“You realize that we both just elected to get socks and underwear for Christmas, right?” My brother said as we waited for our dad to get back to the car.

I laughed.  We come from a big family where all the cousins would get together and attack the presents every year like hungry, hungry hippos.  Agreed among us, of course, was that there was no worse present than socks and underwear.

Now I wish for nothing more.

The big deal where my parents live is that the family who owned the shopping plaza just sold the grocery store but kept the “outdoors” store. Their bread and butter is guns. Lots of guns, and also ammo. That, and life-sized shooting targets of zombies. The big seller being Zombie Osama Bin Laden (it looks disconcertingly too much like one of the Three Wise Men at my mother’s church’s nativity scene).

I wish it were polite just to demand socks and underwear.

I actually really like this store because they have no-nonsense outdoor clothes for people who actually wear them outdoors.  I know that sounds like a weasely distinction, but I’m planning a hiking trip to Bolivia right now, and all the outdoor stores in the city where I live are just department stores that sell designer clothing you can wear outside.  Given the choice between clothes designed for the one weekend a person goes cross-country skiing and clothes trusted by people given to spending a month of Sundays in a deerblind: I’ll go upstate.

My brother and I both travel for work.  I play music. He works for a company that reconditions antique brick sewer mains without digging up the streets and turning your street into a river of shit.  We have the same father, and little else in common.

I laughed when I realized that I wished it were polite just to demand socks and underwear.  We had brought our common father shopping.  He asked us what kinds of things we needed.  I am finally retiring the long johns I’ve had since high school and my brother will hopefully log enough cold hours down in the pipes to keep his kids in Osh Gosh.

Socks and underwear are one of the more annoying things to purchase for oneself.  George Costanza had the line about wishing he had 365 pair of underwear so he only had to do laundry once a year.  To me that sounds like a good start.

Since we both travel for work we can’t just have the regular value packs and a couple good pairs.  When you travel for work: every pair has to be the good pair.

Plus, nothing eats your good clothes like hotel rooms.  Ideally I would have such an abundance of socks and underwear in my life that I wouldn’t cry when I put a toe through the heel or lose a pair in the hotel gym.

But still, what (other than basic human pride) keeps you from getting the world’s worst underwear and socks for yourself?

I’ve given this a lot of thought. Too much, probably. One fashion week I did a gig for Ted Baker. Part of the deal was that I would wear one of his suits on stage and I could keep it.  Wanna know how long it took me to exchange a suit for 60 pair of nice-ass boxer-briefs?

It sounds like a first-world problem, but look at the gifts you get this year and ask yourself honestly: how much underpants could this buy?  Could that TJ Maxx potato masher with the cartoon spud handle be three pairs of socks?  Yes.

Also, socks and underwear don’t have to be good to be a good gift.  I’d give equal footing to the 7 for $7 socks at Uniqlo as the $109 softer-than-cotton wool long johns from Icebreaker that I’ll be taking to Bolivia (thanks, Dad!).