Apparently, I’m not supposed to watch Project Runway. I’m a married man in my mid-30s. I write about food for a living. Most of my TV time is spent watching movies, zombies and basketball. My sense of style is nonexistent, my wardrobe as basic as it gets. My brother constantly taunts me with the Ryan Gosling-to-Steve Carrell line from Crazy, Stupid, Love.—“Be better than the Gap.”
Maybe these are the reasons why people are shocked to discover I like—okay, maybe love—Project Runway. They scrunch up their faces in disbelief and grin uncontrollably if I try to explain why Fabio or Christopher should have beat Dmitry last season. When an old high school buddy found out about this odd proclivity, I was asked to “turn in my man card.” Whatever.
My interest in Project Runway started as a joke, with my fiancée forcing my house full of boys to watch it together. Tim Gunn impressions abounded. But the guys quickly lost interest, then moved out, and by the time fiancée became wife I was five seasons deep and wondering if anybody could out-design Jeffrey Sebelia or Christian Siriano. Watching was part of our comfortable routine, but it was something else for me. Fashion 101, maybe.
It may be a silly reality TV competition, but Runway was the first thing that made me categorize clothes into that big, important box of stuff called art. I continue to be amazed at how much work and care can go into the things we wear, and the level of skill and imagination it takes to be a good designer. I had no idea what “draping” meant, then I thought it was easy, and now I know it’s not easy at all. I still don’t know much about fashion, but I know what I like, and I know what I like to hate: Apparently, the funniest thing about me and Runway is how ferociously I object when somebody sends something hideous down the catwalk. The neighbors haven’t complained. Yet.
I appreciate whatever level of fashion education I’m receiving, but just as important, the show and its contestants continue to be entertaining. I know Gretchen Jones was the most boring ever and that Mondo got robbed when Jones won Season 8. I know the avant-garde challenge is going to separate the wheat from the chaff. I know I liked the show better when it was on Bravo, but maybe that’s because I don’t feel like I should watch anything on Lifetime. And I don’t care for Project Runway All Stars. How can the show be done without Tim Gunn?!
Project Runway hasn’t helped me jump the fashion gap yet—I still can’t shop for clothes with my wife—but I’m going to keep watching, discussing and maybe even learning. And my taste in handbags is solid. Better than solid.