Now starring as Barbra Streisand’s lowliest employee in the Off-Broadway solo play Buyer & Cellar, Michael Urie found both fame and his own sense of style on the ABC comedy Ugly Betty as flamboyant fashion rag assistant Marc St. James — a character that would be scandalized to learn the 32-year-old actor prefers Levi’s over ascots.
By Brandon Voss
Essential Homme: How would you describe your personal style?
Michael Urie: I do a lot of mixing and matching. With men’s clothes, you really can use various combinations to create new looks with old stuff.
Are you drawn to any particular brands?
I love men’s Juicy Couture. Beyond that, I tend to gravitate toward things like Paul Smith and Lucky, but I don’t really look at labels.
You grew up in Texas. How did that influence your style?
I live in blue jeans. I’ve been on a Levi’s kick lately, and I’ll be wearing Levi’s until the day I’m forced out of them. I also wear boots quite a bit, and I actually just bought a cowboy hat in L.A.; it’s a piece of crap, but still. I don’t think I really had personal taste until I moved to New York. Before that, I just wore what I had and what was nearby. In fact, I didn’t really think about clothes until I worked on Ugly Betty. That’s when I began to make fashion choices based on my own taste, as opposed to on what everyone else was wearing.
You played fashionista Marc St. James. How much of his style rubbed off on you?
His personal style was so over-the-top, so outlandish, and so name-brandy, so all I could really take from him was an inspiration to have my own personal style. When it came to costumes, that show was so exciting. Working with our costume designer Pat Field, I really began to look at clothes in a different way. I learned so much just by observing how and why certain choices were made. Watching a fitting was like watching a great painter create a work of art. It was very cool.
Were you able to take any of those outfits home?
It happened. [Laughs] I’m more of an acquirer than a shopper, so I do tend to acquire clothes from different jobs, whether or not they’re given to me. We could always borrow things, which was great, because those pieces have been so perfectly tailored.
After Ugly Betty made you more recognizable, were you more conscious of what you wore in public?
Sure, because you never know when someone’s going to take your picture. When I know I won’t see or be seen by anyone, when I can put on just anything, it’s a pleasant relief.
Do you ever avoid an item of clothing because it looks like something Marc would wear?
Oh, definitely. Sometimes I’ll still end up putting together a Marc outfit with bold color, but I don’t really wear vests, ascots, or pocket squares, which were really his signatures.
How do you prepare for red carpets and special events?
Whenever I’m in a costume fitting, I pay very close attention to what they say about what looks good on me and which combinations work best for me. Sometimes I’ll consult friends, but my other half, Ryan, is always there to tell me if I look good or not, which is helpful.
Do you two share clothes?
We do. We’ve lived together for so long, sometimes I don’t know what’s his and what’s mine. Isn’t clothes-sharing the best part of being with someone of the same sex?
Essential Homme, July/August 2013 issue.