Eric Rutherford for "The Color Issue"
by Marianna Milkis
If there is a proverbial renaissance man in today's ever-evolving digital landscape, Eric Rutherford is it. The L.A. 'Silver Fox is a full package, with an Instagram following steeply climbing into the six digits; an editor, correspondent, and events director for the likes of At Large, Departures and The Hollywood Reporter; A roster of modeling contracts; a solidified style influencer and the signature salt 'n pepper hair matching his enviable physique. Everyone seems to want a piece of the "fox" these days, but Rutherford, who grew up in the retiree paradise of Boca Raton, Florida and bloomed on the West Coast, is only getting started.
Whether he is creating buzz at New York Fashion Week or fulfilling his duties as a contributing editor, Eric Rutherford beams with a special kind of class. More importantly, he gives off kindness by the generous spoonful, an unlikely strategy that made him an industry darling. As we were leaving the shoot location in Southampton, our car got stranded in the sand resulting in hours of hard labor digging it out through the night. Eric was due for a birthday party that evening that he in turn missed, however, concluded the night with the upmost appreciation and gratitude for the team, a perfect example of the rarity that is Eric Rutherford.
“If I wasn’t doing what I do today, I would be a motivational speaker,” he confided earlier, trying on every shade of nude for the shoot. “I love supporting people to find their best selves, to create what they are passionate and excited about. You can always learn from the best and become your best by doing.” And we surely learned a thing or two from—and about—the man who is the master of undressing and letting his light shine through.
Let’s start with a backstory about you and your family. Where does the Silver Fox come from and what in your early years defined who you are today? I was born in Michigan and moved to Boca Raton, FL when I was 3 years old. It was a beautiful resort town where everyone’s grandparents moved to retire. And nonetheless, it was a fantastic place to be a kid. I grew up near the beach. I was always outdoors. We had a huge backyard that was partly overgrown and thick with trees; the perfect place to build a fort and escape with my imagination.
I was always creating elaborate stories with my friends and acting them out. My mom pushed my little brother and I into the local children’s theater, and it really let my creativity fly free. My first play was Alice in Wonderland that later became the basis for the first play I wrote. Doing plays with the children’s theater lead me to perform with the Dinner theater in Boca Raton, setting me up to audition for USC’s BFA theater program in Los Angeles. I was accepted and moved out to California at 17.
How did you get your start in the fashion industry? What does the fashion industry mean to you?
I had started modeling when I was 15 years old. My brother and I were discovered on the street near our home. I was the stereotypical, awkward teenager with bad skin and frizzy hair. I still feel like that stocky kid some days. As I started to work, I became more aware of fashion.
Fashion has always been a form of individual expression and also a way to belong or fit in. I was never a ‘cool kid’ but I hung out with the cool kids. I mimicked how they dressed. I love the saying ‘fake it till you make it’. Well, I faked it for many, many years. Until it didn’t matter anymore.
By the way, how did your nickname, the Silver Fox, come about? The Silver Fox nickname has been around me for a few years because of my gray hair. Because I started turning gray at an early age, I didn’t always interpret it as a nice or fun nickname. But last year, it really started to become a part of my ‘story’ after a girlfriend coined the term ‘The Silver Fox Says’ when I was shooting some Summer Style tips. It was a perfect fit. Such the right fit that we joked that it would make a good t-shirt or book title. Afterwards, I fully embraced it and wore it with pride and playfulness.
Did you have a defining moment in your career that made it clear that THIS is what you were supposed to be doing? There were small moments along the way that lead me down this path. A theater workshop at Northwestern University I attended after my junior year of high school was one of the most influential experiences of my life. There were all these wildly talented kids from around the country who were fearless in their creativity. And somehow, I was one of them.
When I was shooting with Bruce Weber for L’Uomo Vogue, he said, “you have so much to say and share, you should focus on becoming a great actor.” This stayed with me. Having my first play optioned for Off Broadway. Hosting my first TV show. Being let go from an office job and two days later shooting with Mert & Marcus for W Magazine. There were more of these moments.
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