when I need to charge in the car—which has been a very large and intractable problem. I’ve gone through numerous failed solutions (battery case, Uber driver rig) before finding this non-slip pad, which charges a phone reliably while you drive and won’t melt your battery.
Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails
I’m a big fan of Tiki drinks, and I have a few books on the subject. The best of those books is Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, but that book is not so giftable because it’s expensive, hard to find and looks like it was published by Kinkos—which, for all I know, it may have been. Instead, give dad this new book by Shannon Mustipher—it’s also a great resource for understanding Tiki culture and rum selection, and it’s gorgeous to boot.
Sun Mountain Robot Caddy
The only item on this list that I have not personally vetted, this robot caddy comes highly recommended by our CFO, Bill Rafael (also a dad) who says it’s changed his golf outings for the better. Basically, this robot caddy carries your bag behind you across the course, freeing you both a hefty bag and financial obligation. You get the benefits of a nice walk, but the convenience of a cart hauling your bag.