Ryan Gosling is a part of the furniture each and every Halloween – and not just because of his recent turn in Barbie as a very sad but very imitable Ken. Surely you remember a little synthwave-scored, neon-soaked vibes-a-thon called Drive? Nicholas Winding Refn’s 2011 cult hit saw Gosling cut a lonely figure as an unnamed and expressionless mechanic/stuntman/getaway driver/professional down-badder who, in hindsight, probably wasn’t sound of mind enough to be wielding a hammer. But he also happened to be something of a drip god too.
You know exactly what we’re talking about. That jacket, perhaps the most sought after piece of movie merch this side of the century, shimmering white like an angel’s cloak with its golden scorpion sewn into the back. 12 years ago, it inspired an alarming number of men to approach Halloween with blank faces, toothpicks between their lips and a sudden proclivity for niche French DJs or songs about real human beings.
But the jacket never went away. It has appeared in video games like GTA V, Hotline Miami and, as recently as last year, in the indie beat ‘em up Sifu. Then there’s the meme effect: Drive itself has been referenced into oblivion, ensuring its place in the online zeitgeist for time immemorial. At least 90 per cent of those Ryan Gosling “literally me” memes that spiked over the summer were based on a certain menswear-adjacent stoic. An Etsy cottage industry of jacket knock-offs still roars along in fifth gear. (“Thank you for making my Ryan Gosling fangirl husband happy,” reads a review of one such reproduction from three weeks ago.) And then there are the true believers, the Drive faithful that have paid thousands of dollars to commission their own screen accurate facsimiles.
Erin Benach, the costume designer on Drive, tells GQ that it’s still the number one piece she’s most asked about — far beyond any of her work on Gosling’s Place Beyond the Pines, the vivid costumes of Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey, or A Star is Born. “I remember the first time we shot [the jacket] on set,” she says. “The cinematographer just slowly panned up the back of Ryan, and I got kind of red-cheeked and warm, because I knew it was going to be a thing.”
The replica jacket belonging to Robert, a 26-year-old movie buff from Ossining, New York, has sat in his wardrobe since his high school girlfriend gifted it to him for his 15th birthday, right at the apex of Drive-mania. “I’m not sure where she got it,” he says over Zoom. “This is when I was starting to get into movies properly, like, watching Kubrick. I remember seeing the posters for Drive come out in the summer and being like, What the hell is this movie? I was instantly hooked.”
He was one of the guys who used it for a Halloween costume (“The one thing people [always asked] was like, where’s the hammer?”) more than once. It felt like an “impossible task,” matching up to Gosling’s vaguely unhinged cool. “I was just instantly like, oh gosh, I can’t pull this off. But every time I’m looking for another jacket, now, it’s staring me right in the face. I’m like, I gotta bring this out more often.”
It’s not the only piece of Gosling merch he owns. His current girlfriend, this time for Christmas, gifted him a copy of the leather jacket from 2010’s Blue Valentine — his “number one, favorite movie of all time”.
Those pervasive Gosling memes, ever-present on TikTok, have seen Drive steadily drip down to Gen Z, extending its status as cinephilic gateway drug to teens and early-20-somethings. Mikey, a 21-year-old student, first saw the movie three months ago. He has watched it “about twenty times” since then.
“I am a little bit insane,” he concedes.
“It kind of started around when Barbie came out. I watched it and fell in love with Ryan Gosling, so I made my way through his movies. Drive really stuck out to me. I tend to get hyperfixated to things very quickly, so I’ve been building my collection over the past few months.” Including, of course, the jacket, which Mikey wore to the cinema the day before we speak. “I’m planning on wearing it for Halloween as my costume, too, once I get some fake blood.”
One of the great (and few) advantages of the digital age is that there’s a community to be found for anything, even such niche obsessions as mid-budget Gosling movies from the 2010s. Given I found Mikey on Twitter, I’m curious: is there a wider Drive fandom to which he belongs? “It’s more of a general Ryan Gosling fandom I am a part of, but I’m the person I see mostly talking about Drive, so I guess you could say I’m the Drive Guy,” he says. “It’s also where I met my now girlfriend, which is really funny.” No prizes for guessing which movie they bonded over.
Kaia, 20, from Blackpool, England, saw the film a year or so ago. “There was something about Gosling’s character I related to heavily. He’s sort of this loner guy who nobody really understands. I felt a connection with this unnamed character and instantly knew I needed the scorpion jacket for myself.” He didn’t want to settle for a cheapo reproduction; after a lot of legwork, he managed to find an original 2012 replica from Steady Clothing on Facebook Marketplace, bought from a guy who vacationed in California when the movie came out.
He wears the jacket often, but he mostly saves it for movie nights. “I mainly wear it while watching the film,” Kaia says. “It makes me feel more connected with the character and the film, I guess.”
As to whether the Drive jacket is going to soon fade into obscurity, riding off into the horizon like an unspeaking yearner with a knife in his gut, Kaia is skeptical. “There is this sort of aura around the Driver and the jacket,” he says. “I don’t see it dying in popularity any time soon.”