‘I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my T-shirts rolled.’
With one swift motion, Tan France, the silver-coiffed menswear zaddy who stars in the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye, changed the game for fashion-frightened dudes looking for a way to wear the same old clothes but look slightly less like a slob.
Episode after episode features many of the same tips, which magically seem to transform each hunched, grizzled 30-something nebbish with a 13-year-old’s closet. In Season One, we learned all about the casual magic of an open short-sleeve button down over a T-shirt. (“Oh, this old thing? Just threw it on.”) Somewhere along the way, guys embraced the sleeve roll, which results in a bicep-flattering, James Dean–inspired arm vibe, like you used to roll a pack of cigarettes in there before you started hitting the free weights.
Now, in Season Two, there’s the French Tuck.
The Fab Five knew this would be a hit before the episodes aired. In one episode, culture expert Karamo Brown warned France “every straight man around the world” would be tucking like him. No, he’s not talking about tucking back the peen using sports tape or a gaffe, although that would be a memorable television moment. The French Tuck is the simple act of rolling up the front of your shirt and tucking it into your pants. Just the front; nothing else.
Karamo was right. The look took off almost as soon as season two debuted.
The Instagram tag #frenchtuck is thriving, too. Dudes actually seem eager to show off their newfound fashion sense. More often than not, they’re rocking a Queer Eye–approved summer ensemble, complete with a patterned short-sleeve button-down (sleeves rolled, of course) and shorts that fall an inch or more above the knee. And don’t forget those bright-white sneakers. Judging from Instagram (and my guy friends’ closets), the unofficial late-20s, early 30s cool-guy look of the summer could be a Bonobos button-down, 7-inch Everlane shorts and a pair of Stan Smiths.
With their shirts half-tucked in.
The look feels fashion-forward without seeming like you tried too hard. It’s that insecurity that seems to sum up a lot of Queer Eye’s more hopeless cases: These guys would rather look like they’d been hosting a nonstop basement radio show since 1980 than be vulnerable enough to admit they care about their appearance.
What’s more, the French Tuck makes virtually every article of clothing you own look flattering and fitted, without overemphasizing the belly like a full tuck or hanging sloppily over the ass like a loose tee. And if your office has a relaxed dress code, even better: The French Tuck helps sharpen up your casual wear for a summer Friday.
I turned 30 this April, and I found myself grateful for a new technique as I take stock of my style and try to lean into a new decade. It’s an odd, in-between age, especially for my generation of city-dwelling workaholics, and I’ve found myself and many of my peers asking the same questions: How do I look more polished without looking, well, boring? How do I project youthfulness and creative energy while also commanding respect? How do I buy new glasses or transition out of skinny jeans and T-shirts without aging myself up a decade and looking like, well, the sad sacks on Queer Eye?
The French Tuck, maybe. But first I’ll have to get over the dick part.
Struttin’ through trendy-ass New York City with the front of my shirt tucked in, the thing I notice most is how, well, crotch-forward this look is. As casual as it was to roll up the front of my shirt, it feels borderline immodest. Hello, world — here’s my entire fly. My half-tucked-in shirt frames it perfectly.
The singular takeaway from Queer Eye fashion, I’ve gathered, is that looking like you give a shit will project confidence you didn’t think you had — and with the lap-first French Tuck, Tan’s given us all a shortcut to BDE. Still, the last thing New York’s subway needs is even more bulging groins in plain sight.
It’s worth noting that the French Tuck has been part of women’s fashion for years. “Maybe it’s a girl thing: Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine has been practicing the haphazard tuck since 2004,” GQ noted. It shows. For style inspiration more advanced than Queer Eye, guys ought to look to the women of Instagram’s #frenchtuck tag: They generally pull off the style with confidence and panache, showing a sophisticated awareness of color, texture and pattern. They accessorize with all sorts of creative additions. (I can barely remember to put on a watch.)
It feels like progress when men are empowered to borrow from women’s style without feeling emasculated—it’s a small step toward a less restrictive gender fluidity—but I completely understand the potential eye rolls as men “discover” a trend that’s been around for ages, then get cheered on for doing the bare minimum to look presentable in the morning. (The pink tax is no joke, and you’d be shocked to learn how little men do to their face.)
Tan France—who, naturally, rocks the French Tuck like none other—declined to comment for this story, but I’d like to think he’s thrilled. Tan’s earnest and eager helpfulness is a highlight in every episode, and the Fab Five project genuine and contagious joy with every uptick in confidence they instill.
Also, I hope he appreciates what a great aptonym he’s become. Generations later, when the French Tuck is as ubiquitous as the polo, the kids will think this France guy invented it.
Cooper Fleishman is MEL’s man in New York. He previously talked to a math professor about the Rock’s impossible jump in the movie Skyscraper.