As Christmas approaches, the ghost of my father, William F. Heavey Jr. (1920–2007) appears and bids me keep a firm hold on my wallet. The naturally thrifty gene of the Irish, intensified by the Great Depression, runs deep in my people. Granddad once found a silver ice bucket in the incinerator room of his apartment building.
Here, then, are some of the bargains I would get myself for Christmas if I were feeling flush, along with nicer options if someone else were footing the bill.
Hat. A synthetic beanie lined with 40 grams of Thinsulate has the best unit-of-warmth-per-penny ratio going. No, it’s not wool. That’s now a luxury fabric. The wind cuts right through these hats. They’re thick, lumpy, and won’t hold their shape for more than a couple of years. But for ten bucks, it’s warm and a winner. Wear it beneath a windproof hood. Heck, wrap your head in Saran wrap if you need to. This one is $10 on Amazon with free shipping if you have Prime and comes in 34 colors, including blaze orange. It has garnered 4.4 stars from 524 reviewers.
If you want a near-identical hat but have to pay the shipping, consider this likely marginally inferior but still okay option for $5.99 plus $3.99 shipping—so it’s still ten bucks. (Note: This one has a “cuffed skull,” which is something you might want to think twice about. My skull is already quite well cuffed, thank you.)
IF SOMEBODY ELSE IS BUYING: The $98 Cashmere Watch Cap from Orvis is “a distinctive answer to cold weather.”
Okay, socks. Gotta have ’em, and they’re always wearing out. I’ve found no better deal than Redhead Men’s Lifetime Guarantee All-Purpose Wool Socks. For $11.99, you get a pair of winter-worthy socks that should last you a lifetime because when they wear out you just send them back for a new pair. I like the blend, too, 81 percent wool, 17 percent stretch nylon, 2 percent spandex. Wool wears out pretty fast. Add some synthetic fiber, and it goes a long way.
IF SOMEBODY ELSE IS BUYING: Pantherella Cashmere Wool Socks for $125. These are actually chi-chi dress socks. And apparently hand-finished by someone sitting in a cottage in the U.K. But I bet if you wore two pairs, they’d be warm enough. And aren’t your feet worth it?
Shoes. If you find a piece of gear that you like—particularly that goes directly onto your body—buy two or three before it’s discontinued or “improved.” Irish Setter used to make my go-to shoes, the Country Oxford. You could track deer in them and go to a nice restaurant immediately afterwards. No more. I’ve looked for a replacement and can’t find anything I like for less than $400, which is nuts. I haven’t tried these shoes, but they might be worth a look. They’re RedHead Men’s X4 Adventure II Walking Shoes. Which is a fussy name but how the world works now. X4 refers to a type of advanced cushioning. Which is better than regressive cushioning. And I have no idea what Adventure II means. There were no “Adventure” or “Adventure I” shoes that I could find. No matter. These don’t look as rugged as Country Walkers, but they’d probably be okay for light use. If you find a sturdy Oxford with a Goodyear welt and a thick sole, let me know.
IF SOMEBODY ELSE IS BUYING: I know exactly what I want. Bruno Cucinelli Fleece-Lined Burnished-Leather Boots. They’re all-leather, with rubber lug soles, padded collars, and fleece lining. They might be a tad warm in summer, but Gore-Tex-lined shoes are too. Because these are made in Italy, they come with their own dust bag but the website lacks specs about how much the suckers weigh. But they look sturdy and would pass muster for a cocktail party. At $2,195, they’re not cheap. But I am, so I doubt I’ll ever see a pair on my personal feet.