Archive analysis of Father’s Day cards by Clintons ahead of Sunday has shown how dads’ roles have shifted in the past 50 years.
Depictions of dads as aloof, pipe-smoking, newspaper-reading, besuited men “enthroned” by the fireplace have disappeared from all cards (with the exception of parody cards!) and have been replaced by casually-dressed, soft-in-the-middle, sofa-dwelling figures, often likened to Darth Vader.
Clintons looked at thousands of depictions of dads on Father’s Day cards since the Fifties and found:
• Dads appear to have put on 10-15 kilos
• Dads have dressed down
• Dads’ leisure time preferences have shifted from reading the paper in slippers to barbecuing or watching the football on the sofa with a drink
• Dads have a much stronger emotional connection with their kids are often the subject of affectionate jokes
Clintons’ analysis claims there has been five phases of Father’s Day cards in the last 50 years:
1. The formal phase (mid to late-Sixties): the slightly austere dad, sitting in an armchair in a three-piece suit and tie, smoking a pipe and reading the paper whilst family attend to his every need.
2. The undo-the-tie phase (late Sixties to early Seventies): characterised by cards that invite dads to abandon the razor and the tie for a day of “indulgence”.
3. The Walter Mitty phase (early Seventies to 1980): Dads as sporting icons or adventure sports enthusiasts, jumping from planes, piloting speed boats, driving racing cars or scoring the winning goal.
4. The cute bear phase (early to late Eighties): softer dads, more approachable and emotional.
5. The anything goes phase (late Eighties to today): today’s dads – ready to the subject of jokes, more likely to be comically inept, occasionally likened to Darth Vader, ribbed for their fondness for beer or fast food. More likely to lying on the sofa and catching forty winks than loosening their tie. Frequently the source of loans, a 1% chance of being Darth Vader, depicted, variously, as dogs, pineapples, gorillas, leopards, teddy bears, tortoises, lions, bears, elephants, crocodiles, donkeys, parrots and frogs; a 2% chance of being seen as a superhero; a 1% chance of displaying ‘builders’ cleavage’.
Tim Fairs, a director at Clintons, said: “Dads have always been treated affectionately in cards, but in the last decade we’ve seen reverence replaced with anything goes humour. Some traditionalists might bristle at this, but the reality is that the humour shows how accessible and important dads are to their kids and that’s a cause for celebration.”