Ryan Gosling Might Convince Me to Get Dressed Up
His looks in ‘La La Land’ are a reminder that dressy clothes can be better at showing off your body than no clothes at all
The last time Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were matched up in a rom-com relationship was Crazy Stupid Love, when Stone memorably asked him, “Please, will you take off your shirt?” The moment he did was Gosling’s ascendence into Body Goals Hall of Fame—his six-pack taut and hairless, floating inside a perfectly appointed modernist home.
This was 2011 and Gosling was in his douchiest role, playing a guy who lived his life according to fitness guides from men’s magazines. But the douchiness passed because the body was that good. Like when Brad Pitt posed mid-brawl with a lit cigarette in his mouth for Fight Club, the image of peak-body Gosling—abs out, smirking and leaning on the couch—has paid dividends in Google searches even now when he’s not quite as cut up.
In La La Land, Gosling models a different douchey type—a deeply nostalgic jazz lover who needs to be prodded by John Legend to open his mind to the future of music. Again Gosling’s charm and sex appeal let him get away with it, but his clothes, not his bare abs, do much of the work for him.
While Crazy Stupid Love was on the risqué end of the PG-13 spectrum—ParentPreviews.com warns, “Male nudity is shown, with private body parts obscured”—in La La Land the depiction of Gosling and Stone’s presumably sexy romance is family-friendly. (This time ParentPreviews warns of sexual content that includes “a man and woman [who] live together.”)
Gosling’s physique manages to stunt throughout any way, despite his being given more dance scenes than sex scenes—and despite the fact that it’s ensconced in clothing you would encounter on someone who treats ordering a $15 cocktail as an occasion worth getting dressed up for. The style is obnoxious, but the tailoring is on-point. Fitted shirts, blazers and trousers accent his arms, chest and waist as he moves gracefully through tap-dancing sequences. The body that Stone declared looked “Photoshopped” in 2011 is now in hiding—but it still demands enough admiration that you can hear Gosling’s voice in your ear telling you to get to the gym.
As I watched the film, my jealousy for Gosling’s bodily perfection began to make me regret my sartorial choices on this particular outing to the movie theater (and more days in the office-slash-everywhere than I would like to admit to): sweatpants and a baggy coat—slob living at its finest. As standards of acceptability for casual dressing have continued to implode, the lines between not giving a fuck, athleisure and office acceptable have meant many people (myself included) spend our days looking as if we’re about to go the gym. Even if we’re not, form-fitting sweatpants and workout tops, pushed into nonathletic contexts by the fashion world, leave less to the imagination about the bodies underneath and normalize tight-fitting clothing.
This is great news for people who work out obsessively and want to show it off. But Gosling’s costumes are a reminder that a white shirt—tight around the arms and chest, with a fitted blazer—can do this far better than sweatpants. And you don’t have to look like a jazz-loving nostalgic to pull off the look.
Zak Stone is MEL’s executive editor.