He holds court at the runways of New York, Paris, London and Milan and plays games of Taboo with NBA stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
He’s hosted parties with A$AP Rocky and Kylie Jenner and been schooled by world famous chefs on the best mozzarella sticks. He got a sit-down with Dave Chappelle when virtually no one else in the media could, and sipped kombucha under the L.A. sun with Stevie Wonder.
His interviews have made Nicki Minaj hot and bothered and momentarily stumped Andre 3000.
He’s chatted with Drake about his ideal girl, talked presidential politics with Snooki and queried rapper Young Thug on whether those rumors were true that he tried to have one-time mentor Lil Wayne killed.
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But before all the world traveling and celebrity hobnobbing, before becoming a poster boy for fashion journalism’s new wave and taking the reins of GQ Magazine’s iconic column, “The Style Guy,” Mark Anthony Green, 28, was just a Kansas City kid with big dreams — dreams of becoming, well, exactly who he is today.
“I never regret going in on a trend I like, but I’m just as happy to let some pass me by. (I see you, skinny cargos and pom-pom hats.)”
— Mark Anthony Green,
“Editor and chief of GQ.”
That was a 6-year-old’s answer for the first school paper he’d ever been asked to write. The assignment: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I’m in kindergarten so I have no clue that it’s actually ‘editor-in-chief,’ ” Green says over the phone from GQ’s new headquarters at One World Trade Center in New York’s financial district. “But I knew what I wanted.”
From as early as Green can remember, his father would bring different magazines home, but there was always something that stood out about GQ, particularly its March 1989 cover.
Against a solid white background stood Michael Jordan, then the NBA’s crown prince, framed perfectly through the lens of legendary fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Wrapped in a bespoke double-breasted gray window-paned suit, with a crisp white shirt and polka-dot tie, His Royal Airness palmed a basketball and flashed the toothy grin that would help make him one of the most recognizable humans in history.
“He looked like a superhero,” Green says. “All the men on GQ’s covers, they looked like superheroes to me. They were aspirational.”
Talking with Green, you quickly realize how important feelings and vibes are to him. They operate more like spirits than emotions, holding a precious currency over most everything else. Making sense of why he feels the way he does or worrying about the implications of those feelings are secondary trifles to be dealt with later.
This is how a kid who was still putting his shoes on the wrong feet could discern exactly where he’d want to be 20 years down the road. It’s a “feel, act, think” order of operations.
“I wasn’t looking through GQ at 6 like, ‘Wow what a brilliant lead,’ ” he says (using the journalists’ nickname for the start of a story). “I just remember feeling like this brand … I like what it stands for.”
Green had a similar episode of feel-first-think-later as a freshman at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park when a crush invited him to be her date for her school’s Sadie Hawkins dance. The girl was gorgeous; of course he’d go with her — this was a sure thing.
Until it wasn’t. The dance had the misfortune of coinciding with the release of the world-shattering Outkast album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” Green remembers first listening to “The Love Below” (Andre 3000’s half of the double album) an hour or so before the dance and knowing he had a problem.
The feeling had taken over again. He called his date to break the news: “I told her I needed to listen to this Andre 3000 record again, and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to listen to the album. It was a real jerk move on my part, but, whatever, I just remember how that album made me feel.”
(In case you’re wondering, Green is straight.)
“Always come with a pretty girl. It’s the easiest way to get in.”
— Mark Anthony Green,
It was that same February Tuesday that Green also made up his mind to go to college in Atlanta, the birthplace and creative think tank of Andre 3000. Four years later he enrolled in Morehouse College, a prestigious, historically black college in the heart of the city.
“Mark always knew who he was and who he wanted to be, on all levels,” says Melissa Reynolds, Green’s AP English teacher at Miege. “That’s the strength that he has.” Green cites Reynolds as one of his most important professional influences and credits her with being the first person (other than his mom) to believe in his writing.
“I can be with Tom Ford in London and I’m using something that Ms. Reynolds taught me in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, my freshman year of high school,” he says. “I think about her when I’m writing things she’ll never see.”
Green was born in St. Louis, but his parents, Michael Sr. and Karen Green, shuffled the family to Chicago and then Pasadena, Calif., before settling when he was 10 in a home on Kansas City’s Independence Avenue. Despite the multiple points of origin, it’s Kansas City he points to as his hometown. Credit for his fashion prowess, however, is another story.
Already a forgettable epoch in American fashion history, the early 2000s in the Midwest — before technology could instantly bring Fifth Avenue to fingertips — provided little inspiration. So Green dressed unlike nearly everyone around him. He was the fashion outsider, an excommunication that, in a way, built a much-needed resolve.
“If anything,” he says, “Kansas City taught me how to not look around the room.”
It was at Miege that Green’s blend of style, self-assurance and sprezzatura began to take form and set him apart. Like his father and older brother Michael Jr. before him, Green was an avid basketball player, playing for Miege his freshman year. The mandatory custom for the team was to abandon the school uniform — Miege polo, khaki Dockers — and wear a suit and tie on game day.
“The athletes looked at it as a burden,” Green says. “I looked at it like, man, that’s a reason to play a basketball game!”
Soon, Green was adding his dressy game day touches (and breaking the school dress code) on days when he didn’t have games. Some days, Green, Michael Jr. and his sister Madison popped the collar on their polos for a little flair, a Green family practice school officials eventually singled out and banned. In a more subversive move, Green, refusing to succumb to dowdy Dockers, would take those pants’ logos and sew them onto “better fitting, better looking” Ralph Lauren chinos. A few days, when he was really feeling reckless, he’d ditch the polo altogether for a button-down and a bowtie.
“The game day rule was to discourage people from dressing down,” he says, “but I was overdressing. I was getting in trouble for the way I dressed.”
“Let’s be very clear about something: Not all fedoras are evil.”
Mark Anthony Green,
College brought more freedom. It was at Morehouse, surrounded by some of the nation’s brightest young black men, that Green’s individuality was encouraged to flourish and evolve. And as Morehouse strengthened his identity, a part-time job as a floor salesman at the then upstart Sid Mashburn men’s clothing boutique in Atlanta fortified his knowledge of fashion.
GQ has called Mashburn’s eponymous store there “the best men’s clothing store in America.” So, too, have Esquire, Men’s Journal and more than a dozen other taste-making writers, influencers and boutique owners. With an extensive fashion background, including stints designing for Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and Lands’ End, Mashburn taught Green to nerd out for fashion: to study fabrics and their histories, the locations of the greatest textile mills in Italy and the best cobblers, the backstories of fashion houses and the vibrant subcultures that served as their inspirations.
“I graduated from two schools,” Green says. “The school of Morehouse and the school of Sid Mashburn.”
“The word ‘hustler’ can sometimes seem lethargic,” an easy label, Mashburn says over the phone from Atlanta. “But if I call Mark Anthony a hustler it’s out of respect. He spent everything out on the floor.” When we speak, Mashburn has just returned from a trip to the very textile mills he used to encourage Green to research. He’s getting ready to open a shop in L.A. this fall, his fifth.
His deep Southern drawl fills with excitement as he talks about one of his favorite proteges: “Mark could’ve treated this like it was a job, but he treated it like it was his company. There was always a little bit extra with him. He was never a man who expected what he didn’t earn.”
“We. Are. Not. Doing. Capes.”
Mark Anthony Green,
Green secured an unpaid internship with GQ in the summer of 2009, following his junior year. “The internship was crazy,” he says. Green can recall many days when, with less than $20 in his pockets, he’d wake up early to walk the two hours from 148th Street in Harlem to his internship at 42nd Street in Times Square. He’d arrive exhausted, clothes drenched in sweat. It’s a story he doesn’t like to tell, but not for the reason you’d expect:
“I get really self-conscious because I feel like I’m complaining, I sound like I’m complaining,” he says. “But it’s like, who am I to complain if I have to walk to work? At least I’m walking literally toward my dream job.”
After graduating, he arrived at his destination full time as an editorial assistant in the summer of 2011 — “July 5th, 9:48 a.m.,” he says. Over the years he would matriculate from assistant to staff writer to his current position as an associate editor.
“The Devil Wears Prada” and the like have fixed the image of the icy and impossible New York Fashion Editor into pop culture’s collective consciousness. But with Green, the stereotype fails to hold, like poorly cobbled brogues. His is a temperament that swaps awful for aw-shucks. He’s at least a socialite and at most a celebrity, but he gets a bit shy when talking about himself or his accomplishments.
Green “struggles with cursing too much” but still never seems anything but disarming. The thousand-dollar suits or shoes he’s often gifted, which could pay a month’s worth of Jackson County rent, “are cool or whatever.” But his favorite job perks, he says, are the moments between photo shoots or after interviews when he really gets to know the people he covers.
But don’t ask Green what exactly his job title entails: “I’m still trying to figure out what I do,” he says with a laugh. “I, um, I write stories for a living.” He continues, “The most important thing I do … I have a column, ‘Style Guy,’ that I inherited in September.”
“I like to think of this column like a barber shop: a safe space you can say or ask anything but it’s gotta be real.”
— Mark Anthony Green,
The announcement, made by GQ almost a year ago, came as a shock to many in the magazine industry. Glenn O’Brien had brought the “Style Guy” column to GQ more than 15 years ago. Armed with more than four decades of sartorial and taste-making journalism, O’Brien and his column’s Q&A format solved the style conundrums for thousands of men around the country and solidified his reputation as a seemingly immovable star in the GQ stratosphere.
“The first time somebody floated the idea to me I was kind of like, ‘Man that doesn’t make any sense,’ ” Green says.
But then he thought about whom he worked for.
Jim Nelson has been the GQ editor-in-chief since 2003. He’s the type of savant his staffers would follow in the dark.
“If Jim is like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve got these surfboards, and we’re gonna ride ’em in the air,’ there’s a good chance I’m going to be riding a surfboard in the air. It’s not a lot of people that I trust like that,” Green says. “I’ve never seen Jim give a compliment he didn’t mean. And I knew that if he thought that this would work, that A, it would work, and B, he had put time and thought into it.”
Nelson’s confidence made Green confident.
“We’ve seen a change in the way men interact with style. They’re becoming more daring, they want to try new things and they want to try them now,” Nelson said in his announcement of Green’s new position last summer. “Mark Anthony is the guy to help you navigate all that. From the small lapel-pin-level details to the biggest investment-piece queries, he’s got you covered.”
It’s no doubt that Green’s youth was a deciding factor in his promotion. In addition to writing the monthly “Style Guy” column in print, he juggles Snapchat takeovers, twitter Q&As and Reddit AMA (ask me anything) forums. “Style Guy” needed to stay fresh, young and au courant. And hey, if it can come by way of one of the industry’s leading young voices, a tall, handsome black guy (media diversity, yay!) who was already in-house, why not?
“The same things you’re curious about, I’m curious about,” Green says. “The same things you’re trying to figure out, I’m trying to figure them out with you.”
Considering his track record, you might want to listen up.
Shopping in KC
Three spots Style Guy Mark Anthony Green says you must visit:
▪ “Hudson and Jane would be my first stop. It’s in Brookside. The owner, Rick Brim, is the man. They have beautiful clothes, and if you’re looking for, like, a unique jacket or you want to look different, that’s where to go. It’s a best-kept secret, but it shouldn’t be.”
▪ “I’d go to Baldwin denim. Baldwin deserves a lot of credit. They were the first to kind of see the menswear boom and Kansas City-fy it. Their Louis Vuitton ‘LV’ logo is KC. Think about that, that’s huge for the city.”
▪ “The sleeper is the gift shop in the Negro Leagues museum. That’s the sleeper! The quality of their merch is really high. It’s different, it’s cool, it’s simple.”
’Cue & A
▪ “I thought about getting a KC Masterpiece tattoo for a long time,” Mark Anthony Green admits. “I think it’s better that I ended up not getting the tattoo, but it’s kind of ill when you think about it.”
▪ “One of my favorite meals on the planet is Gates. If we’re in, like, a 50-mile radius of a Gates we have to stop. I don’t eat red meat anymore, but I’ll eat red meat at Gates.”
▪ His order? “The turkey sandwich is outrageously underrated. The turkey on bun on bread with fries and a Pepsi. And you have to get a yammer pie.”
Mount Rushmore of style
Who are the fashion influencer’s biggest influences?
1. Rapper/artist Pharrell Williams. “I think Pharrell is the most stylish man of all time.”
2. The King, Elvis Presley. “Tough for me to say, but if I’m being honest. Politics aside.”
3. Gianni Agnelli, principal shareholder of Fiat
4. Singer/songwriter Andre 3000
Another GQ-KC connection
Our cover photo of Mark Anthony Green was taken by his co-worker: GQ photographer, editorial assistant and 2011 Shawnee Mission East grad Andrew Goble.
“Andrew is the truth,” Green says. “How incredible is it that we found a kid from Shawnee Mission East to come through and join the team?”
“M.A.G. and I are so loud about being from KC, we’re kind of like a threat around the office now,” says Goble. “We love where we’re from, and we’re not shy about it.”
Goble says he owes his career to his high school journalism teacher, Dow Tate: “I learned less about journalism at Yale than I did at East under Dow Tate. He told me, ‘You’ve gotta be able to do more than just write in the future.’ I picked up a camera the next day, and it got my foot in the door at GQ about a year later. I see a byline from a Dow Tate student in every publication I read, and I’m not sure that happens anywhere else.”
He’s having a grand time being a Kansas Citian in the Big Apple.
“One of my favorite parts about living in NYC was getting to see Game 5 of the World Series at Citi Field. Spent the whole next day smugly walking around the office in my powder-blue KC Baldwin hat, and then regretted it after another KC guy wrote in the New Yorker about how I cried at the game.”
Yes, right there toward the end of Reeves Wiedeman’s New Yorker article from last November is this line: “I saw a grown Royals fan — sorry to call you out, Andrew — break out in tears as he linked arms with his brother.”
Oh, the price of fame.