She’s Everything, He’s Just Ken: Ken-ergy is Taking Over Menswear

Ryan Gosling at CinemaCon.
Ryan Gosling at CinemaCon.Greg Doherty

“Up until this point, I only knew Ken from afar. I didn’t know Ken from within,” Ryan Gosling declared at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week. Discussing his upcoming role as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie starring Margot Robbie, he added, “I doubted my Ken-ergy. I didn’t see it, but Margot and Greta, they conjured this out of me somehow.”

I stayed up all night thinking about “Ken-ergy.” When the promotional character images and lead poster of Barbie dropped, we fixated on many newly found details about the film: Dua Lipa as a blue-haired Barbie mermaid! Issa Rae as president Barbie! America Ferrera as a…human? But the biggest revelation was simple: Barbie is everything, and Ken? He’s just Ken. 

She’s everything.

Warner Bros.

He’s just Ken.

Warner Bros.

What’s fascinating about this all is that, in the Barbie universe, Ken doesn’t have a raison d’être other than Barbie. She is a doctor, a president, a mermaid, a princess, a fairy—he’s her jobless boyfriend. She has a pink convertible and a Malibu dream house—he sits in the passenger seat and stands outside her house waiting for her to show up. 

Understanding this energy, this Ken-ergy, is crucial to Barbie, but also to unpacking an undercurrent in menswear that has been spreading everywhere from Get Ready With Me TikToks to the runways and red carpets. Despite the fact that all the fashion talk is centered around the “new masculinity” of painted nails, pearl necklaces, and various other gender-bending aesthetics, many men—cis, trans, straight, gay, and everything in between—are wearing what they always have been: cargo pants, Vans, vintage t-shirts, dollar-store ribbed tank tops, and trucker hats. “Masculine,” sure, but not in a huffing-and-puffing dirty flannel and old jeans kind of way. In a does-this-top-make-me-look-hot? style. This sartorial himbo spirit dominating mainstream men’s style is, dear reader, pure Ken-ergy. 

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie onstage at CinemaCon.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On stage in Las Vegas, Gosling wore a “Directed by Greta Gerwig”' t-shirt on stage, together with an Acne Studios pink bomber jacket paired with black jeans and a distressed brown leather belt, his movie-Ken bleached locks now grown-out into ’90s boy-band highlights. Standing by his side, Robbie wore what can best be described as Barbie clothes: A prim pink and white gingham set by Prada. She was perfectly put together, and him? He was just Ken (a slightly disheveled, seemingly unemployed Ken). 

Think of the many influencer couples we see online: She is overdressed for a music festival, he’s just Ken-ing in a button-down and shorts. See also Hailey and Justin Bieber: She is wearing a Saint Laurent LBD and matching pumps, he is wearing a beanie, baggy jeans, and a crewneck sweater. And before getting overly heteronormative, I see this all the time on queer folks, too. My friends—and their boyfriends and partners—are all wearing archetypically masc items of clothing, in the guise of exuding the easy-going masculinity that they find alluring, but also to give off a chill, almost put together, charmingly clueless Ken-ergy. No thoughts, head empty, as the kids say.

Jacquemus, spring 2023 ready-to-wear.

Photo: Isidore Montag /

JW Anderson, fall 2023 menswear.

Photo: Isidore Montag /

Diesel, fall 2023 ready-to-wear.

Photo: Filippo Fior /

Kith, spring 2023 menswear.

Photo: Courtesy of Kith

On the runway, the best example of Ken-ergy would be the endless summer vacation that is Jacquemus—his models are always very tan and very fit, and his men’s clothes distill laid-backness. See also the twisted basics Jonathan Anderson has been making at JW Anderson—though they arguably sometimes have a more Allan vibe, Ken’s discontinued “buddy” (“All of Ken’s clothes fit him!” read the first box Allan was packaged in). Ken-ergetic are also Glenn Marten’s playful—and oddly sexy—denim concoctions at Diesel, and, of course, the Californianess of Kith

“I was living my life and the next thing I knew, I was bleaching my hair and shaving my legs and rollerblading on Venice Beach,” Gosling joked on stage. Is this not everything any self-respecting himbo can aspire to? If all it takes is a little bleach, self tanner, five inch shorts, and a camp shirt, sign me up. I can stop giving off Barbie’s everything energy for a summer, nothing sounds more relaxing than being just Ken.