Indulge In Seventies Nostalgia With Your New Male Model Crush
When legendary rock n’ roll photographer Brad Elterman comes to you with a major discovery, you listen. The man has an eye much cooler than yours or mine, and he knows a quality face (ugh, genetics). And so when I chatted with the photographer a few months ago, he brought up a friend of his: model Justin Gossman. I wasn’t recording the conversation, but I remember the gist of it: you have to meet Justin, he’s unique, he’s like the kids I used to shoot back in the day. And he really is.
Gossman has a specific, vintage quality to him. With his almost-feathered hair, the obvious point of comparison seems to be Jim Morrison, but the San Diego-born Gossman is reminiscent of every sexy, androgynous, mid-century rock star. And he skateboards. And he recently started a band, The Toy Guns. Swoon away, ladies and gentlemen.
As a fellow San Diegan, I was pumped to talk to Gossman. We chatted about his life and recent work, which includes runway shows, campaigns and shoots for brands like Gucci, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, and more. We’re confident that he’s ready to blow up.
Do you like the nomadic model lifestyle?
I don’t think of it like that, because I do have a home. I’m more like a wanderer. I’ve heard of the nomad thing a bunch and I don’t like the word very much. It doesn’t seem like it fits.
You just started modeling last year. How did you get discovered?
I was coming up to Los Angeles for a dentist appointment. It was cheaper to come up here; my dad had a friend who had his own office, and so the three or four times I came up here I kind of got walked into three different agencies because I was told by so many people, “Well, you should be a model. Are you a model?” Blah blah blah.
Next was the first to throw a contract at me. So, I signed with them, but now I’m with Wilhelmina New York, Wilhelmina L.A.—I actually turned in my contract to Wilhelmina L.A. yesterday.
Oh congratulations! Want to tell me about your band, The Toy Guns?
It’s me and one other guy, Troy Bronstein. He’s a friend from San Diego, but he lives in Hollywood now, like in between the Dolby Theater and the Magic Castle. There’s a lot of rock n’ roll history over here, like down the street. Janis Joplin passed away [here], the Rolling Stones and Jimmy Hendrix used to hang out [here].
How did you get started with music?.
I got a guitar in the fourth grade, and started listening to punk and random kind of lame rock n’ roll stuff as well. Then my friend asked to borrow my guitar and never returned it back to me. So, I didn’t get to play guitar. He had stolen it forever.
I didn’t play guitar again until a year or two and a half years ago. I started writing poetry at a really young, and then started integrating my poetry into my lyrics.
Now, we’re basically focusing on the blues, kind of like psychedelic rock. A little bit grungy, a little bit indie. I’m a little more grungy and my friend’s a little more indie vibes in his vocals. We’re like an octave apart from each other, so he’s kind of a softer sound. I’m have a louder, much grungier, raspy voice. We just sold our first song to Casamigos [Rande Gerber and George Clooney’s tequila company]. They don’t own it, but they’re just going to use it for their campaign for two commercials.
Will they give you free tequila?
I’m sure they will.
Have you meet George Clooney yet?
No, I’ve been out of town every time there was a meeting. I asked my friend to do the business aspect because I was in New York and flew to Milan and back to New York and then I came here. Then I got written a check, and I was like, “Hell yeah.”
Since you’ve done so many runway shows and campaign shoots, can you pick an experience that really stands out?
Oh man. Tim Walker was amazing. It’s always been really wonderful working with Rick Owens, working with him the first year I was in Paris. That was really amazing. I got to work with Raf Simons, that was super awesome, Haider Ackermann. I got to meet Etro and Vivian Westwood. That was awesome. I got to work with the new designer of Gucci, Alessandro [Michele].
Oh, you like him? He looks like Jesus. [Laughs] I got to walk for him in his first Gucci Cruise show in New York, as the new designer.
The Costume National campaign you’re in is beautiful.
Right? I got to work with Glenn Luchford on that. Super cool. Then they flew me in and I basically did an exclusive show with them for all of Europe this last season. I walked for them and it was super awesome.
At the time my agency had just dropped me and they were trying to create some drama because they didn’t want me coming out there or whatever. But it worked out!
I always want to ask models how they learned their walk. Did you just learn it right out of the gate?
Well, I used to skateboard, so I’ve broken my knee four times. My walk has this natural limp to it. Basically, the first time I walked [my agents] just told me not to swing my arms too much, but otherwise it was perfect. I’ve never been told how to walk. I used to model with this one kid who’s kind of blown up, and I taught him how to walk. His arms were stiff—it was embarrassing. But I taught him, and he’s got it now.
“I walked in and there was something like $100,000 dollars worth of clothes, and they just shot me in what I came in.”
You have a great haircut. Have you always worn it like that?
I think I’ve only let two or three people cut my hair. I just did a shoot with Luigi & Lango for Vogue Germany with an amazing hairstylist, and I said I wouldn’t do the shoot unless he cut my hair. I was like, I actually really need a haircut, and it was for the day of the shoot. So if I have to miss this appoint, you have to cut my hair. And you make a promise to me that you will cut it, otherwise this isn’t going to work out. I was really going for a free haircut. [Laughs]
It was a two-day shoot, and the first day went on for fourteen or fifteen hours, so I let him off the hook. [Laughs] But the next day, I was like, you gotta cut my hair. So I forced him to stop the shoot and cut my hair.
That was a fun day, because I walked in and there was something like $100,000 dollars worth of clothes, and they just shot me in what I came in. I guess it worked.
I guess so!
All photos shot exclusively for Milk by Brad Elterman.
Art direction by Richie Davis
Stay tuned to Milk for more from Justin Gossman—big things are ahead for him.