A look at the over-the-top holiday gift guides published by Sports Illustrated in the 50's and 60's.
Nearly every year since 1954, Sports Illustrated has published some sports-related holiday gift ideas. This year, for example, you can find our gift suggestions for NBA fans (sneakers, warm-up jackets), outdoorsy/fit types (yoga mats, water bottles) and general sports fans (hockey puck bottle openers, helmet-shaped speakers). These are all reasonable gift ideas that the recipients will probably love.
Back in the early days of SI, though, our gift guides were a completely different beast. They were themed, elaborately staged and, occasionally, completely bizarre. Below, check out some of our most over-the-top holiday gift guides.
1956: Stuffed animal safari for a tiny hunter
In 1956, SI ran this epic spread featuring an increasingly popular children's gift – stuffed animals. And yes, the theme of young boys hunting endangered species and then crafting sleeping bags from the animals' skin would be considered rather inappropriate in today's society. (If you're wondering, PETA was established in 1980.)
Fancy people doing fun things
The 1957 guide to both "Christmas hosting and Christmas giving" featured some holiday fashion tips (smoking jackets are OUT; bright blazers are IN) along with some suggested holiday games and activities, such as portable bowling lanes and a home soda fountain.
Gifts for terrible people
In 1960, each page displayed gift ideas for a different type of sportsman. Unfortunately, none of the personality types were all that likeable. Above, see gifts for an "Intellectual" (err, an elitist?): Antique brass mapmaking plotter ($85); an 18th-century miniature suit of German armor ($450); a smoking jacket of Belgian brocaded tapestry ($70) to go with an ascot-collared shirt ($20) and brown velvet pants ($25).
Below, gifts for the "Status Seeker" include: a mounted male African lion's head ($70); 24-inch Louis Vuitton suitcase ($205 plus tax); 18th-century carved ivory Burmese chessmen ($750 for the set); an imported Italian boccie ball and jack ($44). You really need to click here to see the rest of this spread.
Things that are 'Too Much'
That's right; the theme in 1962 was one of "unthrifty glee," inspired by Leigh Hunt's poem about Christmas being the "glorious time of great Too-Much." In other words, here's a bunch of things nobody would ever need. Highlights include: a white fur monkey ($25); a gnome named Micki ($23, Saks); a beer-can launcher for marksmen ($24.25, Abercrombie & Fitch); a Burmese wooden horse puppet ($6.85, Gump's); and a leather donkey that is secretly a footstool ($95, Abercrombie & Fitch). Click here for a closer look at all of the weirdness pictured above.
Cutting-edge new products
SI's "Sporting Look at Christmas" from 1955 offered three full pages of brand-new products, including (pictured above): a 5-by-3 jaguar rug ($300, from Macy's); a horse-collar mirror ($45, H. Kauffman & Sons); and "Glamourbells" – aka dumbells for women ($8.95).