It’s Not Too Late to Get Dad a Father’s Day Gift

Here’s what to buy.

A record player.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Amazon.

Most years, Father’s Day marks a pleasant transition into summer. This June has obviously not brought the same easing of tension, given the current state of our country. That said, a Father’s Day gift can still be a way to bring Dad just a smidge of brightness in these difficult times, especially if it makes life a bit simpler or more pleasant. We’ve combed through our archives to put together a list of gifts for dads that will do just that, ranging from a mini–camping flashlight to a gourmet espresso machine. (Check out our companion gift guide to help Dad get through the pandemic.)

If Dad’s an avid (or fledgling) runner, why not put together a little trio of goodies for him? His sore limbs would certainly appreciate Elasto-Gel Hot and Cold Therapy Wraps. Elena Botella says, “The Velcro strap and the wrap’s supple nature make it a cinch to ice your sore limbs while casually watching Netflix. These wraps also don’t drip with condensation or stick to your skin—a million times better than a normal ice pack.”

Don’t let Dad escape you entirely when he goes out for a run—gift him some gear that allows him to easily bring his phone. “Ultramarathoner and Slate senior managing editor Meg Wiegand swears by the FlipBelt,” a small, compact pouch to hold essential items.

Special socks are not a running necessity, but “thick, squishy socks sure are nice,” says Shannon Palus. Balegas are great.

Slatesters love their coffee. If Dad’s a fan of gadgets and gourmet coffee drinks, both Laura Lai and Faith Smith own—and love—the Breville Barista Express. Lai calls it “the perfect midtier machine. Even with no barista experience, I’ve been able to pull consistent, tasty shots.” Smith and her husband spent a year researching their options before pulling the trigger on the Breville Barista Express. Smith acknowledges that this expensive machine “is certainly a luxury for most of us, [but] I assure you, it is worth it! We’ve had the Breville for four years, and we make at least two espressos each day. After nearly 3,000 perfect drinks, it is still humming like new.”

If Dad prefers a simpler cup of coffee, but he’s missing his morning trip to the local coffee shop, he might enjoy brewing a better cup at home by grinding his own beans. While burr grinders go for around $200, the Hario coffee mill retails for less than $50. Greg Lavallee sings its praises: “It has the same ability as an electric device to adjust the thickness of your grind and is easy to wash and clean. …Your arm might get tired and you might look ridiculous if you use it for coffee for more than four people. Did I mention it’s less than $50, though?”

Two tools can help Dad up his bread game if, like many, he’s taken to bread-baking throughout this pandemic. In Slate’s recent baking equipment roundup, Serious Eats columnist Stella Parks recommends a digital thermometer. Parks says a digital thermometer can be a “game-changer”: “Newbies can have a tough time judging whether or not a loaf has fully cooked, as most physical cues are a little subjective, like listening for a hollow thump. But with a digital thermometer, you can easily test the heart of the loaf to be sure it’s fully cooked (most breads will be done once they’ve hit an internal temp around 205 F). Those who struggle with loaves that always turn out dense and damp in the middle can eliminate that problem once and for all.”

On a similar note, a baking stone can also really elevate your loaf. Edan Leshnick, pastry and viennoiserie manager at New York City–based Breads Bakery, tells Slate writer Violet Kim that a baking stone will help you to “get a really nice crust and oven spring.”

For the Dad who’s escaping with music right now, consider one of these gifts. Jamilah Lemieux recommends a waterproof Bluetooth speaker for the shower, which “will allow you to enhance the quality of your sacred solo time with some of your favorite tunes. It also has decent enough sound to use in the kitchen, or to bring with you when traveling.”

And Nitish Pahwa says, “For the intrepid music lover in your life, there are few better gift options than a state-of-the-art record player. While it’s tempting to go for cheap models like Crosleys, which are small, compact, and easy to use, these players’ flimsy needles damage records over time, have a tinny sound quality thanks to the built-in speakers, and break easily. Whether you’re a casual listener or a hardcore collector of fine German-pressed imports, it’s far better to splurge on a pricier but higher-quality model. My recommendation? The Audio-Technica ATLP120USB—a sleek, sturdy turntable that treats records delicately, brings out a full sound from vinyl recordings, and lasts for years.”

If it’s just quiet he seeks, these noise-canceling headphones might help. As Katie Holbrook says, “One of the hardest parts of this quarantine is that we are never, ever alone. Put these on your head and pretend like you are! Listen to your favorite music or podcast in peace. If pricey headphones aren’t in the budget, this set is more affordable and highly rated.”

If Dad’s a reader, consider one of Slate’s “50 Best Nonfiction Books of the Past 25 Years.” If he’s into narrative nonfiction, and he likes adventure, try The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann, which Laura Miller and Dan Kois call “A signal work … that both celebrates and satirizes the time-honored tale of the adventurer attacking the wilderness,” or Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, in which Krakauer “explores our modern relationship to the wilderness and the deep desire many young people feel to seek out unthinkable danger.”

History buffs might particularly enjoy the “propulsive, idiosyncratic style” of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang, or The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, which Kois and Miller call “at once intimate and sweeping.”

Pair any of these books with “this superlatively tiny flashlight,” says Shannon Palus, who notes that it “has come in handy so many times since my dad gifted me one last Christmas.”

A pen could go nicely, too: Connoisseur of notebooks, paper, and writing implements, Slate’s June Thomas extols the Platinum Preppy, which she calls “one of the world’s greatest bargains. Made by one of Japan’s big-three pen companies, it is a spectacular writer.”

If Dad’s only refuge these days is some solitude in the shower, why not do what you can to make that even nicer for him? Dan Kois recommends the Delta 2-Spray Showerhead, which, he says, “delivers the high-pressure experience while using less water,” and has made his showers “a total dream.”

Finally, if Dad is blessed with a wild mane of hair, Benjamin Frisch recommends Black and White Genuine Pluko Hair Dressing Pomade to tame his “extremely thick, curly, difficult-to-wrangle hair. … [I]t has the right amount of hold and shine and, as my barber says, ‘smells the best.’ ”

Update, June 11, 2020: A pair of Bluetooth headphones originally recommended in this article has been removed.