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The first time Queer Eye for the Straight Guy graced our screens in 2003, we were in an undeniably different social climate. Same-sex marriage wasn’t legal, Destiny’s Child hadn’t released their final album yet and people were wearing cargo pants far too often. Fast-forward to 2018, and it feels as if the show’s return couldn’t have come at a better time; while attitudes are starting to become more tolerant, Queer Eye’s optimism provides a much-needed escape from the loud and uncertain politics of today. 

For those of you that haven’t spent eight fabulous hours with your eyes glued to Netflix to catch up on the show (like I have), Queer Eye is a reality show that follows five gay men as they visit men in need of some lifestyle guidance. The aptly-named ‘Fab Five’ spend a week with each ‘hero’, helping them to improve on five key aspects: food, interior design, culture, grooming and, of course, fashion.

Although the format has remained mostly faithful to the original version, the reboot feels endlessly more refreshing, and its widespread acclaim is a testament to that. Choosing to drop the restricting ‘for the Straight Guy’ from the show’s title, the producers made a conscious effort to break down any sense of division between straight and gay men that was often evoked in the original show. Also, the show moved away from the more liberal setting of New York to locations across the state of Georgia, challenging more conservative attitudes in several of the episodes.

While the show dedicates an equal focus to each of the five aspects of lifestyle, one of the most important parts of the transformative process is perhaps that of fashion. Taking over the reins from Carson Kressley in the realm of styling is Tan France, a home-grown talent born and raised in Doncaster. After studying fashion at Doncaster College, his success turned exponential, taking up posts at Zara and Selfridges before founding his own women’s clothing line, Kingdom & State, based in Utah. As a gay British-Pakistani Muslim, his inclusion in the Fab Five is a breath of fresh-air, providing a form of LGBT+ representation that has gone unseen on mainstream TV in the past.

France himself has openly admitted that he was initially reluctant to take the job offered to him for Queer Eye, merely because he wasn’t sure how he would come across on camera. However, he has more than proved himself wrong, with his warm and accepting demeanour shining through over the course of the show. Some of Queer Eye’s best moments involve France’s emotional conversations with the ‘heroes’, as he encourages the use of fashion as an expression of identity and as a way to preserve wellbeing.

Meet Tan, Queer Eye’s fashion expert!

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While the outfits chosen by the fashion designer are by no means ground-breaking, the exhibition of high fashion is no longer the aim or emphasis of the show. Diverging from the use of designer brands such as Prada and Gucci that were used in the original show, the reboot focuses on sustainability, with France taking the ‘heroes’ to vintage stores and Target in order to form a capsule wardrobe with their disposable income. In doing this, Queer Eye makes it known that you don’t need to splash the cash in order to look and feel good; you just need to know what to look for.

The impact that both fashion and grooming can have on a person is eminently clear in the reboot’s first episode, which centres itself around 57-year-old car enthusiast, Tom. At the start of the episode we see him in his signature outfit of a short-sleeved shirt tucked into baggy denim shorts (or ‘jorts’, as he likes to say), paired with a baseball cap. Although he is welcoming to the Fab Five, his stubbornness is evident, possessing little confidence in himself and believing that “you can’t fix ugly”. Over the course of the week Tom underwent both a physical and emotional transformation, with grooming expert Johnathan Van Ness trimming his beard to the shape of his jawline, resulting in a look that served “Ulysses S. Grant realness”.

After being introduced by France to simple fashion tips such as layering and purchasing a more sophisticated hat, Tom looked positively radiant and self-assured, excited to show off his new appearance to his friends. The most poignant moment, however, came at the end of the episode, as Tom burst into tears as he says goodbye to the Fab Five. The cathartic situation showed the magnitude of the effect that the experience had had on Tom, whilst simultaneously striking down any preconceptions of toxic masculinity in the viewership.


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In the opening sequence of the show, France tells us that “the original show was fighting for tolerance, our fight is for acceptance.” It is a tagline that epitomises the warm and progressive nature of the reboot that has touched the hearts of so many. By using fashion as one of the key media to promote self-care and expression among men, Queer Eye provides a welcome space of joy and positivity, something I am sure will carry the show’s success for years into the future.