Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ)

Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) has been  in existence for more  than half a century. The magazine, originally  owned  by the publishers of Esquire (f. 1933) was launched in 1957,  under the  editorial direction of Everett  Mattlin. This  new  publication, an upmarket venture intended to whet the consumer appetites of fashion-conscious men  of style and provide  a broad  range  of lifestyle advice to its decidedly prosperous readers, emerged out of some  specific developments dating  back to the 1920s and 1930s.

The  first of these  related  to the creation of trade  magazines, one  of which  lent Gentlemen’s Quarterly its title, that  provided retailers  with pictures and descriptions of the  latest  trends in American menswear. These publications, which  had  other evocative  titles  like Club and Campus, The Etonian, and  Gifts for a Gentleman, were fairly straightforward ventures intended to help retailers  generate consumer interest in men’s suits, shirts, and hats. The other development occurred in 1931, when the publishers David Smart  and William Hobart Weintraub, along with the editor Arnold Gingrich (the founders of Esquire) launched Apparel Arts—a quarterly journal similar  in form  to Fortune, created by Henry  Luce  in 1930,  and  the direct  and immediate predecessor to  Gentlemen’s Quarterly—that  included not  only  fashion features but  some  editorial items,  mostly  related  to men’s  style and  the  clothing trade. After Smart, Weintraub, and Gingrich launched Esquire in 1933, Apparel Arts continued to be published as a fashion supplement directed primarily  at men’s retail  stores  until  it was replaced by Gentlemen’s Quarterly in 1957.

The  title Gentlemen’s Quarterly first appeared, alongside that  of Apparel Arts, on the  cover  of the  summer 1957  issue. The  magazine’s shift  in focus  was reflected more  precisely  in its new  subtitle, “The  Fashion Magazine for Men,”  which  replaced  the  more  market-oriented “The  Fashion Magazine for Men’s  Stores”  and hinted at the  projected broader appeal  of the  new  publication. The  abbreviated version  of the  title, GQ, by which  the  magazine is now  formally  known, first appeared  on  the  cover  of the  fall 1957  issue.  In  its  first  few years,  GQ remained primarily  concerned with reporting recent fashion trends and bringing style to its readers. By the early 1960s,  however, the magazine’s focus  began  to shift, with an increased amount of emphasis on  lifestyle  issues:  features on  travel,  film,  interior decorating, college life, and automobiles, as well as fiction  by established and emerging authors became standard fare for the magazine’s upmarket subscribers. By the 1960s,  the magazine departed from  an exclusive  reliance on models wearing the  most  recent trends for cover  images  and  began  to publish photographic portraits of celebrities from  the  world  of theater, film, television, and  politics,  including President John  F. Kennedy (March 1962).

Despite these  nods  in the direction of lifestyle writing,  the magazine remained primarily  devoted to  fashion through  the  1970s.  Under the  leadership of S. I. Newhouse Jr., the  publishing conglomerate Condé Nast  acquired GQ from  Esquire in the early 1980s,  a move that  ultimately led to an intense competition for readers between the two publications. With Art Cooper at the editorial helm from 1983  until  2003,  GQ was transformed into  a general  men’s  magazine, focusing on celebrity  and  political  journalism, food and  diet features, and  financial  advice for an affluent  readership in the  age range  of 25–39  years. It was during this  period,  as well, that  GQ went  international, launching a United Kingdom edition in 1988.

By the  1990s,  GQ, as one  of the  venerable old-timers of the  men’s  magazine market, faced  increasing competition from  young  upstarts like  FHM  (f. 1985), Maxim (f. 1995),  and  Details (f. 2000),  all of which  promulgated a more  irreverent,  hipper, and  youthful style of masculinity and  relied,  increasingly, on  images of scantily  clad  women to draw  in readers who  identified themselves as heterosexuals  and  who  also  happened to  be  interested in  fashion and  men’s  lifestyle issues.  Under the  editorial leadership of Jim Nelson, who  replaced Cooper in 2003,  the  magazine has  shifted  its focus  once  again  to  younger readers (18–30 years  old)  with  an  interest in both a more  informal, man-on-the street  style of dress, an edgier  aesthetic, and an emphasis on popular culture, including a heavy dose  of material on  female  celebrities. These changes have led to an increase in readership, with subscriptions approaching one  million  and  a general  readership somewhere between four  and  five million. The  magazine has  also  gone  digital with where up-to-date features on fashion and grooming; stories  on celebrities, sex, sports, and  cars; and  images  of beautiful women are a click away for subscribers.

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