GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) started in 1931 as Apparel Arts, a trade magazine that catered to clothing wholesalers, but it started to accumulate a following outside of the industry so dedicated that the publisher created Esquire magazine as a result. Between the 50s and 1980, when Conde Nast bought GQ, the magazine grew to prominence as a style and grooming guide for the sophisticated man, but focused more on fashion than society and satire like in Esquire. When the era of disco and “peacocking” hit, GQ‘s editorial board was primed to become the new reference source for the stylish man of the 70s. There is a fantastic article here which details this very period of GQ and the gay men in the editorial and art department who would turn it from a stodgy suit magazine to the resource for men’s grooming and style that it is today:
Flip through the back issues of GQ as the years progress from ’75 to ’80 and you can see it all happening: the hair getting shorter, the bodies more defined, the vignettes more lyrical. You can witness the American-male self-image changing, the trends of the ’80s and ’90s (and beyond) in inchoate form. With the guidance and backing of the art department’s Coulianos and Sterzin, Weber and his ilk effectively buffed up and defunkified the American man, trimming off his sideburns, placing him in more salubrious settings, cultivating his handsomeness, ridding him of any and all vestigial ’60s stink and grit. If you’ve ever seen an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, a Calvin Klein billboard, or a pack of dewy collegians convened on a green in a Ralph Lauren foldout ad… well, here is where all that began.
And it’s true, amazingly true really, how through this magazine it’s clear as crystal that for once a male-centric publication from this period is not focusing on women as a prize for succeeding at manhood. The objective set by this magazine is to teach young, hot, rich men to impress other young, hot, rich men. Women rarely appear in the fashion ads. There are no articles on what to wear to impress your boss or cartoons featuring big-breasted gold-digging secretaries. Caring about what your boss thinks is suddenly irrelevant. Banging the secretary is so ten years ago when you could be at Studio 54 with all the other hot, young, rich people. Also, as you will see, the advertising is reaching out to a very specific demographic of men who want to look good – for other men.
CONTENT WARNING: While nothing in this issue is explicit, certain images in this post are borderline not work safe. If closeups on men’s bulging crotches are not something that you would like to view with others around you in a public setting, you should wait until you can read in private.
Christopher Reeve in his first life as Superman, and everything you need to know about California (as long as you don’t leave Los Angeles or San Francisco).
I like this table of contents layout, as I think they did a good job of cramming in a massive amount of small text to fit in an ad without making it unreadable. There was SO MUCH that I had to cut out of this week’s review for space, so many great ads and articles (like a completely absurd recipe for cioppino that involved digging a fire-pit on the beach), it hurt so bad to edit it down.
This model is judging the hell out of you. Welcome to GQ!
Oleg Cassini fragrances takes you away to the cover of a shitty airport paperback!
“The course isn’t about changing; it’s about experiencing who you really are.” Direct Centering has gone many name changes and seems to be currently called Immunics, which is a cult that claims it can cure herpes through the power of your inner self. How handy!
These are the evil rich people in the 80s college sex comedy that always get a truckload of fertilizer dumped on them at the end.
How long did it take you to see the woman’s face at the top of the ad? It took me ages to figure out what the heck the eyelashes were before seeing the whole picture. This ad doesn’t translate well to black and white.
Poor Carly Simon has been dodging that question in every interview for over forty-five years now, hasn’t she? Although she could have said that she wrote it for everyone who reads GQ, since if there ever was a yacht to be walked on and a scarf of apricot it could be found in this magazine.
Winston Lights – for men who want to look like their grandma’s trusty leather handbag by the age of 35!
The clean-shaven face was in this year, probably thanks in part to Christopher Reeve. Don’t you think this nice young man would have looked so much better with a big mustache and a tight perm?
If the Fourth Doctor was American, this is what him and Sarah Jane probably look like.
“Shape showing maleness”
Careful with the zipper there, studmuffin.
Geez, what’s the big deal about —
Get your endurance up for those mustache rides!
Apparently Joe Nazario currently runs his own bodybuilding gym in Puerto Rico to this day, so good for you Mr. International Muscle Man.
It’s really weird to link Kodak with a brand of polyester, but it make sense. Doesn’t this model look a bit like George Clooney? What’s with the weird flat sideburns under the feathered hair?
I like that this is clearly the exact same studio set, yet the pictures are separate. Maybe these models had a feud and refused to work together. It is a well known fact that velour brings out the diva in people.
The leather-texture print is just the last word in class. The only thing classier is high-end outerwear that matches the exact color palette of a muddy English meadow. Take care not to get shot at by a hunting party, chaps.
Advice for legally protecting yourself in long term relationships, for people who don’t want to get married, or for people who live together and can’t be *cough* legally married.
THIS BEATDOWN IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY CANADIAN MIST!
Fancy little toys for the fancy little man.
A German prince’s interpretation of “The American West” is plastic eyeglass frames that look like wood. You laugh, but I swear the raw wood look was a thing again with Tom Ford around, I want to say, 2009?
Nice shirt, “Ladies Man”.
“Ladies, ladies, please! I have enough pants for all of you!”
Worth reading for the testimonials. Seriously.
When the image of a gentleman was reflected by the size of his cockatoo.
Sadly, Dean-Paul Martin died eight years later in a plane crash. I dunno what happened to Tim Matheson, I think he was on Sports Night or something?
Angel-faced Tony Danza and ageless goddess Cicely Tyson looking like a boss.
Michael Jackson in transition from pop star to icon, looking very cute and making me wish that I could travel back in time to save him from his future. I love his suit.
Thankfully Spielberg had other pots on the stove to keep him going after 1941 bombed super hard.
Allan Carr, on the other hand, saw his very successful career destroyed by producing the Worst Oscars Opening Number Ever just a decade after this profile was printed. The Village People/Bruce Jenner (WHAT) movie turned out to be Can’t Stop the Music, a movie so bad that it literally inspired The Razzies.
These gross men with too much power continue to control all of the media that you love and consume today!
And now, all the cool places you can go visit in California – as long as you never leave LA or San Francisco, because forget anywhere else in this massive state!
That opening description is just dreamy, isn’t it? It sounds so much better than San Francisco. I feel like SF got a raw deal here.
Pointers for what to expect at something apparently new and novel, called a “comedy club”.
Christopher Reeve: nice man, enjoys flying (airplanes) and wearing forks as belt buckles.
The age of VHS, is, not surprisingly, hugely bolstered by the porn industry. And check out the proto-laser-disc!
It’s a 1970s subscription box! Don’t you all feel like suckers?
This wasn’t even all of the male model ads in this magazine. I like the one that purports to train you in the ways of the sophisticated man’s lifestyle, because that’s not super creepy or anything.
Time-lapse evolution of pencil-necked corporate dweebo to 24/7 Sex Machine, right in front of your eyes! Ow ow!
In case you don’t look like Tom Selleck…we can turn you into Tom Selleck.
Would you maybe settle for Tom Skerritt?
Hate to break it to you, but the direction of fashion in the 80s was not in any way “functional”, “lean”, or “pared down”.
The most pressing concerns of 1979 – will the people in this shower threesome judge me by my reasonably priced shampoo?
The wave of the 80s approaches.
1980 is apparently going to look a lot like the cover of a Dungeons and Dragons manual.
I’m sorry guys, even though you weird 70s orgy cult has its appeal I just can’t get turned on by a man in a nightie.
OJ the three-legged boot creature has many thoughts on high-end leather shoes.
Thank you for reading another week! Next week we’ll be visiting the bonkers world of early CD-ROM titles and answering the most important computer question of 1995: yes, but will my computer still play Doom?