Internet Boyfriends Aren't Born, They're Made (By Michael Fisher)

Meet the stylist behind Jake Gyllenhaal's fashion renaissance, Sebastian Stan's hot-pink Valentino moment, and more scene-stealing looks so good you start to wonder if the clothes really do make the man.

Bowen Yang, Sebastian Stan, Dan Stevens, Oscar Isaac, Jake Gyllenhaal
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Pink wasn’t the official Pantone color of the year for 2022, but Michael Fisher decided it would be. Before Barbiecore took over in the summer, he’d already dressed Jake Gyllenhaal in a custom powder-pink Prada suit at the Tony Awards (complete with a coordinating cummerbund) and sent Sebastian Stan to the Met Gala wearing rose-colored glasses and a shocking oversized coat, pants, and sneakers — all in Valentino hot pink. And pink aside, Fisher has ushered in a new era for Gylleahaal; refined Stan’s style with picks from Officine Generale, APC, and Brioni; established Oscar Isaac as an official fashion demi-god with a Thom Browne skirt set; and dressed Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang in Bode and Comme des Garçons. It all goes to show that internet boyfriends don’t just materialize, fully dressed and picture-perfect. Making them takes work. Michael Fisher’s work, specifically.

Fisher’s roster of clients reads like the guest list for Vanity Fair’s annual Oscars afterparty and includes the same guys who might sit front row at Milan Fashion Week. It’s by design, Fisher says, because all the actors and performers he works with — which also includes Ethan Hawke, Hugh Jackman, Lucas Bravo, Alessandro Nivola, and Kieran Culkin — are genuinely interested in fashion and well on their way to being bonafide menswear icons.

Internet Boyfriends

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“All of my guys are into fashion on their own levels,” he says — adding that for guys who get photographed so often that a trip to Erewhon is their own kind of red carpet, it’s part of the job. “Since they are actors and artists and use wardrobe in their working lives as a tool to establish a character, they all understand and appreciate good design and love quality clothing.”

All of my guys are into fashion on their own levels.

That appreciation is a collaborative process, Fisher adds, explaining that when he takes on a new client, he never sets out to create a lovable and memeable internet boyfriend (though the alleged OG, Benedict Cumberbatch, is one of Fisher’s guys, too), but his M.O. includes letting a star’s personal style blend with what the girls and gays want to wear — and gets even the most fashion-averse men to take a second look.

“If they are a new client and it’s the first time we are meeting, I do my homework! I research what they have worn before and if there were any repeat silhouettes or favorite brands they prefer. I make notes on what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t,” Fisher says of the process. “I take into account where they are in their career and where they want to be, what films and shows they have coming out, and what’s on the horizon.”

That could be why Gyllenhaal, who was known as an indie darling for what felt like eons, embraced color-blocking with a navy-and-mustard Gucci look at LACMA’s Art+Film Gala last year and opted for a louche, relaxed-fit creamy Valentino suit at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.

“Jake is very in touch with what he likes and what inspires him. We are continuously discussing aesthetics, not only about fashion but interiors, cars, food, truly everything in his life,” Fisher says of his relationship with the star. “It was never about creating a new look but rather about tapping into who and what he is currently feeling and appreciating.” After a Marvel movie (Spider-Man: Far From Home) and a Michael Bay film on his slate (Ambulance), it was clear Gyllenhaal could embrace being a leading man and add some of his personality to his sartorial choices. Fans took notice, crafting tumblr homages to Gyllenhaal’s film festival looks, and men’s magazines had even more reason to fawn over his fashion sense. The adulation is undoubtedly appreciated (Fisher is happy to repost fancams on his Instagram Stories, saying, “Who doesn’t like a celebration?”), but he adds that it’s never the goal. Instead, he wants his boys to shine, be comfortable in their own skin, and (what may be the most important aspect) not look like they’re trying too hard to peacock for the paparazzi.

Internet Boyfriends

“Believe it or not, all these recent carpet statements have happened organically and authentically. If you listen and are aware of what your talent likes and wants, the results come naturally with little or no convincing,” Fisher says. That goes for everything from Gyllenhaal’s rich-dad-on-the-Italian-Riviera look to Isaac’s Thom Browne set. “It’s always a conversation and for every bold idea I put forward, I guarantee there are three others to back it up. I think I have a talent for — [it’s] what a good stylist does — knowing when and where a look will make the most sense and will hit!”

One of those hits includes Stan’s retina-searing Met Gala ensemble. While it didn’t quite adhere to the theme of the night — In America: An Anthology of Fashion — or its decreed Gilded Glamour dress code, some of the actor’s most die-hard fans felt like it didn’t fit in with his style, either. Fisher explains that everyone needed to slow down and take in Stan’s evolution, which started with an appearance at Valentino’s fashion show and culminated with a crescendo at the Met. Fisher and Stan had been experimenting with volume and color and together with the Valentino team, created a moment that’ll be remembered longer than any theme.

“What I really loved about that collaboration was that it was part of a series of looks and a continuation for us with Valentino. He wore an all-navy voluminous look to the men’s Paris runway show in 2019. He wanted to advance his look and consider what he was putting forward sartorially,” Fisher says of the collaboration, both between him and the actor and with Valentino. “It was also the beginning in menswear, design and trend-wise, of the oversized look to that extreme scale. Sebastian tried it on and at first was unsure, but agreed there was an energy to the fit. He got excited and trusted me. It was the first time he wore Valentino and met Pierpaolo [Piccioli, the creative director of Valentino]. As a stylist, I really cherish those connections and relationships between talents.”

Michael Fisher

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It’s that sense of what’s now and next that sets Fisher and his crew apart from their peers. While many actors are happy to wear the same thing over and over — George Clooney has been vocal about wearing the same Armani tuxedo — Fisher’s clients are open to experiment and, in the process, have earned well-deserved reputations for being the guys to watch on the red carpet.

“When I saw the pink Pierpaolo collection, I knew Sebastian would love it and I knew the Met Gala was the event to rock it,” Fisher adds, even connecting the dots for the Fresh star, saying that his invite came via Instagram, a visual-driven platform, and that the pink hue was perfect for the moment. “He was a guest of Instagram and I felt the synergy would be as brilliant as the pink color itself. Those kinds of moments keep me interested in my job and keep me inspired.”

Internet Boyfriends

Red carpets and fashion’s biggest night — as well as press tours, premieres, and TV appearances, which are all fair game for Fisher — may seem like a far cry from the everyday looks that the internet obsesses over when it crowns a new boyfriend, but Fisher explains that real-life outfits and the things he picks for his clients are sometimes one in the same. Fashion, he notes, isn’t the most eco-friendly industry. Seeing his men re-wear pieces they’ve worn before is something he loves, likening it to a fairy-tale ending for the clothes he’s painstakingly pulled, like some sort of fashion fairy godfather.

“Brands are incredibly generous and often allow the talent to keep the wardrobe. For ‘real life,’ nothing makes me happier than seeing a client re-wearing something we fit for press,” he says. “Besides the sustainability factor, I’m all for a ‘happily ever after’ wardrobe, seeing it worn multiple times. Seeing a look ‘in the wild’ makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something and I’ve helped someone find his true style.”

While a handful of Fisher’s clientele has the prestigious distinction of being partnered with a brand (like Gyllenhaal is with Prada, for example, or Bowen Yang and Bonobos), it doesn’t make finding perfect looks for them any different — and Fisher is excited to share that he’s already got big plans for his guys as new trends come down the runways.

“It’s still about finding the right garment and look for the right event,” he says of working with big labels. “If there is a contract in place, there is already an understanding of who the guy is and what the brand stands for.”

Anyone looking to get ahead of the curve and try to puzzle together what the internet’s resident heartthrobs will be wearing next can keep an eye out for Fisher’s picks, including some familiar names and emerging designers. There’s no telling what Fisher’s boys will wear the next time they’re charming Stephen Colbert or posing on a cover, but the names and trends to look out for may just offer up a clue to what’s coming our way — and give any budding internet boyfriends a little head start.

“Layered outerwear, like B+ Umit Benan, Lemaire, and Y/Project,” he says when asked about the next big things. But like so much of fashion, some favorites are coming back around. “Acid denim [...] this was a carryover, but in the fall, I’m excited for a more ‘80s and punk spin. Looks from Études, JW Anderson, and Bianca Saunders. And I’m really excited for mismatched prints and separates that I saw at Paul Smith, Dries Van Noten, Officine Generale, and Ahluwalia.”

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