“Hey, get some trad advice for girls while you’re at it,” Mrs.Hammas shouted from the drivers seat as I stepped onto the curb. It was funny then because the Mrs. is the least trad person alive. Looking back after spending the morning with John Tinseth, it was even funnier.
He blogs under the name Tintin, on a blog called the Trad. He claims it isn’t about clothes; everyone else seems to have missed that point. Of course “everyone” includes writers at Esquire Magazine, The New Yorker, any clothing manufacturer who’s paying attention, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 80,000 unique visitors a month. The two of us sat down over some eggs and bacon to sort this whole thing out. His were scrambled, mine were over easy, and the consensus was that neither were worth mentioning.
I note the failure of the food only to help illustrate our first topic of discussion; Philadelphia. We had argued online some time ago about the merits of my town. He claimed there were none. He mocked my city with a scorn not normal to those who don’t actually live here, now I know why. He told me he lived here once and loved it. A job and a wife tore him away from this love and once both ended, he returned. But like many things, you simply can’t go back. Everything had changed.
We laughed over a tale of a little Italian restaurant just south of Washington Square where an old Italian man tried to set him up with beauticians from across the park. Instead of a girl, he got a nine year sneak preview of Jersey Shore. The magic was gone and he broke up with this town once and for all. He didn’t use the line, but I will insert it here, “Philadelphia, it’s not you, it’s me.”
I quickly learned what he meant when he said his blog isn’t about clothes. It’s about stories. He has all kinds of tales; about bars, the Army, past loves, and adventure.
“Pour some Old Bay seasoning on it and I can eat anything. Clothes are just the seasoning for my stories.”
I feel about Texas Pete’s the way he feels about Old Bay, and I like his stories.
Back when he was sergeant with no sense of direction, he got lost. He and his driver pulled into a posh hotel on the outskirts of Fort Bragg, and he took his regulation map up to the concierge to ask for directions. On his way back to the Jeep he saw his lanky companion cupping his hands to the window to get a better look at an article of clothing on display.
“What the _ _ _ _ is that?” the man drawled. Sgt. Tinseth looked in the window and matter of factly replied, “It’s a madras sport jacket.”
With his hat pushed back on his head like Gomer Pyle, the man just looked him in the eye and said, “Two questions; One, who in the _ _ _ _ _ would ever wear that? Two, why in the _ _ _ _ do you know what it is?”
Such is Tintin and such is the Trad.
His version of the story (unedited) is told here on The Trad. http://thetrad.blogspot.com/2008/05/not-so-trad-visit-to-pinehurst.html
We sat for quite some time telling tales. As I reflect upon the morning now I smile at how fitting it was, or rather how fitting he is to his monicker. He may not like that. He says he has some regret he ever chose that name, “The Trad,” and how some old friends quite enjoy mocking it, and him.
Trad is short for traditional. Traditional as in tweed jackets, J. Press, and expensive but sturdy shoes. It’s what my wife would describe as, “old white people clothes.” It is the aesthetic born from grumpy old men who ascribe to a bunch of old rules, and who will one day all be proven correct. John Tinseth is at some level all those things.
He isn’t really that old, unless compared to most bloggers, but he is a bit of a curmudgeon (his word not mine), and yes, he truly knows what he is talking about.
That’s why right now, he is big time. That is why right now, lots of people want to know what he has to say. I guess I’m one of them.
With a smile that half passes for a scowl, he said he likes to tell stories but all anyone wants is clothing advice; but he won’t give it to them.
Of course then he went on to tell of how one time, long ago, he bought an ascot. He had never worn one before and was excited to do so. There was a party one night and he wore his double breasted blue blazer with his Canadian military crest on the pocket, slicked his hair straight back, and to top it off, the ascot.
He proudly presented himself to his date and she told him he was a fool. He only smiled and said “Ascot, (then pointing to himself) A_ _ _ _ _ _!”
The whole night, he was never quite comfortable. He couldn’t get over the fact that he had this silk thing around his neck. One woman, sounding like Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island, even commented how she hadn’t seen anyone wear one of those in years and that it suited him (refer back to him pointing to himself).
He summed it up by saying, “If you can’t forget you’re wearing it– you probably shouldn’t.”