There are numerous things in a gentleman’s life that can and should be improvised wherever possible. With no undue concern, corners can be cut and substitutions can be made for a whole host of leisurely items:: any honest vintner will admit there are many $10 bottles of Pinot Noir that are just as palatable as those that sell for $200; one’s MG Midget will run very nearly as sporting on a tank of standard octane gasoline as high, and I dare say that a Harris Tweed sport jacket, purchased off the rack of a thrift shop for $11, carries a great deal more moral value than one that is purchased new for $600.
On the other hand there are those things for which no corner should be cut—those things for which a gentleman should feel confident in knowing that a considerable investment is called for. Among these items are those that offer comfort to a gentleman — when made of sufficient quality, or offer misery — when inferior. I rank sleeping bags, gloves, socks and footwear most important in this category.
Colin Fletcher, the undisputed authority on camping, once remarked that the right sleeping bag is the most expensive one a person can afford. My brother, once a Zamboni driver and ice skating enthusiast, kept his hands warm by purchasing mittens that were the value of most people’s entire outfits. My father curates what may be the world’s finest sock collection, comprised of wools and poly-blends that are archived and preserved not less carefully than the Dead Sea Scrolls. He cleverly safety-pins each pair together lest one becomes separated in the laundry from its sole-mate to find itself lost and wandering somewhere in the hose-zone.
These gentleman are not fanatics, I should say. They have understood that to venture far afield and spend any length of time there, one must be comfortable in doing so. In other words, comfort must be sustainable.
Outdoor footwear is a special item for which a gentleman should not economize. After all, it is your boots that will receive the most constant use and will sustain the most severe wear-and-tear. Furthermore, a poorly made pair of boots, either on the trail or in the stirrup, can cause constant and lasting pain.
If a gentleman is to invest in a capitol pair or boots, he should also be prepared to invest the time and effort into their upkeep. So often I have seen ruffed and scuffed footwear that showed the craftsmanship of an artisan but the care of a brute. How many times have I seen a battered and bedraggled pair of two-tone spectators at a local, retro sock-hop?
I suspect that the abuse of fine footwear is not due to callous disregard; proper care through shining, buffing, resoling, and the like is a matter of lost art, like fresco painting or origami. Thankfully, this art is still curated by a trifling few patrons who care a great deal about it. Please enjoy the following presentation of the most capable hands at shining::
Next week I will put to rest the topic of attire and consider, again, some adventures of note.