In today’s Sugar Bowl, sugar can come in many forms: It can be an allowance. It can be an extravagant gift. It can be a surprise weeklong vacation at a five-star resort in the Maldives. Sugar also goes beyond material possessions—companionship, mentoring, access and influence are also ways Sugar Daddies woo their Sugar Babies.
And speaking of Sugar Daddies? They, too, also come in many forms. The Sugar Daddy community spans a wide range of ages, industries, levels of education, physical fitness and more. While mainstream media and Hollywood have painted a particular picture of the typical Sugar Daddy—we’ll leave that to your informed imagination—you might not know that even your next door neighbor is dipping into the Sugar Bowl.
The variance of types of both sugar and daddies is vast, as the term “Sugar Daddy” has become quite an all-inclusive expression. But where exactly did the title come from? Why aren’t Sugar Daddies called Benefactor Boyfriends? Should we have labeled Sugar Babies as Lavished Ladies instead?
If curiosity is getting the best of you, read on for a brief history of the term’s entertaining origins.
When we’re talking word origins, Merriam-Webster is the all-knowing source—so of course we went to the OG dictionary for its definition. M-W defines a “sugar daddy” as either 1) “a well-to-do, usually older man who supports or spends lavishly on a mistress, girlfriend, or boyfriend” or 2) “a generous benefactor of a cause or undertaking.” The dictionary also suggests its first usage dates back to 1926—but other resources hold it was being used much earlier. More on that later!
But why Sugar Daddy? Sugar Babies—back then and now—weren’t being lavished with lollipops and candy bars, so why not use another word? According to a University of Pittsburgh slang dictionary, “sugar” was a commonplace replacement for “money” dating back as early as 1862—often referring to cash spent on pleasures, easily obtained money or an abundance of capital.
While the term “Sugar Baby” came about in the twentieth century, smart and sophisticated ladies have been pulling in the sugar for centuries. While there are exceptions, it’s often the case that men are attracted to younger women (we’ll let you Google the offspring-related explanation for that) and women are attracted to older men.
From monarch’s mistresses in Shakespeare’s time (we’re looking at you, Henry VIII) to kept women at the turn of the century, a give-and-take approach to nontraditional relationships isn’t exactly a new idea. However, the give-and-take approach to Sugar Relationships in today’s society is much different—intimacy is absolutely not a requirement and women make their own rules to meet their own needs from the partnership.
While Merriam-Webster informs 1926 was the first time “Sugar Daddy” was used, some research contends the term was common far before that time.
As reported by the Loveland Reporter-Herald, it was in 1908 when the first Sugar Baby was named. That’s when San Francisco sugar tycoon Adolph Spreckels married Alma de Bretteville, a socialite and philanthropist in the city by the bay. Often called “Big Alma” or “The Great Grandmother of San Francisco,” Alma stood six feet tall—and was 24 years younger than her wealthy, successful groom.
Lore suggests that Alma often referred to her beau as her “Sugar Daddy.” And while the sugar business was Spreckels’ bread and butter, he also was involved in transportation and the development of the now-iconic Golden Gate Park. Seems Mr. Spreckels had quite the amount of sugar to give his young bride!
The term apparently caught on, as a certain well-known candy by the name was developed in the 1920s. Chocolate salesman Robert Welch first began selling a candy bar on a stick by the name of “Papa Sucker” in 1925. No confirmation on this, but that name is terrible so it’s no surprise he changed the name to “Sugar Daddy” in 1932.
Possibly further capitalizing on the slang of the time, the same candy company launched Sugar Babies—bite-sized versions of the Sugar Daddy—in 1935. And of course we don’t need to even say it, but they both are staples in the candy aisle come each and every Halloween.
After “Sugar Daddy” became a staple of social slang, it started to appear in all sorts of mainstream media. One unmistakable early reference was the 1927 movie Sugar Daddies, a silent short film starring comedy duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
A few decades later and “Sugar Daddy” was showing up in song titles from some of the day’s most recognizable and popular artists. The first musical act to sing about the Sugar phenomenon was Fleetwood Mac, as the song “Sugar Daddy” is on side two of their eponymous tenth studio album. Other artists who have used the expression in their music are The Jackson 5, The Thompson Twins, Nina Sky and The Bellamy Brothers.
While Merriam-Webster lists a pretty narrow-minded definition of the term—and a number of the aforementioned uses support that kind of thinking—”sugar daddy” is what each and every gentleman (and the beautiful Sugar Baby on their arm) makes it. There are all kinds of sugar and all kinds of daddies—all that matters is that life is sweet for those in the Sugar Bowl, right?
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