10 things dads really want for Father's Day - and 10 things to avoid at all costs

Michael Hogan
A pub lunch should be well received – but don’t even think about buying novelty socks, warns Michael Hogan - www.alamy.com

Grrr, those pesky dads. We might love them, but they’re notoriously difficult to buy for. Ask them for gift ideas and they’ll invariably say, “Just a bit of peace and quiet”, or “There’s nothing I need, don’t waste your money”. Then he’ll duck back behind his newspaper or disappear into the shed. Infuriating, really.

Now Father’s Day is upon us and your old man is doubtless being as helpful as ever. Which is why most Father’s Day gifts are bought at the very last minute (in other words, today). So here are our suggestions for the things he wants – and the things he almost definitely doesn’t…

DO get the kids to make him something

From their ham-fisted “crafting” attempts in toddlerhood to amusing DIY cards or more impressive artworks when they’re older, anything made by his offspring will have him swelling with pride and finding something in his eye.

Making a card: A good Father’s Day idea Credit: Donald Iain Smith/ Moment RF

DON’T get him an ‘experience’ gift

You know the type of thing: a balloon ride, beekeeping class, ale-tasting session or falconry lesson. It’ll whiff of a Groupon panic-buy, he won’t want to go and it’ll hang over his head, haunting him. He’ll feel guilty and will probably let it quietly expire.

DO get posh booze

What kind of father wouldn’t like a swishly packaged, lovingly selected tipple on his special day? A case of fine wine, a bottle of single malt whisky or artisanal gin, even a mini-cask of his favourite ale… Cheers, Dad. Hic.

DON’T resort to novelty socks or ties

They might elicit a forced, hollow laugh upon unwrapping, but they’ll swiftly be shoved to the back of a drawer until unearthed by baffled archaeologists centuries from now.

DO give him a lie-in

Let sleeping Dads lie Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez /The Image Bank

More of a Mothering Sunday tradition, but an extra hour or three in bed can be a rare delight for dads, too. So switch off his alarm, then have a slap-up breakfast and his favourite newspaper (this one) waiting when he does emerge. Don’t do breakfast-in-bed – it gets crumbs everywhere. Instead, ensure a bacon sandwich or full English is wafting delicious aromas through the house, driving any nearby vegetarians/ dogs insane.

DON’T even think about paired T-shirts

It’s the latest cloyingly cutesy trend: fathers and their children wearing matchy-matchy tops with logos like “Full pint”/“Half pint”, “Big man”/“Little man” or “Superhero”/“Sidekick”. You’re basically trying to make a middle-aged man look endearing. Even the models in the ads look embarrassed.

DO consider grooming gifts

Don’t try to metrosexualise him if he’s resistant, but grooming treats are usually appreciated and precisely the kind of thing he’ll rarely buy for himself. It’s hard to go wrong with fragrances by Tom Ford, Acqua di Parma or Hermès. Telegraph-approved skincare brands include Kiehl’s, Cowshed, Clinique and Clarins. He’ll be at his handsome best in no time.

DON’T buy him spa treatments

Vouchers for some sort of “pampering” (ghastly word) might seem like the logical extension of a grooming gift, but beware. He’ll be deeply self-conscious. He’ll feel exposed in his towelling robe, like a spy about to be assassinated. He’ll secretly resent it. Especially if he has to wear those weird slippers or (even worse) paper pants.

No to spa treatments Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

DO give him a ring

Not the jewellery type (that would be weird). The phone call type, if you can’t see him in person. He’ll probably harrumph about “making a fuss” and say “I’ll get your mum” within two minutes, but he’ll love it really.

DON’T dismiss things as ‘too obvious’

If he’s dropped unsubtle hints about wanting something boringly practical – say, a power drill, garden shears or plain leather wallet – swallow your pride and buy it. Many a disappointed dad face has resulted from people mistakenly believing something is “too obvious” and trying to surprise him instead.

DO tap into his hobbies

Men tend to be obsessive hobbyists, so indulge his latest fixation – whether it’s angling or archery, meat-smoking or military history. For runners, how about wireless earbuds or a foam roller? If he’s a cycling-mad “Mamil” (middle-aged-man-in-Lycra), try a backpack, cageless water bottle, multi-tool or hi-spec set of lights. Your mother might roll her eyes, but his will light up.

Get your MAMIL some cycling swag this year Credit:  GrapeImages

DON’T go gizmo, go retro

Unless he’s a dedicated tech fiend, gadgetry can leave your average father befuddled and feeling like a loom-smashing Luddite. Instead, opt for nostalgia with a vinyl turntable, vintage books or a retro-styled DAB radio. Boys’ toys like Scalextric or Subbuteo might also give him a Proustian rush – just as long as you let him win.

DO go for a pub lunch

You can keep your Michelin stars and tiny portions. A hearty Sunday roast, washed down with a pint or two (let Mum drive), will ensure paternal contentment – especially if he doesn’t have to pick up the bill for once. Make a reservation, though. If there’s one thing dads find disappointing, it’s poor organisation. And queues. And hunger. OK, three things.

Paternal contentment: A pint and some grub  Credit: Sally Anscombe/Getty Images

DON’T touch anything with the word ‘Dadmin’ on it

A whole merchandising industry appears to have sprung up around the word “Dadmin”, which doesn’t even work as a pun. Teeth-gnashingly naff. Avoid.

DO get him two tickets

A sporting event for you and him. Maybe a theatre show for Mum and him. The harder to obtain, the better. But not Hamilton, let’s not ask the impossible.

DON’T buy him flowers

You might think it’s dead modern, but he’ll snort with derision – and not just for hayfeverish reasons. He’ll also suspect they’re really for Mum, not him.

Flowers for Dad, or really just for Mum? Credit: Getty Images

DO go foodie

Whether he fancies himself as a home chef or just enjoys eating, the way to his heart is through his stomach. Meat hampers, coffee subscriptions, jars of posh pickles or pork scratchings… anything that makes him lick his lips, rather than sheepishly mumble, “That’s lovely, darling”. For something less comestible, you can’t beat Le Creuset cookware.

DON’T fall into the ‘world’s greatest dad’ trap

He might well be the planet’s premier pater, but a cheap mug or tacky T-shirt saying as much will merely turn him into the world’s most irritable one.

DO a photo montage or frame his favourite things

Frame something for him to stick on his study wall and gaze at adoringly. A montage of family photos, his favourite book cover or album sleeve, an old sports kit or military uniform, a cartoon or map that he likes. It might be too late for this year but bear it in mind for next time. 

DON’T get driving gloves

He’s not Alan Partridge or Jeremy Clarkson. Although if he actually is, perforated leather ones are best. Aha!