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 www.gq.com 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.