MENdacious: Everything Wrong with Men’s Lifestyle Editorial
“Men who get it, get it.” So goes the tagline inducing you to sign up to Esquire UK’s weekly digital newsletter.
Do you get it? Do you get it? Of course you do, you’re a manly man who reads and takes the right supplements to ensure a steady knowing of women (in the biblical sense) and whom can just as adroitly carve a turkey as you can pick a successful fantasy football team, who might get snapped for a street-style blog just as effortlessly as you’ll get the pay rise necessary to buy that new Jag or pair of driving shoes by Todds.
The writing — more-so the ideas and topics around Men’s Lifestyle are lazy, vacuous, dismally consumerist and near utterly devoid of real class. It’s unattainably aspirational, punches down, and worse, is frequently misogynistic. ‘Ironic points of light // flash out wherever the just exchange their message’ W.H.Auden wrote in his seminal poem September 1st, 1939, which is what the landscape has become: a few last bastions of class amidst an unending tide of dross.
Esquire is a great, sad example.
Its current tits & trainers modus operandi is a far cry from what I used to subscribe to: quality, broad journalism on global and topical affairs; a lovingly illustrated (in a brilliant retro style) section of practical guides; interviews with interesting men and women; sensitive fashion features.
To put it another way, my girlfriend at the time would always read it after me.
How so, Esquire’s particular fall from grace? It all hinges on ex-editor Jeremy Langmead, who was made a better offer by Mr. Porter, the meanswear arm of etail giant Net-A-Porter, where the cursory average price of a tee-shirt is equivalent to what I might spend on a fortnightly food shop. The move nudged Esquire ever so gently towards the edge of the cliff that it couldn’t refrain from plummeting down, picking up so much detritus and scree along the way that they fashioned the new editor from it, one Alex Bilmes.
This article by the Guardian shows off Bilmes’ tact:
“Alex Bilmes has admitted that the magazine uses pictures of “ornamental” women for male readers “in the same way we provide pictures of cool cars”.
What are our alternatives? Well, there’s the weekly free-sheet Shortlist which is more of a glorified shopping list than anything approaching a supplement, or GQ, which presumably, judging by the content, is read solely by philandering tycoons and millionaire playboys. There’s FHM, the less said about that the better, and sections within publications such as London’s Metro newspaper.
Since giving up on Esquire, I have been frantically trying to find a good alternative. So far, The Art of Manliness has been my saviour, my guiding light. Although it’s hugely US-Centric and puts too much emphasis on the killing and eating of its resident wildlife for my tastes, varied long-form articles such as this sensitive and comprehensive guide to managing depression and a stellar newsletter make it a cut above all else.
The Art of Manliness is conspicious also by the absence of advertorials and paper-thin shilling of the depressingly over-priced ‘luxury goods’ market, which is an issue for another article. In short, since when did becoming a better man mean having a four figure watch and a shed load of ridiculous electronic goods? The Ancient Greeks (and many other great civilisations) would be appalled with the depth of our consumerist depravity — if the articles in these popular men’s monthlies are anything to go by. At least titles such as Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness largely stick to pragmatic advice on pumping up your biceps but the way the publishing industry is going, they still tend to advocate industrial size tubs of weird synthetic protein powder and truckloads of steak as much as they do actual fitness of body — to say nothing of their negligence of the mind.
So what’s to be done? Put simply, these charlatans will keep spewing the same old shit until people stop buying it, which isn’t likely to change, and online the situation remains equally stagnant thanks to the sheer power of cleaveage-ridden click-bait. What I would like to see is men with a little class and/or who consider themselves feminists (as any classy man should) demanding more — in person, on Twitter (I recently called out a couple online to absolutely no avail, predictably) and for men who consider themselves.
So, Gentlemen, or ladies — let’s stand up to shit copy, casual misogyny and print mags more bloated and unsightly than a floating corpse. Shout about the good examples, shout about the bad, tell the world about The Art of Manliness and then — and we’ll come to this next week — have a nice long argument with your friend about current Western ideals of masculinity.
Until then — you’ll find me pumping iron in my bedroom in one hand whilst practicing my cursive with a £1.50 ball point from Muji with the other.