POST WAR AUSTRALIA - FATHER'S DAY INVENTED
“give-Dad-a-Tie” campaign heralded Father’s Day in Australia in
1936. Honouring fathers on a Sunday in June had begun in the United
States in 1909, prompted by a woman whose widower dad had raised six
Although the idea had reached Australia in the 1920s, not until 1936 did the Retail Traders’ Association recommend the first Sunday in September as Father’s Day. At that time, gifts were likely to be hand-knitted and the special lunch a fricassee of sheep’s head. Rationing and war service set sales back until the late 1940s by when biros were available and Tripe a la crème recommended.
The celebration was left to individual businesses until July 1957 when they formed a Father’s Day Council. Sydney lagged with only forty metropolitan businesses joining, in contrast to fifty-nine in Perth.
The success in
Victoria came from a marketing firm’s linkage of Father’s Day with
Legacy, a ploy which brought £125,000 of free publicity in 1960, though
it raised only another £650 for War Orphans Day, the preceding Friday.
that over-commercialisation had killed Father’s Day in the US between
the wars led Australia’s marketeers to emphasise ‘spiritual
values’. Their slogan for 1961 was ‘Juvenile Integrity Starts in the
Home’ at a time when concern about teenagers sought to recreate father
as both pal and disciplinarian.
Fifties was also a decade of religious crusades with Roman Catholics
campaigning around the theme ‘The Family That Prays Together Stays
Together’, in which dad led his family in reciting the Rosary after
Father and Son Movement flourished with public lectures and pamphlets
that relieved dads of the embarrassments of educating their sons about
sex. The Marriage Guidance Council was active as authorities monitored
rates of divorce and desertion.
from 1958, the Father’s Day Council selected a Father of the Year,
starting with Sydney’s Labor Lord Mayor followed by the New South
Wales Premier, the Police Commissioner before finding an ideal in the
President of the Surf Life Saving Association.
Day gave an opportunity to promote commodities that altered perceptions
of maleness, as the menswear and advertising industries led the way to
the color and creativity that we call The Sixties. Television spread
this process. The 1957 print advertisement for Pelaco Shirt portrayed a
family watching a commercial for the same product.
markers of masculinity had changed as much as those of femininity during
the first half of the century. The whiskers that had been nearly
universal around 1900 appeared effeminate fifty years later because they
were different. The hat was in decline, and young men were accused of
‘titivating’ their hair. The wrist watch and cigarettes had replaced
the fob and the pipe. The difference between changes in the appearance
of men and women was that males were not supposed to be subject to
fashion or to have wants.
1950, advertisements showed father as practical and dependable, earning
the money for any presents he received. Ten years later, dad appeared
playful, his gift perhaps paid for by a working wife who appreciated
that he needed to be courted with shortie pyjamas and raspberry sponge
buttons. The Dairy Produce Board encouraged kids to ‘butter up’
dad. Yet his depiction had to stay formal enough to promote that tie, or
at least to revive the cravat. The 1960 advertisements seemed hedonistic
in comparison with the post-war sobriety. Shirts were recommended for
different reasons: non-shrink in 1950 but to brighten a ‘Dandy Dad’
sexiest ad in 1950 was for a recent product, the electric shaver: ‘I
know its going to make you even nicer to snuggle up to than ever – you
old wire whiskers, you’. During the 1950s, the percentage of men using
electrics rose from ten to forty. They were not cheap, costing about the
male basic wage, which is why trade-ins were accepted and hire purchase
available. They were marketed like jewellery in a ‘luxurious brown and
gold suede presentation case’, with national advertising on television
from 1957. Sales peaked around Fathers Day and manufacturers timed their
advertising to underpin this curve.
solution to what to give the old man was some item he would otherwise
buy for himself such as matching handkerchiefs, socks and ties. The
beach, a tropical holiday or even an ocean cruise allowed for more color
with Hawaiian shirts. Because wives selected 90 per cent of the clothing
worn by men, the marketeers aimed at women with wash-and-wear fabrics.
promoted Toby jugs with characters from Dickens. A man with signet ring,
tiepin, collar bar, cuff links, armbands, wrist watch and fob chain
would be conspicuous. Getting Anglo males to copy migrants and wear
wedding rings highlighted the difficulty that jewellers faced. Their
trade journal reported every year that the prejudice against male
jewellery was declining, which suggests that it was not. In 1956, one
retailer declared that he had ‘yet to find the real dinkum Aussie’
who would buy a wedding ring. Those traders who succeeded did so by
displaying the rings as a pair, though one acknowledged that his best
customers were Greeks. Firms attracted ‘modern he-men’ with signet
rings depicting sports, the Armed Forces, warrior heads and eagles.
was a boon to those choosing the present. Dad could be given a cigarette
case or smoker’s stand. Pen and pencil sets were popular, with
examples for every purse. A combination pen and lighter was among the
import controls in 1960 allowed for greater variety of gifts but the
consequent credit squeeze checked growth in discretionary expenditures
for a couple of years.
were the hardest sell. Left to their own devices, men washed with
laundry soap in the late Forties when Lifebouy offered itself as ‘an
aid to romance’, which it was in comparison with Solvol. After-shaves
were more for after work, to please the lady who more than likely had
given the man his Old Spice. Pre-and after shave lotions were made
astringent so that their sting excused smelling sweet. Underarm
deodorants were less suspect than splash colognes. Toiletries were
deliberately marketed through chemists to provide the veil of medical
deodorants were designated ‘grooming aids’ with ‘man-sized
protection’, with one branded 12 Gauge and packaged like a shot-gun
cartridge with the caption ‘for men of calibre’. Although in 1964
sales surged from Father’s Day through to Christmas, demand was still
limited in 1967 when Grace Brothers in Sydney refurbished its male
cosmetic department to look like a hotel, named Harry’s Bar, in honour
of he-man Ernest Hemingway.
US-linked firms imported father’s day cards which offered a ‘full virile range, from delightfully formal, to whimsical and humorous’. Images on cards were often gift ideas, with ties prominent. Hallmark’s advertising pictured dad as a knight in shining armour with a golf bag. John Sands had him in shirt sleeves but still wearing a tie when his pre-teen children were ready for bed. In 1960, newsagents underestimated demand, which continued to increase at 10-20 per cent each year. Cards that took ‘a quiet shot at Dad, were a big feature of the sales’ by 1962, as mums delighted ‘in reducing Dad’s ego a bit’.