The Trad, Interview

John Tinseth, "The Trad"

“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.”

He was telling stories about his Dad. I'm not sure because he said the words "A-Team" and my twelve year old brain went right to an old theme song.

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.”

We bussed our own table, shook hands, and I went back to the Mrs. thinking that maybe I need to re-think my Kenneth Cole shoes.

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16 thoughts on “The Trad, Interview

  1. there is something about the way you string words together coupled with my jealousy of your journeys and interviews that has inspired me travel.
    Thank You.

  2. Tintin, I, nor she, called you any such thing. That word is reserved for those who earn it, or laughs at my own expense, not tweed.
    Alice, glad to have you here. If you continue to say nice things you will always be welcome… if you say mean things you can have a seat at the table.

  3. uglyblackjohn

    But everyone is inherently a “Trad”.
    The thing is – it’s their tradition that matters.
    J Crew, Polo, L.L. Bean, Brooks Bros, oxfords, boat shoes, wing tips? Nope.
    J Crew (I know, I know… but it makes sense because it is the label that doesn’t care about being a label.), Armani, Jhane Barnes, Robert Ghraham shirts, Donald J. Pliner loafers? Yep.
    I’m still kinda’ conservative but not “Preppy”.

  4. Mr. Zamboni, hockey appreciates you and so do I,
    Alice, now you’ve got the spirit,
    UBJ….
    Why you always gotta stir the pot? Sure there are many various traditions, but his just got the catchy name. My tradition is called “doing my best with limited funds”.
    It involves lots of window shopping and countless visits to discount centers. Speaking of conservative, my sister once bought me a real nice cashmere sweater that was sky blue. It was possibly the brightest thing to grace my closet since the 80’s. I wore it like twice out of a sense of obligation and quickly went back to my muted tones. I still say I’m dull but not boring.

  5. cc

    I will vouch that the trad blog is more about stories than it is about clothes, at least for me. I had somehow originally found his article about smuggling playboys from Canada in his youth years ago, and “reblogged” it years before the thought of following igents or the fashion blogset ever crossed my mind.
    http://thetrad.blogspot.com/2008/11/playboy-rat-patrol.html
    nice pic, I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of him and was always curious as to what he looked like.

  6. uglyblackjohn

    Oh, I’m not trying to stir any pot – one Trad is just as good as the next (IMOHO).
    I like the Prep look – I just feel like it’s more of an affectation on me than anything else.
    Believe me – I’m budget.
    I just know some buyers at high-end stores or owners of boutiques who always get me good deals on clothes.

  7. Pingback: Trad Illustrations | Brohammas

  8. RulingPart

    That was such a good interview! It seemed lifted from the pages of Esquire. I read his blog all the time, and you captured the man exactly.

    Bravo.

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