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Little League, swimming lessons, that first bike. Dad has been there every step of the way to make sure you were taken care of.

Of course, you can never repay him for what he has done. But you can thank him on Father's Day with an appropriate gift.For years, ties have been the traditional gift. But selection is no longer easy - since fashion trends have prompted stores to fill their racks with colorful floral and conversational ties.

Before you buy one of these ties, you'd better ask Mom if he'll wear one. A number of "courageous" men are wearing them, but there are still those who haven't been brave enough.

One way to make the transition easier on father is to take one of his suit coats along when choosing a tie. And if you don't have an eye for combining colors and textures, ask a clerk to help you. A beautiful floral tie combined with the wrong color shirt and/or suit coat can prove a visual disaster.

If you haven't bought a tie lately, you're in for a shock. They're expensive. Many of them cost over $30. So it pays to shop around and take advantage of sales. All eight of the floral and conversa

tional ties hanging on my tie rack were purchased on sale at Weinstocks, Mervyn's, Burlington Coat Factory and Ross stores.

Since many ties are expensive, it might be a good time to look at alternative gifts, like suspenders, shirts, summer pajamas or cologne.

The irony of it all is that often a dress shirt costs only half as much as a tie. But, remember, when buying a shirt, it's wise to get on the "brandwagon." Stick to tried, true brands - Van Heusen, Arrow, Cezani and Geoffrey Beene, etc.

Stripes are in. However, be careful when combining them with floral ties. They can easily clash. Look sharp, but don't overdo it. Remember, there should be only one center of interest. If it's the tie, everything else should be subordinate to it.

Be sure to check the fabric content. More and more all-cotton or all-rayon fabrics are surfacing today. They might look great inside the plastic covers, but when they come out of the washer, whoever's ironing will balk upon seeing all those wrinkles.

Suspenders (bracers) are sporting a new look, too. Coordinated ties and handkerchiefs used to be popular. Now it's ties and suspenders. The problem is, the only time Dad can wear those suspenders is when he's also wearing the matching tie. Much more versatile are solid-colored or striped suspenders.

Men's cologne is a popular gift with many fathers. The more expensive colognes cost around $27 for a 1.7-ounce bottle. And that's less than many ties.

A ZCMI clerk named five fragrances that seem to be the most popular - Calvin Klein's Eternity and Obsession, Karl Lagerfeld's Photo, Christian Dior's Fahrenheit and Ralph Lauren's Polo. She also recommended a popular new fragrance - Fred Hayman's 273.

When spending money for expensive cologne, it's important to buy a fragrance with a scent that will last. I experimented with the ones listed above and found that Eternity, Fahrenheit and 273 seemed to last the longest.

Other fragrances you might want to test are Gucci Nobile, Crabtree & Evelyn's Sienna, Aramis' Crackling Cologne and Chanel's Pour Monsieur.

And there are others that recently hit the market: Baryshnikov's Pour Homme, Max Factor's California for Men, Nina Ricci's Ricci-Club, VanCleef & Arpels' Tsar, and Antonio Puig's Quorum.

Of course, eau de toilette (cologne) is not the only product carrying the above signatures. Included in many of their lines are after-shave lotion, foam shave, bracing body splash, deodorant, anti-perspirant spray, body shampoo, moisturizing body care, muscle soothing soak, absorbent talc, etc.,

There are many Father's Day gifts out there from which to choose. If Dad is ecstatic when he opens your gift, you've made a great choice. If a look of disappointment or apprehension crosses his face, start digging for that sales receipt. And better luck next Father's Day!