How I Shop: Tan France

"We looked like a weird old boy band," says the fashion expert about outfit-twinning with the fellow "Queer Eye" Fab Five.
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Tan France. Photo: Courtesy of American Eagle

Tan France. Photo: Courtesy of American Eagle

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

If there's anyone more than qualified to speak at length about how one shops, clearly it's Tan France: Fashion Expert of Netflix's smash hit reboot of "Queer Eye," international ambassador for the French Tuck™, which he surely must have patented by now, and maestro of style-related words of wisdom. 

Some faves: "The right kind of floral makes you look styled and well-considered;" "I love fashion and a fashion trend — if it works for me. If it doesn't, I couldn't care less about it" and "I've been to New York many times, and I've always noticed that there aren't that many French Tucks around." (What up, New York?)

France also spreads his fashion-as-therapy approach to the world through his upcoming book, "Naturally Tan: A Memoir," out in May, a delightful Netflix-synergistic shopping sesh with "Patriot Act" host (and somewhat reluctant hero) Hasan Minhaj — if you haven't watched, you absolutely need to — and his role as Stylist-at-Large at American Eagle, where he heads for his slim-fit jeans.

"I always go into a store to buy jeans. Even on the show, I recommend to go into a store and get jeans. You want to try on as many pairs as physically possible," says France, over the phone, sharing another one of his pro-tips.

After all, imparting shopping advice is all in a day's work as he finished up shooting season three of "Queer Eye" in Kansas City, alongside fellow Fab Five members, Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Karamo Brown (culture), Bobby Berk (interior design) and Antoni Porowski (avocados, food and drink). France also happily dished on who is his most compatible Fab Five shopping partner (probably not a surprise), why the Crop Top Hoodie just might be the new French Tuck and what to expect from the shopping excursions in "Queer Eye" season three.

Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Karamo Brown serving looks at the 70th Emmy Awards in September 2018. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Karamo Brown serving looks at the 70th Emmy Awards in September 2018. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

"I prefer to shop in-store just because I love the experience of going into a store, actually feeling the fabric and trying things on in the fitting room. However, that's when I'm in New York or Los Angeles or London. If I'm in my home in Salt Lake City, the shopping isn't as great. Shock shock, horror horror, I know. You don't have a huge selection, so then I shop online. So I do like to do both, depending on which city I'm living in. 

I really like to hit up department stores, if accessible, because they have a huge selection. It's a one-stop shop. As I'm sure you will notice about [the Fab Five] at this point, it is more difficult for us to do day-to-day things without being stopped very, very often. So it's easier for me to go to a store that is a one-stop shop. 

Lately, Antoni and I are the most shopping compatible because we're a similar size and our style — you'll notice in season three — we twin a lot. And it's not something we plan. It's just we [show up on set and realize], 'Holy shit, we're wearing the same thing yet again.' I have actually done that with all of them. Weirdly, this season, the four of us have turned up so many times in the same color scheme. It's very bizarre. Literally two days ago, we were all in navy blues and beige-y camels, every one of us. We looked like a weird old boy band.

PRETTYMUCH, we're coming for you. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Shorty Awards

PRETTYMUCH, we're coming for you. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Shorty Awards

Honestly, I don't think it's a conscious effort we make to influence each other. I just think we are so engrossed in each other's lives at this point, when we turn up on set, if we see something that one of us is wearing that we like, we'll get the stylist to get something similar. None of us feel competition when it comes to style or fashion, thankfully, so we all just want each other to look great. So yeah, just by how creative we are in our fashion — this season in particular — has encouraged each of us to step up our game.

My favorite shopping experience to date with my boys has been with Ant. We went to a store and they were giving us hoodies because it's this Canadian company that he loves. I wanted to turn mine into a crop top hoodie, so I did, and then he saw it and he said, 'Can you crop mine, too?' Then Jonathan saw it and said, 'Bitch, you better get one and crop one for me, too.' And we get to New York and the three of us are walking around in Manhattan in matching crop top hoodies. 

Yes, we tried to get Hasan Minhaj to join our crop top group. OK, so here's the thing: Somebody pulled hoodies beforehand because I told them I wanted to do it for him. But the shirts were really soft and really thin and really light — it has to be thick and substantial, like a chunky hoodie — otherwise it's not going to look right. So we didn't get the effect, but, you get the drift. I do think a crop top hoodie is appropriate for most young guys. If they layer. Or if they've got the confidence to wear it on its own. I don't. I wear it with a tank or a T-shirt underneath. Antoni and Jonathan both wear it without.

Go team! The Fab Five wear Tan's new trademark look on 'Lip Sync Battle.' Photo: Trae Patton for Paramount Network

Go team! The Fab Five wear Tan's new trademark look on 'Lip Sync Battle.' Photo: Trae Patton for Paramount Network

I actually don't see myself as having a certain style. I know that the people who watch our show — or the media — think I have a certain style and it's a floral button-up short sleeve shirt and a French Tuck. I usually do French Tuck. That's just a styling point that I use, but it doesn't encompass my style. The world probably thinks I'm a short sleeve floral shirt guy, but actually that's not what I wear anymore. That's what I wore last year.

My style evolves. Every few months, I gravitate towards something new. I wouldn't say it's trendy — I don't love trendy trendy — but I do like to switch it up and keep people guessing as to what I'm going to wear. Also, I'm going to get bored, myself, from wearing the same thing and same style over and over again. So what you'll see in season three is that my wardrobe is nothing like my wardrobe from seasons one and two. Seasons one and two were shot at the same time, that's why they look the same. But if we had spread it out and we had shot them separately, my wardrobe definitely wouldn't have been the same.

I'm playing with my proportions a lot more now than I ever have and it's a lot more streetwear. Last year I was wearing a lot more button-up shirts, I was wearing a lot more formal shoes and boots. This year, I can't remember the last time — unless it was for an awards show — when I wore a formal shoe or boot. 

France's cropped sweatshirt situation needs a "French Tuck"-esque name. Thoughts? Photo: Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

France's cropped sweatshirt situation needs a "French Tuck"-esque name. Thoughts? Photo: Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

Back in the day when I couldn't decide on what I wanted to look like, I would refer to the people that I gravitated towards. I would look at what they were wearing and I would think of that when I went shopping. So that's what I encourage our heroes to do on the show: Find somebody in the media that you think dresses great or has a lifestyle that you gravitate towards and think of that when you go shopping. 

Back in the day, it was people like David Beckham. When I was 17, 18, he was one of the most stylish men in the industry. I would look up to him for sure. For example, if your favorite guy in the media is David Beckham, think: 'Would David Beckham wear this?' If you're picking up things, 'Could I see this on him?' Then maybe that's the right style for me. That's a really easy reference point, as opposed to just trying to find a complete look for yourself if you're not comfortable with style.

Over the last few years, it's honestly people that I see on the street [that inspire me]. It's not a certain celebrity. I love street style and I love when I'm somewhere like Shanghai, Hong Kong, London or New York and I see what people are doing. I think, 'OK, I can integrate that into my own wardrobe.' I'll take pieces of that that work for me and add that to a few others. 

If you enjoyed the shopping trips in the last two seasons, I truly believe that we've stepped it up for season three. Last year, we were restricted by the brands we worked with because most people didn't know us; they didn't trust that this was going to be a big show. This year, it was a lot easier booking stores, so it gave me a much greater opportunity to be able to play the way I wanted to play and give the heroes what I truly want to give them. So the audience will take away way more fashion and style lessons than they were able to in season one and season two."

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