* Tan France is the breakout style star on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot
* France has held positions as a stylist, designer and creative director
* Best style tip: “Don’t give a sh*t about trends!”
Leave it to a Utah-based Brit of Pakistani descent to teach Americans how to dress. But that’s exactly what Tan France is doing as the sunny and scholarly style expert on Netflix’s new reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Now abbreviated to just Queer Eye, the show is winning raves (and winning over skeptics) with its charming cast, surprising reveals and heart-warming stories from its subjects (referred to on the show as “heroes”).
France, with his affable personality and salt and pepper hair (it’s all natural, by the way) has stood out not only for his perennially preppy good looks, but also for being a more modern fashion maven – helping the candidates find their own style instead of handing it to them on a garment rack.
Taking France’s lead, the rest of the cast has also worked together to put forth a more personal, yet still progressive, version of the popular series. Less about witty quips at the subject’s expense, or an over-the-top reveal, the show is content to let conversations play out more organically, while focusing on clothing — and food, decor, “culture” and grooming — that compliments the hero rather than changing them.
In France’s words, “This isn’t a makeover show – this is a make better show.”
We caught up with France — on the phone from Salt Lake City — to find out more about how he got involved with Queer Eye, his celebrity style crushes, and how a bad breakup led him to completely re-think how he presented himself.
Were you familiar with the original version of Queer Eye before signing on for the reboot?
I was very familiar with the show, but the British version of it. And then of course I went back and watched the American version. We filmed last summer and had really strict non-disclosure agreements — it was very hard to keep quiet because I was so excited to be a part of the show.
Everyone wants to know how this version is different from the original.
Well, the format is the same — five guys, with the same five categories: food and wine, culture, fashion, interiors and grooming. However, I think almost everything else about it is different. For starters, we are lot more diverse – we come from different countries, races and different religious backgrounds.
Also, the show isn’t scared about talking about our personal lives. On the original series, you didn’t know if one of them was in a relationship; maybe the world wasn’t ready for hearing about gay men in a relationship. Now, we don’t shy away from any of that.
They’ve also relocated the show from New York to Atlanta.
Yes, we’re in the South, which has made things a little different. The guys here don’t have that “metrosexual” knowledge, which makes it a really fun challenge to work with them on the show.
The show is condensed into 45 minute episodes, so I’m assuming there’s a lot we don’t see. What is the process really like behind the scenes?
I feel really confident about my job on the show and I’ll tell you why: we have a week to get to know the guys and it’s a day or two from when I meet them to when I take them shopping. So during those first few days, I’m able to ask them a thousand questions, understand who they are and really figure out what they need in terms of wardrobe.
When we get to the store and I am choosing things for them, I feel like I really know them. I know what they’ll gravitate towards and what they’ll reject.
How much of your job as the “style expert” is about changing outfits, and how much is about changing perceptions when it comes to personal style?
That’s a great question. It’s not just about, “Oh I want to make you pretty;” I want to change your wardrobe because I want to change the way you feel about yourself in all aspects of your life. We’re here to show the guys what their future could look like if they’re making an effort. Maybe you don’t have the job you want, or your marriage isn’t what you want it to be, or you haven’t been on a date in a while. But maybe that’s because your wife makes an effort but you wear your sweats all the time.
I was in a relationship for five years, and didn’t think it was important to dress up for my partner. He dumped me. He said, “I’m leaving because you’ve let yourself go.”
I decided after that that I would make an effort every day. I showered every day, I made sure my hair was clean, and that I looked presentable. I ended up getting a better job, had more friends, became more sociable, and now I’m with someone that I love very much. It changed every aspect of my life.
So it’s not just about getting a makeover.
This isn’t a makeover show – this is a make better show.
One of the criticisms of the show is how “basic” the clothing is or how simple the food is that you’re teaching the guys to make. Do you think those critiques are valid?
We are not trying to change these people and make them something or someone they’re not. So I’m not going to be taking them to Dolce; I’m taking them to stores where they will actually shop even after we’re gone.
What are some common mistakes people make when it comes to personal style?
1. Make sure your clothes fit. It’s the biggest mistake people make on the show. If the shoulder seam on your dress or shirt doesn’t hit your shoulder, it’s either too big or too small. Literally every closet I went to, they were wearing clothes that were too big for their bodies.
2. If your footwear looks like it’s on its last legs, get rid of it. Make sure your shoes are clean and appropriate.
3. Just say no to bootcut jeans. If you’re not a fashionista, let them go. Especially if you’re under 5′ 11″ – it makes you look like you have shorter, dumpier legs than you actually do.
The first thing you do on the show is analyze the guy’s closet. What are some ways people can update their wardrobe?
First, take everything you haven’t worn in the past couple years and get rid of it. There’s a reason why you haven’t worn it.
If you’re worried about style, don’t go for crazy colors or crazy prints. If it’s so different from what you usually do, you’re probably not going to wear it.
It doesn’t have to be expensive either. I don’t spend a lot of money on designer clothes. Just make sure the fit is right. And don’t shop seasonally — buy something you can still wear in three to four years.
A lot of people are now looking to you as a style reference. Is it okay to try and emulate a celebrity’s look?
Unless it’s Lady Gaga’s stage costumes, it’s totally fine to source inspiration from celebrities. Just make sure you find someone that you really resonate with. And find ways to make that style work for you and for your budget.
It’s a little trickier when it comes to hair. Don’t just copy somebody’s hair. Try to stick with something that suits your face shape. Work with your hairstylist – they’ll be able to help you. Ask your barber for his or her opinion before you really commit.
Who are your celeb style icons?
For men, I’d say Zayn Malik, Lucky Blue Smith, Harry Styles and Olly Murs (a British singer and TV presenter).
For women, I really like Diane Kruger, Cate Blanchett, Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe.
What is the best piece of style advice you can give?
The best piece of advice I can give: don’t follow a trend. Don’t give a sh*t about trends. You don’t have to wear something just because all the cool kids wear it. Wear something that feels like you and is appropriate for you. Don’t go looking at trends if you’re looking for style; that’s not where you’ll find it.
Thanks for your —
Can I add something?
I have to mention this product that I’ve been obsessed with and I swear I’m not even being paid to say this. Have you heard of the GloPRO? [ed’s note: a microstimulation facial tool]. So many people ask me what I’ve been doing with my skin and I’ve been using this for over a year. I don’t wear makeup. It takes a few weeks to see the results, and the first time, your skin is tender, but then it looks so good. I used to get a breakout once every 2-3 months – with this, I haven’t had a breakout in a year.
Was that just a #Ad? I’ll link our readers to buy it.
No! I just really really like the product and wanted to let people know (laughs).
You can stream the new Queer Eye right now on Netflix. The original series, meantime, is available to buy or stream online through Amazon Video.