Ryan Gosling's "Barbie" stylist Mark Avery
Christopher Polk/WWD via Getty Images/Samir Hussein/WireImage/Mark Avery via Instagram

Meet Mark Avery, the Cowboy-Stylist Behind Ryan Gosling's 'Barbie' Looks

Inside his 10-year partnership with Ryan Gosling.

Anytime you see Ryan Gosling, know that Mark Avery is there, too, waiting in the wings with a Stetson, a pair of Levi's and maybe some Dickies on. He's been Ryan Gosling's stylist for a decade, having costumed the actor in films like "La La Land," "Blade Runner 2049" and "Barbie," and dressed him for countless red carpets. But Mark Avery demurs: "My joke is always that Ryan styles Ryan, and I just help." 

"It's only really half a joke," says Avery, a Richmond, Virginia native with a blue-collar background and no formal education in styling. "He is where the process starts, and he is where the process ends."

Their style partnership began with Gosling's press tour for 2015's "The Big Short" and hit a high note at the 2017 Oscars, where Avery put his matinee idol in a now-iconic ruffled blouse and white tux. Avery served as a costuming advisor on Greta Gerwig's "Barbie," for which Gosling is nominated for a 2024 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Together, they've defined "Kenergy" with pastel twists on classic menswear looks this awards season.

As for his own sartorial tastes, Avery quotes Waylon Jennings' 1976 classic: "My heroes have always been cowboys." Take one look at Avery's Instagram—packed with Buddy Lee dolls, Southwestern motifs and Stetson hats—and his affinity for Western wear and Americana is clear. Go deeper into Ken's eclectic wardrobe, or Gosling's striking awards show looks, and the self-assured silhouettes of classic Western style are evident there, too.

Wide Open Country sat down with Mark Avery for a wide-ranging conversation about his experience on the "Barbie" set, the not-so-glamorous process of crafting Gosling's red carpet looks and why looking like "the coolest guy in the room" isn't always the best idea.

Being on the 'Barbie' Set

Ryan Gosling as Ken in "Barbie"

Warner Bros.

The past eight months of "Barbie" mania have been a "whirlwind," says Avery. "So much work goes into these press tours. But I have to say, the vibe and the atmosphere and the morale and everything attached to the 'Barbie' campaign was just a joy."

As a costuming advisor, Avery helped craft the look of Gosling's Ken during filming. You might call it a return to his roots—he started out as a musician with a love of vintage and thrifted clothing, learned the craft in costume departments, then began dressing the stars for red carpet appearances—but he never actually left costuming. (He's also worked with Tom Hiddleston on "Loki" and Liev Schreiber on "Ray Donovan"; most recently, he re-teamed with Gosling on the upcoming action-comedy "The Fall Guy.")

For Avery, helping celebs look great and still feel like themselves on red carpets is not unlike helping actors find their characters in richly-detailed, authentic costumes.

"I was lucky enough to be on set when Ryan was dancing in 'La La Land' and in 'Barbie,'" he recalls. "Those moments when you're right outside the frame... if you love movies and you love storytelling, there's nothing that feels quite like it."

Avery did make it in frame, however, in the music video for "I'm Just Ken (Merry Kristmas Barbie)." You can see him strumming guitar in the studio while Gosling performs a holiday rendition of the Oscar-nominated song.

Styling Ryan Gosling's 'Barbie' Red Carpet Looks

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie attend The European Premiere Of "Barbie"

John Phillips/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Together, Gosling and Avery have crafted an all-time-great awards season wardrobe that pays just enough homage to the candy-colored excess of Barbieland. There's the dusty pink number at the L.A. premiere, a teal blue vision in London and a black suit with playful white piping at the Globes, among other memorable looks.

"You see a lot of his classic, signature style in there. But those pastels, a lot of that idea was to show allegiance," Avery explains, noting that the "Barbie" cast and crew suited up for "pink days" on set.

"It was just kind of being a part of that movement and that feeling and that cultural moment we were all having around the film." Gosling and his leading lady, Margot Robbie, have upheld that team sport ethos while promoting the film on red (and pink) carpets around the world.

Working with Gucci on custom looks for Gosling has been a "dream come true." Avery calls himself an "intermediary" between the label's vision and the client's vision. The process is simpler than it seems, beginning with conversations about color, fabric and fit. Sketches turn into fittings, which Avery stresses are not bustling affairs:

"Some [clients] prefer a fitting with a lot of people in it, a lot of opinions. But Ryan has such a strong vision for what he wants that it's really just he and I and the label. I think people have this vision of, like, a room with 20 assistants and five tailors and it's all very glamorous. But, really, it's that old saying: 'You put on the pants one leg at a time.' I don't think it's really that different from the way people would pick out a suit at a store."

And there's always room for play on the day of a red carpet appearance or awards ceremony. Some of the best ideas, Avery says, are things you throw on at the last minute.

"In some of the big looks, there's been just really interesting little touches — whether it's the necklace that we did in the 'Barbie' font, or a shoe choice or sock choice. Some of those things can really vary up to moments before we walk out the door."

The Timelessness of Western Wear

Mark Avery

Mark Avery via Instagram

It may come as a surprise to learn that Avery's north star is Western wear. He cites Hopalong Cassidy (as played by William Boyd across some 60 films), singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (1976) as particular aesthetic influences.

When you dig into the details, though, it makes sense that attention to texture (leather, denim, suede) and silhouette (a well-tipped hat, a handsomely-shaped boot) should form the basis of Ryan Gosling's unfussy but no less striking red carpet style.

"I've always been really inspired by classic Western wear, by classic workwear. I love Stetson, I love Levi's. I've been wearing Red Wing boots for many, many years," says Avery. "That's what's so interesting about classic Americana and classic menswear style: It's about how people wear the things that are readily available to everyone. It's not performative; it's utilitarian."

It's also timeless. For Avery, great style is "the chemistry between the clothing and the person," and nothing is ever 'in' or 'out' of style. Case in point: A ruffled shirt under a suit jacket. Sounds like '70s prom, looked like a million bucks on Ryan Gosling at the 2017 Oscars. In order to achieve timelessness in his styling, Avery takes a photo of every look and puts a black-and-white filter on it. If he can't tell what year it is from the photo, then he knows he's "on to something."

He does have some design don'ts. "Not throwing any shade on anyone, but it's become very stylish to not wear a shirt underneath your suit. Some guys pull it off, they look amazing. But I think sometimes when you look like you're the coolest guy in the room, you might regret it. You might look back and think, 'Oh, I look a little pinned to that specific time.'"

He adds: "Whereas, some of these timeless photos of guys at the Oscars just wearing a beautiful shawl collar, a tuxedo that's well-tailored... you think, 'Oh my god. I could look like that right now.'"

READ MORE: Lainey Wilson Lends Country Cred to Wrangler's Barbie Collection