Vintage Tailgating - Tailgate Party Ideas and Gear

  • 01 of 09

    Vintage Tailgate Party

    Vintage tailgating gear in a woodie wagon
    Vintage tailgating in a woodie wagon. "Summer Outing" by Damian Gadal / CC BY 2.0

    Before face paint and paper plates became commonplace, a tailgate party was a classier affair. Vintage tailgating frequently featured non-disposable dinner wear, elegant attire, and a beautiful tailgate buffet. Before you stock up on Solo cups, consider having a traditional tailgate picnic inspired by these ideas and vintage finds:

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  • 02 of 09

    Vintage Skotch Plaid Tailgate Gear

    Vintage Skotch plaid tailgating gear
    Vintage Skotch plaid tailgating gear. "1952 Buick Super Estate Wagon '5HwK136' 8" by Jack Snell - USA / CC BY-ND 2.0

    If you've ever visited a flea market or you're nearing middle age, you've probably seen scores of Skotch picnic products sporting their distinctive red plaid.

    During the 1950s and 60s, the Hamilton Metal Company made Skotch coolers (spelled koolers), tin picnic baskets, thermoses, and zippered totes for tailgate parties, camping, and picnics. They even made a tiny portable charcoal grill.

    You'll find lots of Skotch products on eBay and Etsy, but you will pay collectors' prices....MORE For better deals, keep your eyes open at flea markets, thrift stores, estate sales, and yard sales.

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  • 03 of 09

    Vintage Tailgate Picnic Baskets

    Vintage tailgate gear - antique picnic baskets with china and silver
    Gourmet picnic baskets with china and silver. "DSC_0133" by Deidre Woollard / CC BY 2.0

    Instead of stocking up on disposables, keep your eyes open for an antique picnic hamper -- especially if it comes complete with bone china, wicker-covered decanters, and sterling silverware.

    Alternatively, buy a vintage picnic basket and fill it with fine secondhand finds. Old silver-plated flatware looks elegant when you shine it up, but it sells for a song at flea markets and estate sales if you're not buying a matching set.

    If you want to keep the load light, skip the bone china in favor of...MORE vintage melamine or collectible Bandalasta plates and cups. They look lovelier than paper, but you won't break your back toting them to the car. 

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  • 04 of 09

    Vintage Coolers and Ice Chests

    Vintage tailgate gear - old coolers and ice chests
    Vintage tailgate gear - old coolers and ice chests. Photos clockwise from top right: 1. "cooler needed in NY these days" by nicolas.boullosa / CC BY 2.0 / cropped 2. "Cruisin' Grand" by Stephen Kruso / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped 3. "All American Picnic" by jjmusgrove / CC BY 2.0 / cropped, color enhanced 4. "56 Dodge Sierra" by DVS1mn / CC BY 2.0 / cropped

    Instead of toting a new ice chest to your tailgate party, chill your edibles in a vintage cooler or two. The metal versions have lots of vintage charm, but it doesn't get much more retro than this red Skotch plaid cooler. The 1956 Dodge Sierra is pretty nifty too.

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  • 05 of 09

    Vintage Thermos Collection

    A vintage thermos collection is perfect for a tailgate party.
    Vintage thermoses are musts for a tailgate party. "thermos love" by jennifer*clare / CC BY-SA 2.0 / brightened

    Thermoses come in handy for everything from cold cocktails to hot soups, which means you'll need more than one at your tailgate picnic. Instead of opting for new versions, start a collection of vintage thermoses. When you're not tailgating, they'll look charming displayed in your kitchen. 

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  • 06 of 09

    Vintage Tailgate Bar Finds

    Vintage tailgate bar gear
    Vintage tailgate bar gear. Photos clockwise from top left:  1. "Vodka Bottle Pour" by Didriks / CCommons BY 2.0 / cropped, brightened 2. "Corkscrew" by Svadilfari / CC BY-ND 2.0 3. By Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum [ CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons / cropped 4. untitled by abbilder / CC BY 2.0 / cropped 5. "IMG_1688" by mmadden / CC BY-SA 2.0 / cropped

    A good tailgate bar includes more than a tub full of tallboys and ice. Consider bringing a selection of spirits and/or a basket full of wines. And, don't forget to pack your favorite vintage cocktail tools. 

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  • 07 of 09

    Plaid Blankets

    Vintage tailgating gear - plaid wood blankets in your team's colors
    Plaid blankets in your team's colors. Patricia Granlund/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    Every tailgate party needs a thick stack of vintage flannel or wool blankets. Plaid is the traditional pattern of choice -- especially plaids in your team colors.

    Use yours as a tablecloth on your lowered tailgate or as a picnic cloth spread on the ground. And, if the temperature drops, you can wrap yourself up in a blanket to keep warm.

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  • 08 of 09

    Vintage Sports Pennants

    Old sports pennants are a must at a vintage tailgate party.
    Old pennants are a must at any vintage tailgate party. Vintage pennants from Found in Ithica / used with permission

    Since you're skipping the face and body paint at your vintage-inspired tailgate party, you'll need some way to show your support in the stadium. Instead of opting for a foam finger, wave a vintage pennant while you cheer for your team.

    But, before the game starts, use your vintage pennant collection as decorations for your tailgate buffet display.

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  • 09 of 09

    Tailgate Food and Menus

    Vintage tailgating photo by Arthur Rothstein from
    "Tailgate Gourmet" by Arthur Rothstein, originally published in "Look" magazine. / used with permission

    Don't get so caught up in the visual details of tailgating that you forget to plan the food. A tailgate party is primarily a picnic. Here are some menu ideas: