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TODAY
updated 2/17/2004 10:59:19 AM ET 2004-02-17T15:59:19

They’re the scourge of slobby heterosexual guys everywhere — and heroes to the wives and girlfriends who see the witty gang from the hit show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” as a glimmer of hope that their style-challenged men can be turned into epitomes of elegance.  And here's more good news: With the release of their new book based on the show, you no longer have to take notes while watching Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez in action! They dropped by “Today” to talk about the tome; here’s an excerpt:

Introduction
In the last year, American men have come to know and expect that the dramatic arrival of five impeccably dressed gay men at their door can mean only one thing: Their life is about to get more fabulous. Hair is going to fly, horrible hetero habits will be exposed and eradicated, ratty futons and plastic flowers will get the heave-ho, the fridge will be carefully decontaminated. He must be torn down before a wonderful new, totally tszujed him can be erected. And you know what? He’ll like it. No — he’ll love it.

We know our mission and how important it is. Every second in America, a straight man puts on a pair of pleated pants. (The shock!) Every minute, a man lathers his bald head with a bar of soap and shaves it with a 29-cent throwaway razor. (The horror!) Right now, in cities and towns across this great land, there are men eating pork-’n’-beans out of can, grooming like Neanderthals, and dressing themselves in the darkness of utter couture-ignorance. (The tragedy!) You needed us, and we were there.

Clarkson Potter/Random House
So what does this mean for you? Well, if you’re reading this book, you’re already halfway to a better you. Because the key to learning how to live a little better is just being open to it -- that is, simply, trying. What we talk about in the show and explain in this book isn’t highly classified information that’s just now being declassified from the archives of the Gay Bureau of Investigation. Women talk about this stuff all the time. Women trade makeup tips and swap recipes and tell each other whose butt looks fat in what. It’s just part of their culture, and these are things that they’re comfortable — and engaged in — discussing. Traditionally, straight men (and, we hear, the occasional gay man from Austria) aren’t as open about these things. Why? It’s not that they don’t want to know. Who doesn’t want to know when his butt looks fat? Or how to avoid bleeding when shaving? It’s just not part of the conversations straight guys have.

Which is too bad. Because knowing how to dress better, how to behave better, how to look, cook, and live better ... these aren’t girly topics. They’re human topics. And as we’ve seen on the show, once you open up guys’ eyes to the wonders of hygiene management, a flattering wardrobe, and even perhaps some basic feng shui, they’re excited to know more. Teach a man to fish, and pretty soon he’s pairing that fish with wild mushroom risotto and a crisp Pinot Grigio. A little tszuj goes a long way!

Perhaps straight guys don’t talk about these things because they’re afraid it’ll make them seem gay. Trust us: no. Just no. Think about the guy you know who cares the most about wine, who dresses sharp, shakes hands properly, and doesn’t smell like an athletic supporter. Do you think he worries that his interests seem effete? No. Because he’s too busy beating off women with a stick. A little hair gel and some pants that fit aren’t going to set off anybody’s gaydar, people. Women know who’s gay and who isn’t, and gay men definitely know. If tomorrow morning you shave correctly and wear a shirt that’s actually your size, gay men aren’t all of a sudden going to start palming your ass on the sidewalks.

Another thing: A queer “eye” doesn’t mean a queer look. It’s a point of view, a receptiveness to looking at what works and what doesn’t, instead of just accepting things as they are. It’s an openness to what’s stylish and fun, but not according to any predetermined formula. We don’t want you to look just like us. Especially not like Carson. We know that you heteros just can’t get away with his particular brand of sartorial splendor. We want you to look your best. That means taking who you are, emphasizing the best, eliminating the worst, and tweaking the rest. And that means a process: of checking out what you’ve already got working for you, what you can get working for you, and figuring out how to make that journey from A to B.

Let’s repeat that: This is a journey, not a firm destination with confirmed reservations for the best penthouse suite. Picking up this book is like buying your ticket; reading the book is like actually taking the first leg. But this isn’t the be-all and end-all of every last bit of information and advice on food and wine, grooming, decorating, fashion, and culture. We really are just gay men, not supermen. One book can’t cover the whole universe of knowledge -- either that we have to offer or that you may want. Ted has hundreds of great recipes in his repertoire; Carson could write a whole book on belts — actually, a whole book just on buckles. So don’t expect that when you get to the last page, you’ll know everything there is to know. You will know the basics, and you will know what you want to pursue further. You’ll know how to take those first steps toward enjoying life to the utmost (and having good hair while you’re at it). You’ll have a better idea of where you’re going, and you’ll have fun getting there.

Bear in mind what we always say: “Queer Eye” isn’t a make-over show; it’s a make-better show. Our goal isn’t to turn you into someone else. If you’re a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy, we’re not going to make you squeeze into an uptight suit and tie; if you see yourself as a long-haired rock-and-roller, we’re not going to tell you to get a Parris Island buzz cut. That’s so not what we’re about. But we will find you the right jeans and T-shirt, and we will make sure your long hair isn’t harboring any tangles or aviaries. We’re also not going to tell you to go out and spend $70,000 you don’t have on a renovated kitchen — or even $7 on a glass of wine you don’t want. It’s not about spending money, guys: It’s about spending thought. That’s what the queer eye is about, and that’s what make-better does.

      — The Fab Five
          New York City

Excerpted from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5's Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better, and Living Better” by Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley, and Jai Rodriguez.  Copyright© 2004 by Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley, and Jai Rodriguez. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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