'Queer Eye' crew says style before fashion

— Not every man can pull off the bright colors and vintage-inspired fashions that have made "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" host Carson Kressley one of the most recognizable members of the TV cast, and he's not out to inspire a bunch of look-alikes in the "fab five's" new book.

"If we imposed Carson's clothing vision on everyone, they would all look like gay clowns," says Ted Allen, the show's food expert who as a contributing editor for Esquire also writes about fashion. "What he does works for him and not for other people."

Bravo scored a surprise hit last summer with "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," a makeover TV show in which five gay men help a straight man clean up his act -- to the delight of the woman in his life -- in terms of grooming, clothes, furniture, manners and food.

In a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press, Kressley and Allen held forth on how men can be stylish while staying true to themselves.

The "Queer Eye" philosophy is "you -- only better," and Kressley discourages readers from chasing the latest fashions in the new book, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better and Living Better" (Clarkson Potter), which Kressley and Allen wrote with fellow castmates Thom Filicia, Kyan Douglas and Jai Rodriguez.

Invest in good fabrics and well-made garments and accessories to develop a style and build a wardrobe, using flourishes to express your personality, he says. But never try to look like someone else.

"It's the Lord's work; I'm happy to do it," says Kressley, who is surprised that this simple advice is so often ignored.

"We had a guy on the show who wanted to look like 'money.' I said, 'Do you want me to dress you like George Washington or Alexander Hamilton?' He said he wanted to look like a rich guy," Kressley says.

The book's style sensibility actually skews conservative, a testament to Kressley's years spent at Polo Ralph Lauren. Using color photos and diagrams to illustrate every point, Kressley explains the basics.

The three different ways to tie a tie are outlined, as are the four basic suit shapes: broad-shouldered Italian suits, the classic British style with double vents on the back of the jacket, the Ivy League-style American suit with a center-rear vent and double-breasted suits, which Kressley warns can make you look like "an out-of-work band leader" if worn unbuttoned.

The book offers advice on suit fabrics and patterns for everyone from the casual man who needs just one suit -- Kressley says go for navy blue or charcoal gray -- to the man who needs a closetful, from tweed to seersucker to black.

For those who don't have the money for a wardrobe overhaul, Kressley suggests starting with small details.

"If you go for buying great accessories, a great watch, a great belt, a great pair of shoes, you don't have to spend a lot of money on clothing," Kressley says. "Just like in life, sometimes you have to pick your battles. The same thing goes with your shoes."

The counterpart to "you -- only better" in the "Queer Eye" style credo is "tszujing," the idea of tweaking the final details for extra punch. You "tszuj" your hair by adding the last bit of tousling or "tszuj" a meal with a lovely garnish.

Kressley suggests "tszujing" a tuxedo by adding a beautiful pocket handkerchief, wearing sleek suspenders or accessorizing with velvet slippers, something he warns is an "advanced couture maneuver."

It may look like a complicated jumble of consonants, but it is a simple concept that urges men to pay attention to the little stuff.

"I have a friend who's a very stylish editor in New York. Every time I meet him in New York, he's got a new cocktail. That's fashion and trends, which aren't necessarily what you want, but it's about an overall aesthetic and interest in what's happening in the world and what's fresh," Allen says.

Carson Kressley offers 'hip tips'

The stylish hosts of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" punctuate the Bravo TV series with "hip tips," and they do the same in their new book, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better and Living Better" (Clarkson Potter).

The crew's fashion point man, Carson Kressley, spent years as a men's sportswear specialist for Polo Ralph Lauren and offers these tips for classic style that transcends the latest fashions.

Make sure you have the basics when building a wardrobe. Every man should own the perfect suit, a denim jacket, cowboy boots, a cashmere sweater and a navy blue blazer.

You might survive without these as well, but Kressley says he wouldn't risk it: a vintage belt, a pea coat, a cool hat, a real tuxedo (not rented) and the perfect leather jacket.

Don't get carried away with the buttoned-up look. "For a three-button jacket, starting at the top and working down, remember this phrase: sometimes, always, never. For a two-button job, start the phrase at always," Kressley says.

Take care of your shoes and they'll take care of you by making everything you own look great. "Shoe trees are like Botox for leather. Use them after every wearing, and you'll have no wrinkles," Kressley says.

Edit your wardrobe -- if it hasn't been worn in a year, donate it to charity. "Keeping those jeans that don't fit you anymore as inspiration to diet? Cute. But Weight Watchers is more effective," Kressley says.

Sharpen up your silhouette by having a tailor trim shirts to get a narrower fit around the middle. Some shirts, especially American-made, are blousy and wide around the middle.

Dry-cleaning is a must for vintage denim, a Kressley favorite. Because of changes in the way denim is produced, vintage denim is actually made from a better grade of fabric than new denim, but it will deteriorate like any other garment.

Don't get him started on tuxedos. "Is it OK to rent a tux? Sure, if you're the type who'd feel comfortable buying a new liver from a vending machine. People! If you have the occasion to wear a tuxedo, it's worth investing in one," Kressley says.


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