Tan is somehow more charming in real life than he is on Queer Eye.
“Sorry, I just ate some sushi so my breath must smell terrible,” were the first things he said to me while politely covering his mouth. The fashion expert was sharply dressed wearing a sky-blue flannel button-down and dark-blue flex skinny jeans from American Eagle.
Surrounded by denim, Tan and I are sitting on a leather sofa in the AE showroom on West 34th St. in Manhattan.
“Were you able to see the questions I sent over prior?” I asked.
“I have not” he said, while flashing his pearly whites, “but fire away. I do well off the cuff.”
Despite having the perfect personality for television, Tan actually had no desire to work in TV. He was a business owner who had created three successful women’s clothing brands, and he loved what he did.
Television “just wasn’t my bag” the 35-year-old said. Finally, Queer Eye casting agents convinced him to audition. Before he knew it, he was in Los Angeles, stuck in a room with 42 other hopeful fashion experts.
“It was like American Idol. Every few hours people were sent home. At the end of two days, I was the last man standing. It was insane.”
Despite quickly rising to fame, Tan’s life actually hasn’t changed much for becoming an A-list celebrity.
On the whole, his personal life is similar to how it was in the dark times before the Queer Eye reboot. “I’m still married to my husband of 10 years, thank god! And I still live in Salt Lake City and have my same group of friends.”
Now, however, everything is amplified. “I have access to people I never thought I would have access to, which is very strange. Oh, and I’m invited to much swankier parties.”
The only other major change is the number of people who stop him on the street to tell him that they’re doing a French Tuck.
“I did not expect the French Tuck to become what it is. What’s interesting is that nobody seemed to notice that I did it a thousand times on season one. But on season two, once I gave it a name, people started to realize, ‘Oh, he’s pushing something in particular.’
Now, he loves seeing it done all over the world.
I asked Tan what the opposite is. I tuck my shirt into the back and leave the front untucked — similar to how mannequins in stores have bobby pins clipped to the back of the shirts — giving the impression that the shirt naturally fits tighter.
“You do a reverse French,” he said is disbelief.
When I asked if that’s officially what it’s called, he said it has to be different. “Let’s call it the English Tuck.”
He continued, “It’s probably because you want to show your derriere, and you should do that. Do you. Be you!”
The Queer Eye star finds himself lucky to have not been cast on the show at 21-year-old. Only now that he’s settled in his mid-thirties does he feel like he can handle the fame.
“I would have been that example of how you should not become famous. I would have stepped out of the car showing no underwear,” he said, shaking his head.
“What underwear do you wear now?” I asked.
“Boxer briefs. Never a jock. I like to feel supported everywhere.”
He did say, he would be interested in creating his own jockstrap line “as long as it’s out of the ordinary, like leather or fur jocks.”
Tan’s passion for fashion started as a kid. His grandad owned a factory that produced denim for Disney. When he was seven, he wanted to a be a machinist, but as he grew older, he realized there’s more one can do than sewing. So he went to fashion school and learned how to design.
“I don’t imagine going back into owning a business in fashion, but I would love to design another line for the future. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
While not designing for American Eagle, the fashion expert has taken on the position of Stylist at Large.
“When they asked me if wanted to join, I said yes for two reasons.”
“For one,” he began, “I’m in denim constantly and these guys do denim great. It’s stretchy and fits my body beautifully. I got a bum and relatively slim legs, so these pants are great.”
But the main reason, is because they’re accessible. “I really go on about this on the show. I’m not trying to take you to a designer store — most people don’t have that budget— so American Eagle, for the price point, is fantastic. What the customer gets is trendy, cool, and young, all while on a low budget!”
They also have what Tan hopes will become a new fashion trend: high-waisted denim for men.
“American Eagle does dad jeans, and I love them because they’re higher. I think it looks a lot more flattering.”
As for other fashion trends? Tan wants to see more oversized outerwear. “It’s finally becoming more and more commercially accessible.”
When he says oversized he means really oversized. “Like, as big as possible, and [then] belt it.”
Tan made clear that we’re unlikely to see him in a short-sleeve floral-printed shirt on season three — and he emphasized that he only wore six of those across both seasons — nevertheless, he’s moved on.
“You’re gonna see a very different version of me on season three in terms of my style.” He’s going to be wearing the oversized sweatshirts he wants to see trend. “Massively oversized. Everything I'm wearing is disproportionate. I’m playing with proportions this year.”
At the end of the day, Tan is continuing to do what he’s always promised: making fashion accessible, stress-free, and enjoyable.
“Fashion should be fun and playful,” Tan concluded. “This year, I'm having a bunch of fun with my style.”