Sometimes you meet someone who is just on your wavelength on nearly everything. That someone is John Robinson.
What follows is a profile on my friend (or son?) John Robinson. I suggest you listen to his interview before looking at the photos, many of which he took himself.
Back in 2013, when I was buying fedoras and 30s ties on eBay, I felt so alone. Sure, my existing friends were accepting, but there is a difference between accepting and sharing in your interests. I was never ostracized [thank god] but I still felt lacking- seeing all those guys hanging out in NYC and London was quite envy inducing. This is probably why community has been a big driving force behind doing what I do. I was sure that I wasn’t alone, and even if my vague type of menswear wasn’t present in Los Angeles, there had to be others out there. I was already a nerd who talked to tumblr girls, so making friends on the internet wasn’t anything new. The blog (and later podcast) just made it easier to do!
Obviously I’ve made a few fashion friends over the years. Raj was probably the first one, being the one friend I had at my college who seemed to like classic menswear; granted, his style was a bit more preppy rather than trad and he didn’t have an interest in period clothes. Spencer, my faithful clothing bestie and co-host of the podcast seemed to be the ideal match, but he obviously has different taste, which led to his current journey on the rugged/Americana route that you see today. Other friends have been quite similar and I find a lot in common with them, but none that were like a clone. That’s not to say that all my friends have to be the exact same person. In fact, I prefer that they are different so I continue to grow and try new things. Though admittedly, it would be nice to have a friend who just gets it. And that friend was John.
I really don’t know how John and I became close friends. In his interview above, John states that he found the blog and Facebook group around the same time (late 2018) and started posting fits. His outfits caught my eye immediately because I could tell that we were on a similar wavelength. He had an appreciation for Golden Era and ivy vintage, with a preference for a slouchy jacket and high waisted, wide leg trouser. Some of the pieces were thrifted and a few others were [impressively] made by him from scratch. The mixture of vintage ideas across tailoring and sportswear, as well as a contemporary sensibility on practicality and a bit of punky confidence drew me to him; I’m not sure who DM’d who first, but after those few outfit pics in the FB we became buddies.
John was soon invited to my menswear friends group chat, which at the time consisted of me, Spencer, Jason, Aldous, and Nguyen. It was there that I learned that we had quite a bit in common. No, not just with the ideas of bringing slouchy 1930s ideas to the modern day, but in life. For example, he and I are both huge Star Wars nerds who actually collected the Lego sets; he even has a few MOCs, which he photographs and sends to me. Quite a few nerdy interests are shared between us, as well as the rest of our little menswear chat. The only difference was that John was quite the cool kid back in high school- he played sports and can be found on the slopes during vacation. The only difference is that this jock was a secret nerd who also loved clothes as much as us, leading to…well a lack of that community thing I’m always talking about.
Fast forward to now and you’ll know that John is one of my close friends (though I end up being quite close with many of my internet friends regardless). Sure, you can attribute that to our many shared interests and similar upbringings (both of our moms are quite into trad and prep style), but what I think is most telling is how similar our wavelengths are. Hell, they might even be one and the same.
When I got to meet him for the first time this past summer, John told me that many of my blog posts were stuff he’d already thought about in the past: button pocket harmony, my trouser journey, how a spearpoint follows the negative space between lapels, or how a good OCBD is best with a narrow tie knot that doesn’t extend past the buttons. We just have a very similar idea of how tailoring should be. John is proof that these preferences aren’t exactly rooted in period accuracy (even if that’s where we can draw inspiration from). Rather, we just like beautiful things and have the ability to put those beautiful ideas into actionable designs. Slouchy shoulders, tucked ties, and wide legs are all conducive to our shared idea of menswear. I’m never surprised that he reacts favorably to the 30s photographs and AA illustrations that I put into the Patreon Discord.
You can see that our style is quite similar, separated only by the fact that we own different things (presumably because our wardrobes are either vintage or custom made). A lot of it, as you’ll see below, is trad with a bit of a twist. That sounds eyerolling, but it’s quite true. There’s just a balance between elegance, slouch, stuffiness, and practicality, done in a way that still evokes tailoring, since that’s where my true allegances lie (as opposed to Spencer, where things are filtered through workwear/milsurp/70s first).
John is just a trad guy in tradland at his core. Sometimes he adds in more casual pieces, like raw hemmed jeans, jungle jackets, or a pinned collar (intentional stuffiness” can be cool), or sometimes its just totally practical, like wearing a hoodie or sweats with a sportcoat (which he did before ALD blew up). I can’t say it’s all ideas I already had on my own, since the latter point proves that he does things that I think about before I do it. John not only gave me the basis of the school boy look, but even a non-Arnold Wong example of wearing wide legged pants. He just knows what he wants to look like and does it, to the absolute best of his ability. That amount of confidence leads to natural ease and slouch, whether he’s wearing a navy blazer and chinos or bold patch work pants that he made himself (the ultimate expression of intentionality).
It’s important to remember that he’s a regular, non-menswear industry guy which was helpful for me in allowing myself to expand my style. After all, I don’t work in menswear officially anymore. With John’s regular-yet-Tradland background, he’s been able to introduce me to things I wouldn’t normally get to do as my view of trad comes from pop culture (I’m from LA). Being able to see madras plaids, collegiate sweatshirts, and white bucks done in an ”Ethan” (or is it John?) was only proof that a lot of menswear can be for me- I just needed to get the inspiration to try it myself.
Honestly, I’d call all of this osmosis if I wasn’t convinced that we actually share a hive mind somewhere.
The real moment came when John joined us for trivia night. After a few people had gone home, John, Michael and I had some late night ice cream and took a stroll through Old Town Pasadena. As typical narcissistic fashion assholes, we found some great light and decided to take some photos. Or rather, being a documentarian, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some great photos of John and Michael. Michael is a great guy but he loves to smile when I snap a shot. John on the other hand takes a page out of my book (or is it Jake’s) and slouches a bit; it’s not meant to pose, but rather than John isn’t posing (too much) when I take the photo.
Michael asked John how he was able to look so natural when I was photographing him. John simply responded by saying that taking outfit pics nearly everyday has helped him understand what angles work best- for him and for his clothes. He doesn’t want to put on airs when being vain, so it helps just to be ”normal” when a photo is taken. He just knows what he wants to look like in life and so when the photo is taken, it just feels right! There’s some intentional elegance somewhere (you can call this posing), but its not in the model way- it’s subtle. It’s living life with slouch, akin to knowing when the right time to make a joke or on the flip side, to know when to take a photo of someone else at the right moment. There’s internalized intentionality, not just in clothing but in everything. He’s literally my son.
Of course this idea about being slouchy and photogenic is not the only philosophy that we share. In the interview he has a few points about other SaDHead mentalities, ranging from picking up photography as a way to have a creative outlet on the world (rather than only in the clothes you wear) to leaning into solids when dressing, which even leads into forming the idea of the going out look- a way to wear tailoring in a lived in way that works for “outside” people that still remains true to yourself. In fact, the conversation was so interesting that we had to split it into it’s own episode, which you’ll have to see next time. I’ve hinted about the topic before with all my “sexy” 60s-70s attire, but it’s about time it got it’s own discussion- of course it would be John who would be the one to push me to do it.
John is just an excellent dresser, representing the menswear mindset I’ve been trying to push through my blog and podcast. He has an intentional and nuanced take on style, incorporating almost every facet of menswear from the past 100 years. You can just that in the photos below, whether he’s with us or non-menswear people.. The journey he’s taken reflects mine in a sense, even down to the fact that he’s been going out and drinking a little bit more often, which has lead to more “sexy” takes on tailoring over the recent months. Even though he likes going severely unbuttoned, John retains a love for wearing a tie, having the confidence to wear it and a nice jacket even if he’s the only one doing it- without being too much of a dandy asshole (at least in the bad, socially inept way).
Ultimately, John’s inclusion here makes my blog’s journey to come full circle, finally documenting someone in my very demographic cohort who just get it. All of it. I knew I wasn’t alone- there had to be people who share this same throughline and vague, aesthetically driven mindset about clothing that still remains in the ideas of classic/trad/vintage menswear. No shade to Spencer, but it’s nice to have someone who makes the decision to rock a tie and slouch around. His trad soul has remained, even if it’s hidden behind sawtooth shirts and jungle jackets (things that are still quite considered canon to this blog and pod). It’s no wonder that he’s been included in nearly every blog post sincee we’ve become friends.
He’s basically my muse. If only he lived closer!
Anyway enjoy a bunch of outfits from John. He’s proof that the ideas that we share can be worn by anyone- even a trad guy from the East Coast that makes X-wings in his free time.
- 09:32 – Intro
- 12:32 – John’s Self-Introduction
- 16:33 – How Do People Dress in “Tradland”?
- 17:56 – How Did You Get Into Menswear?
- 24:51 – How Did You Find the Blog/Inspiration?
- 27:03 – When Did You Start Making Clothes?
- 38:37 – How Do You Describe the Way You Dress?
- 47:51 – How Do You Like Wide Fits and Vintage Proportions?
- 52:01 – Button Pocket Harmony
- 54:03 – What Have You NOT Made? Ties.
- 55:54 – John Gets It
- 1:01:33 – Photography and Aesthetics
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The Podcast is produced by MJ.
Always a pleasure,
Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics): Austin, Philip, Audrey, Shane, Jeremy, Jarek, and James.