Late afternoon with Estonian actor Tõnis Niinemets - on being a man, a son and a father


We invited Tõnis over one later November afternoon to take photos of his upcycled “The Kid” up-shirt collection, which was produced some time ago for his grow-up comedy:

Once the pictures were taken and the laughter in our showroom had subsided, we sat down with Tõnis to talk about being a man, a son and a father.

We live in a time where there is a lot of talk about gender roles, even the lack of gender, and neutrality. How do you see your role as a man in today's society?

As a person, I am probably quite liberal on certain topics and again rather conservative on others. It seems to me that I am inclined towards conservatism in this sense of the role of a man. I have been taught to be respectful, especially towards women. I find it perfectly normal for a man to open doors and do some other things “stereotypical” to men. Speaking of gender neutrality - I myself do not wrestle with this topic. My children and grandchildren will probably do so more.

How do you define the word masculinity?

It is difficult to define it because it seems to be often expressed through physical parameters. Actually, the word masculine is rather ironic to me, like the word macho, which sounds like someone who is trying hard to look like a "man". Courtesy, offering a sense of security – those things mean being masculine to me. What’s certain is that I do not equate myself with the word masculine. Rather, I would identify myself by the word traditional (in a good way).

Do men cry?

Men do cry, maybe just more internally than externally. I've always had trouble getting tears out. The hardest thing for me is to laugh and cry exactly when needed, although I should excel in those due to my acting profession. I guess I take life a little too easily, but I like it. I don't tend to worry or think negatively too much.

When was the last time you cried?

Inevitably when I lost a close person. Some movies also make me tear up. For example, Denzel Washington's “Man on Fire”. That movie brought up the same emotions I felt back when my daughter was born. 

October is Mental Health Month. How do you take care of your soul and spirit?

I try not to overthink things, not to worry. I see no reason to worry all the time. Unless the concern is justified. I take care of my soul every day by walking and avoiding unnecessary conflicts. However, I tend to irritate myself through daily politics, which get me super worked up. 

And how do you keep fit?

I really like all kinds of physical exercise and sports. I very happily do some physical, very simple work in my country home, for example. Sawing, cutting down trees and stacking firewood are all extremely calming activities. And ironing clothes – what a truly enjoyable activity it is! I can iron clothes for hours.

Speaking of clothing – do you dress for practicality, comfort or self-expression?

Over the years, the way I dress has been driven more and more by practicality and comfort. I have realised that I am also less bothered and excited about colors than I used to be. I find more and more gray, black and dark blue clothes in my wardrobe. [Thinks] There are exceptions, of course - for example, my favorite football club (AFC Ajax) jersey, which is red. In addition to convenience and practicality, I always think that what I buy has to be of high quality. And I'm working on minimising emotional purchases.

Let's now do a round of flash questions on fashion:

  • Favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe? - Trousers
  • Most fancy clothing item? - Suit
  • Are you sleeping naked or in pajamas? - Neither. Definitely not naked!
  • Online shop or physical store? - Physical store
  • Favorite Estonian designer? - Reet Aus!!
  • Favorite foreign designer? - [Long pause] I don't know. I try to buy from as many local designers as possible.
  • Sweatpants or jeans? - Jeans
  • With or without a hat? - With a hat
  • The sexiest uniform? – Flight attendant
  • What did you have to wear as a child but didn't want to at all? - Tights
  • The best-dressed man (besides you)? - Henrik Kalmet

Father's Day is coming. When you think about your father, what are the three things about him that come to your mind first?

Laughter – we have a lot of fun with dad and we have a common sense of humor. Neither of us takes things too seriously, and we're terribly ironic about everything (it irritates my mother and makes us laugh).

Forest - dad has his own forest, I have mine. Since my parents live in the countryside, in a house with a wood-burner/stove, it is necessary to make and have firewood all the time. Therefore, it is perfectly normal for me and dad to wake up at 7 AM on a day off, go to the forest, do some maintenance there, walk around and bring the firewood home.

Love for sports - my father is the one who taught me the love for sports and I am extremely grateful for that.

And in what words would you like your children to describe you in 20 years?

It would be cool if they would also describe me through sports and laughter. I also feel that my generation and younger people are becoming more aware of nature, the environment and our planet. The question is whether, as parents, we can best guide them in the path of awareness, responsible consumption and the preservation of nature. I truly hope I will succeed in that.