“What does settle down mean?” A 19-year-old male model asked me this on a recent June morning at The Plaza while wearing nothing but a towel around his waist. His name is Jordan Kale Barrett — yes, that middle name is real — and in the past couple of years, he's shot through fashion's ranks to become a poster boy for the dream male model lifestyle, jet-setting around the world for gigs or sometimes just parties, hobnobbing with high-profile best buds, living large and documenting it all on Instagram and Snapchat for the world to see. That he did not understand the concept of settling down did not surprise me. Why should he? Barrett does not look even close to 19, which could explain why he's never met a velvet rope he couldn't cross. He is tall and fit and has tussled dirty-blonde hair, which he runs his fingers through constantly to keep out of his face. "I feel like I look pale," he said while shaving his scruff in the mirror, despite him being the tannest person in the room. But Barrett's trademark feature is a mischievous grin that makes Kevin McCallister in the Home Alone movies look like a slouch. When I told Barrett that his social media presence made him seem like he does whatever he wants, he responded with that signature smirk. "It'll get you in trouble sometimes," Barrett said. "But only sometimes." Unlike most models of his rising status, Barrett seems to have no boundaries, whether they're geographical or emotional. He's truly "no filter," if you will. And while on camera this makes for a bad boy image, off-camera he comes across as jovial. To my surprise, he rolled up to The Plaza Hotel on his skateboard almost an hour early for a photo shoot that started at 9:00 a.m on a Friday. Everyone on set expected your average hungover party boy, but instead we got a teenager who could not sit still. Born in Byron Bay on the Golden Coast of Australia, Barrett was scouted by IMG at the age of 14 while at the grocery store with his mother. He lost the scout's business card, and it was his mother who eventually tracked down an agent via email. Barrett quickly landed gigs for his resemblance to a young River Phoenix in Sydney, where he lived for two years before moving to Tokyo, Japan at the age of 16. "I went there for a job and I stayed," he said with a shrug. Barrett claims his big break happened the week after his 18th birthday when Bruce Weber invited him to Miami for a V Man shoot. Campaigns for Dsquared2, Tom Ford, and Tommy Hilfiger followed and a slew of editorials. Most recently, he covered the Wonderland summer issue lying in bed smoking a cigarette.
On a typical week, he might travel halfway across the world and back for jobs and jaunts. He went straight from an amfAR gala in New York to the airport, where he got on an overnight flight to walk the Moschino Resort 2017 show in Los Angeles. He then took another flight to London, where he sat hip-to-hip with Kate Moss at the Coach men's show, chatting and laughing as though they were long lost mates. A day later, Barrett was on yet another plane to Los Angeles, where he did an all-day photo shoot, spent the night out, and then got on another flight across the globe to Sydney, Australia. From the air, he took a snapchat of himself in an extra-legroom seat with a glass of white wine. The caption: "The only time I sleep."
Despite his stratospheric rise to notoriety, Barrett is not yet jaded by the scene. "I like living out of a suitcase," he said. And unlike a lot of blasé fashion folk, he also openly admits to having fun at fashion week. "I don't even hate Milan," he continued. "You can run through the parks!" The one place he does hate, however, is China. "Their Internet rules are stupid," he said. "You can’t even use Facebook!" Barrett isn't in the business for clothes. "I love what I do because I get to meet people and travel," he said. And because of this guilelessness, he's attracted a ragtag group of fashionable friends in every corner of the globe. "From the moment I met Jordan, I instantly fell in love," said the model Catherine McNeil, who shares a "Catdog" tattoo with Barrett, a nickname for each other. "He's one of the best people to have around to cheer you up and put a smile on your face." "He is so fun to be around! A proper rockstar," said the model Bambi Northwood-Blythe, who first met Barrett back in Australia.
When I asked the daring model what scares him, Barrett had to take a minute to think of an answer. It's not skydiving (he's been three times and is shooting for nine in order to get his license). Or scuba diving with an instructor who doesn't speak English (he did this at the age of 13). He offered up spiders, but then retracted it — unable to convince even himself. "Do you ever feel lonely?" I asked. "No because I hate being alone. That scares me," Barrett said, finally. He was in the hotel's bathroom lathering aftershave on his face as if it was sunscreen. "I’m never alone. It freaks me out. I like having friends everywhere all the time." He paused. "I wish I had a travel companion... I listen to the audio book for River Phoenix's, Last Night at the Viper Room every time I fly. It keeps me from being alone on the plane." For now, modeling keeps Barrett busy, although he doesn't see himself doing it forever. When it's time to move on to another adventure, he dreams of one day opening a hotel — a foolproof plan that will allow him to never travel alone again. "What are you doing tonight?" I asked Barrett after a long day on set at The Plaza Hotel. He said he hoped to go to Mexico at 5:30 p.m. His bag was packed — as it always is — but he wasn't sure if he would make it. He wasn't worried.