In 2003, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy debuted.
The reality makeover show tasked a quintet of dapper gay men — nicknamed the “Fab Five” — with advising hapless straight men on how to be better … well, men.
The show was an instant classic. But the advice? Mediocre at best.
Fast forward to last month, when Netflix rebooted Queer Eye for a new generation. To my surprise, the new Fab Five — which comprises Bobby Berk (design), Karamo Brown (culture), Tan France (fashion), Antoni Porowski (food) and Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) — offered up genuinely useful advice that I eagerly jotted down in the Notes app on my phone.
So we compiled those (sometimes unintentional) tips into a 25-step guide to giving yourself an at-home Queer Eye makeover — from the time-saving kitchen essential every man needs to finally talking to that friend you ghosted after the election.
If you’re looking to level up in life but can’t score a slot on Season Two, this is your next best bet.
1. Plan time to talk face-to-face with friends and family who hold political opinions that challenge yours.
If you’ve heard anything about the show, it’s most likely Antoni’s questionable culinary skill or the racism moment. The latter comes in the third episode, when Karamo (the only black member of the Fab Five) has an extended talk with Cory Waldrop, a white police officer and MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporter. Karamo brings up the tension between “black people and cops,” and Cory eventually says excessive force by police is unacceptable. Critics, and there have been many, shrug this off as “a stilted conversation … that ever so slightly touches on police brutality and racial profiling.” But to move forward in our polarized society, we need stilted, uncomfortable conversations; they are an important stepping stone on the way to truly open dialogue, understanding and, eventually, progress. So take a page from Karamo’s book: plan a road trip with a buddy who you’ve grown apart from since the election and start to hash those issues out.
2. Got a crush on a friend? Feel it out or move on.
At the end of his episode, comedian Joe Gallois asked out a woman who he has been friends with for a while. Which begs the question: Had he not been on the show, would he have ever had the guts to do so? If you’re similarly stuck in a ‘90s rom com, courteously ask out the friend you’ve always had feelings for. Should she (or he) deny you, then you can both move on.
3. Living with your parents happens, it’s the infantilism that’s bad.
One of the qualities that made Joe a perfect candidate for Queer Eye was the fact he still lives at his parents’ house at 33. But whether it’s financial issues, parental health problems or some other matter, living at home shouldn’t be a stigma. Living in your childhood bedroom with childhood memorabilia still on the walls, however, should be.
4. Your kids need clear responsibilities at home.
In episode six, Bobby two-jobs-and-six-kids Camp admits his gaggle of kids aren’t responsible for much other than eating and breathing. When you’re working that hard for your family 9-to-5, it’s hard not to resent them if you also pull all the weight from 5-to-9.
5. Don’t be afraid to dole out man-to-man compliments.
Each episode produces at least one classic tearjerker moment when the subject “reveals” his new makeover to the Fab Five, who in turn applaud, cheer and shower him with praise. When the camera pans to Tom Jackson after Karamo compliments his beard trim, he’s got a Charlie Bucket-esque glint in his eye. Same goes for officer Cory when Jonathan gives some texture to his hair and says, “Oh my gawd, look at you!” It’s common practice for straight guys to respectfully compliment a woman, but praise need not be romantic or inter-gender-only. It’s OK to give your buddies ye ol’ verbal backslap from time to time.
6. Crockpots are still the undisputed busy-man cooking essential.
No, ordering in isn’t your only option if you’re swamped at work. Yes, it is as easy as dumping in some quality ingredients in the morning and coming home to a cooked meal.
7. People add sour cream to their guacamole, but you shouldn’t.
Antoni teaches lovelorn Tom Jackson to make guacamole with a recipe calling for avocado, lime juice, cilantro and greek yogurt because “it has so much less fat than sour cream and it has a lot of flavor.” We wouldn’t even go that far. If you have good avocados, you’re only ruining the guac by adding yogurt or sour cream. If you have bad avocados, make a different snack.
8. Next time you’re grocery shopping, get a loaf of brioche.
You think your French toast or grilled sandwiches are better with whatever bland sliced bread you’ve been buying for the last 10 years? They’re not.
9. Don’t wait to clean off your grill until you’re ready to cook.
When teaching firefighter Jeremy how to craft a next-level hot dog, Antoni cleans the hot grill with a wire brush right before throwing the butterflied frankfurters on. Do not do this.
10. How to make the ultimate redneck margarita.
In the first episode, Tom teaches the Fab Five how to make his drink of choice — which we recommend for the lowest-key summer beach day, and that’s about it. To make: Fill a table glass halfway with ice cubes, then one part tequila and three parts Mountain Dew (or generic version thereof).
11. You probably need less flannel and plaid in your closet.
As the work environment trends more casual, flannels and plaids feel like a happy middle ground between buttoned-up, comfortable and virile. Speaking from experience, you end up blending in (in a bad way) — and Tan offers up a variety of prints, stripes and other patterns as alternatives.
12. Lots of guys need more color in their closet.
Look at the pre-makeover wardrobes. Look at your male coworkers. Yup, hues are lacking.
13. You need to apply sunscreen every day.
Without naming names, preventive sunscreen is essential if you don’t want to end up like some of those in Queer Eye. You don’t have to lube up head-to-toe in Coppertone every morning, but, depending on your location and exposure, you at least need some SPF in your daily moisturizer.
14. You’re not going to get hair as good as Tan’s without massive maintenance.
Style guru Tan has arguably the best hair of the group, pairing George Clooney-level grey swagger with Elvis-esque gravity defiance. Should you pine for a similarly full and fertile mop, remember: this is reality TV. When faced with kids carrying water guns, Tan unabashadley runs away, saying later, “Protect my hair at all costs.” If you don’t want to live by that code and carry around a can of hairspray everywhere you go, you’ll never have his hair.
15. There is a right way and wrong way to clean up your hairline.
The former: start low on your forehead and work up to it without shaving into it.
16. Don’t buy or keep clothing you know you’ll never wear.
Tom is offered a pork pie hat which he admits he won’t wear. App designer Neal mentions his mom buys him clothes that he knows he’ll never wear, but keeps anyway. It’s imperative a man know the difference between being open to a style change and being forced into one.
Odds and Ends
17. Gardening and small-scale horticulture is a lost art that should be resurrected.
18. To let go of the past, you have to let go of the possessions that tie you to it.
19. When using grooming cream, always start in the back of your head and move forward.
20. If you’re pretty sure you can moonwalk, you can’t.
21. Got a colorful painting that isn’t having the effect you want? Put it in a black frame.
22. Got a pet that sheds constantly? Get a Roomba.
23. Many of us lose the group element of physical activity as we get older, which is a damn shame, because intense physical exertion allows people to open themselves up emotionally. So swap your gym membership for sport or a group fitness course.
24. Exposed brick isn’t infallible. Feel free to paint large swaths of it should it be unsightly.
25. Stop using facial and body products with large amounts of sodium lauryl sulfate. It’s a widely-recognized irritant and, as Jonathan rightly points out, “actually the same thing that cleans the car engine in a car.”
All eight episodes of Season One of Queer Eye are streaming now on Netflix.