You know you’ve got style when even your doctor takes note of your sartorial preferences. Tad Kubler, lead guitarist for the Hold Steady, was at his physician’s office recently when the good doctor asked him about his outfit. “He says, ‘Do you dress like this on stage?’” recalls Kubler, who for this phone interview was attired in a Jil Sander button-down and a pair of Levi’s cords. “‘I mean, you’re in a rock band, but you’re really kind of preppy.’” Kubler was caught off guard by the comment. “I like nice clothes, I guess.”
Kubler’s definition of “nice” ranges from classic brands and vintage finds to designer wear. For jeans, he’s tried labels like Rag & Bone and APC but always goes back to Levi’s. When the Hold Steady played the Roundhouse in London in 2008, he bought a wool coat at a vintage shop across the street that he still cherishes. He loves the store itself too. “They have amazing shit,” he says. Kubler also likes the snug fit of American Apparel shirts and is no stranger to GQ-friendly garb by the likes of Paul Smith, Oliver Spencer, and Marc Jacobs. “I’ve got a really nice Prada suit that I just wore to a friend’s wedding,” says Kubler, who counts Noel Gallagher as his biggest style icon. “And Johnny Marr. And Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor.”
Kubler could probably use a closet or two just for his shoes, of which he has “a ton.” Say what you will about Birkenstocks, but the bespectacled Brooklyn resident is a fan of their leather shoes with wooden soles, as well as their penny loafers. “I’ve got a bunch of Clarks. I have a lot of Adidas. I have some pumas. I have a least a dozen pairs of vans. I buy a lot of shoes—that’s a running joke on the bus,” says Kubler, who will pack three to six pairs of shoes for a six-week tour.
Despite his fondness for fashion, Kubler cuts an understated figure. “I don’t want anything that draws a lot of attention.” He feels the same way about his guitars. “I like the classics. No bright colors—I like to be able to see the wood grain,” says Kubler, who owns a handful of Gibsons (including a 335 and a 355) and Les Pauls.
He and his bandmates are wrapping up their fifth studio album, the follow-up to 2008’s Stay Positive. But the official announcement was still a ways off when Guitar Aficionado spoke with him, and Kubler wasn’t giving out details about the new material other than to say, “We’re a rock band, and it’s always gonna sound like the Hold Steady. But I would certainly hope that we continue to grow as players and songwriters.” If he’s lucky, they’ll tour somewhere that he can find a certain something he’s been hunting for. “I’ve been looking for a really good mohair sweater,” he says. “I need a good mohair crewneck sweater.”
Style-focused interview with Tad Kubler, lead guitarist for the Hold Steady, for Guitar Aficionado, Spring 2010 issue.