ugg classic tall grey fab guy Carson Kressley
It was another night, another city, another immersion in “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” excess on the road in America, Carson Kressley, “celebutante” proprietor. Here in Bailey/Coy Books, the literary epicenter of Seattle’s gay community, were gathered 150 fervent Kressley fans who awaited the first words out of the Fab One’s notoriously mouthy mouth.
“Are there any straight people in the audience?” asked Kressley, who was on his national book tour, as two thirds of those in the Capitol Hill crowd raised their hands. “I just love straight people!”
A broken chair, whose startled occupant was invited to share Kressley’s chair up in front of the crowd, where the two engaged in a spirited 10 minute flirtation.
A breast autographing during the book signing, after a woman in a scoop neck T shirt slithered it down to indecenct exposure after asking Kressley, “Would you mind autographing my breast?” to which the nonplussed nova replied, “Sure. Which one right or left?”
A host of cell phone users who approached the book signing table with friends on the line and asked Kressley to chat briefly with distant wireless voices, which he gladly did.
A last minute Fab One encounter with a Chihuahua named “Carson,” courtesy of the woman with the autographed breast who rushed off to her home and returned with the canine named in Kressley’s honor, which resulted in some actual celeb petting of pet with the same name.
Sudden celebrityhood often results in severe cases of ego inflation, as Wells and his staff have seen when dealing with some big names in those moments when the public persona is switched off and regular jerkdom replaces it.
The book critic had expended less thought as to what to wear on many first dates in his life than he had for this interview with the self described “Fashion Fairy Godstylist.” Finally, he settled on this Carson influenced ensemble: Levis jeans (no hated pleats!), Tony Llama cowboy boots, Brooks Brothers oxford cloth shirt in resplendent pink, Cutter Buck gray sweater vest, Brooks Brothers sport coat in Prince of Wales plaid.
“Well, look at you!” Kressley said soon after they parked themselves on the understated couch. “You look great, with that pink oxford shirt, those cowboy boots with a little East Coast detailing by the toes. And that leather watch band! And that signet ring! Very Nice!”
Kressley, as is his wont, looked nothing at all like the “simple but classic” advice he dispenses to style Neanderthal straights, both in his thorough and helpful new guidebook and on the Emmy winning TV show.
The Fab One was outfitted in massive Australian Ugg shearling boots that looked as though he expected an imminent encounter with a glacier (“Very last year,” he admitted, “but oh so comfy!”). He also sported Mahareshi fatigue pants emblazoned with Chinese dragons (“$900 in a London shop but a gift from the owner; how I love these perks!”).
Kressley topped that off with a D Squared logo T shirt underneath a royal purple Polo Ralph Lauren crew necked sweater in luxe cashmere (“the flat screen TV of yarns”). Then he completed his preppy tundra road warrior look with two dazzler accessories an antique English signet ring sporting a running fox, an homage to Kressley’s equestrian prowess, and a Cartier Santos wristwatch about the size of a Benelux country.
“My fashion advice is do as I say not do as I do,” Kressley, 35, stressed. “I want to help straight guys develop a sense of personal style. Some things I wear, I’ll admit, might not work for them. I’m interested in taking the intimidation and fear out of fashion and convincing straight men that shopping should be fun. But, please!, I don’t need everyone to look like me. Look like yourself! Although that’s not to suggest that I don’t have the best taste in the world because, of course, I do.”
And now much of the world knows that, too. In two short seasons on the once obscure Bravo network (“I thought Bravo was a non stick cooking spray,” Kressley recalled), “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” has become a national and then an international phenomenon, as the Five Fab gay experts have remade the style challenged lives and lifestyles of clueless straight guys.
Kressley is stunned there are now 98 countries in the world where their own knockoff versions of “Queer Eye” are shown, as well as 14 counties where the original American version is rebroadcast, including France, Australia, Italy and Japan, countries where the inimitable voices of Kressley, Thom Felicia, Kyan Douglas, Jai Rodriguez and Ted Allen often are assisted with subtitles.
“I kept having Japanese people point at me in airports and say, ‘Pink Savior!’ ‘Pink Savior!” Kressley related. “I couldn’t figure what was going on until it turned out that ‘Queer Eye’ is called ‘The Pink Saviors’ in Japan.”
Kressley quickly emerged as the first real star of “Queer Eye” with his over the top foppishness, his fashion outlaw persona, his luscious blond good looks, his fondness for rapid fire double and triple entendres. He was the most out there of the five unlikely stars, a child of middle America turned longtime stylist for Polo Ralph Lauren who obviously reveled in the reality TV spotlight. He was a veritable caricature of exaggerated gayness at times, but with a captivating openness and empathy that also verged into excess.
“I’m just being me; I’m just reacting to the absurdity of the situations on the show,” Kressley explained. “I don’t think there is such a thing as being too flamboyant. That’s the way I really am.”
Kressley’s clown prince persona masks a sharp intellect and a driving ambition. team in the world championships in South Africa stood him in great stead as he assumed his new role as recognized style guru for straight “make betters” on “the road to fabulosity.”
“Off the Cuff” filled with his trademark quips and sensible guidelines should only expand the Kressley franchise, as should his February film debut (“The Perfect Man”) with Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear, as should his planned book for children (“You’re Different That’s Super!”). He is not about to squander his moments in the spotlight, however long they last.
So Kressley zeroes in on the three most odious fashion faux pas of straight guys: “They are so often guilty of fashion amnesia, wearing looks from the Nixon administration. A lot of men do not know how clothes should fit; a lot of men do not want to know their correct size. They once wore shirts size 15 32 but, news flash, that’s not your size anymore, people!
“And a lot of men are not having fun with fashion. And a lot do not realize how color affects how you feel. If there’s going to be a driving rain for the next six months, it’s not going to help to only wear black. It’s time to wear a little pink.”
No fashion trend draws more Kressley disgust than the odious proliferation of pleated pants in America. The widespread perception that pleated pants disguise girth is only wishful thinking, Kressley asserts, since the pleats actually produce the Michelin Man effect, with “little arrows pointing directly at your spare tire, people!”
Kressley suggests that a man spend $5,000 a year on clothes and accessories to build “a wardrobe of classics,” although he admits that he has so long been the beneficiary of freebies and deals that “I’m spoiled; I never live in the real world.” Still, he does fill his own bulging closets from a variety of sources, including Nordstrom (“the good shoe people where I found the best flip flops ever, with little surfers on them”) to discount stores and even Goodwill, although not just any Goodwill, certainly, but those situated in wealthy enclaves.
“I go to Goodwills all the time, especially to the Goodwills in Palm Beach and Palm Springs,” Kressley said. “You need some knowledge to shop at Goodwill; you need to know fabric content since Dacron causes strokes, or that you can end up with collars the size of the Olympic Peninsula. I found these great patchwork cords in the Palm Springs Goodwill (age 57 of ‘Off the Cuff’); they were so worn in, so much better than new.”
The new season of “Queer Eye” debuts on Jan. 11, with the Fab Five escaping their regular territory of metro New York in favor of three shows filmed in Texas, including a makeover of the entire Sigma Chi fraternity house at North Texas State. Yes, Queer Eyes for frat boys in testosterone city!
Humor, outrage and empathy have made “Queer Eye” an unlikely pop culture phenom, with benefits that extend beyond celebdom for the Fab Five (three of whom are in committed relationships, leaving only Kressley and Rodriguez in free range zone). The quintet has reaped fame from cashmere, nose hair clippers and back waxing, but they are surprised by the show’s added bennies.
“The best thing about the show and something that none of us expected,” Kressley stressed, “is that it has helped 15 year olds who think they might be gay to now talk about that. The show is really about people helping people, so it has opened up that dialogue between parents and kids talking about being gay. It has promoted acceptance of gayness as a normal thing in life,
not a big deal.