We have never aimed to produce a magazine for lads here at Esquire
- since I arrived a couple of years ago, we have tried to combine great
writing (Amis, Garland, McInerney) with fine photography (Weber,
D’Orazio, Bailey, Corbijn). And yet, our ’sweetie wrapper’ of a babe in
a state of undress appeared to have an effect on the collective
unconscious. In other words, one saucy covergirl seems much like another
in the eyes of the world, and magazines that share an outward appearance
are assumed to be similar inside.
The first time I noticed this was when the papers, which had always
referred to us as ’trendy magazine, Esquire’, started to call us (along
with all other men’s magazines) a ’lads’ mag’. The line between what we
thought we were producing (an upmarket read for a sophisticated reader)
and the way in which we were being represented (tits and bums merchants)
had become so blurred that we needed to take action.
So we have decided to ditch the ’birds-in-bikinis’ approach to our
covers and sharpen up our content. Behind this decision lies a
conviction that laddism seems dated.
What we don’t know about 2000 onwards is how things will shape up. What
we do know is that everything that seemed culturally defining in the 90s
has to be replaced. It may sound obvious, but culture works in pendulum
swings and we’re about to experience one of the biggest in living
Just as when the 80s became the 90s and commentators scrambled over each
other to pronounce the world of matt-black and chrome accessories,
yuppies, Porsches and double-breasted suits dead and buried, so we now
face a backlash against the hedonistic certainties of laddism.
It’s no longer good enough to say that a ’booze and babes’ lifestyle is
justified because you are being ironic. Now, if you’re seen to scrape
your knuckles along the floor you are going to have a rough time - from
your more enlightened friends, and from the opposite sex, who are tired
of having to make excuses for you: ’Boys will be boys.’ Sure, but most
girls don’t want a boy, they want a man.
So the February issue features a portrait of Johnny Depp on the cover
and the inside pages launch our commitment to running new fiction,
photojournalism and investigative journalism (alongside our existing mix
of fashion, interviews and lifestyle articles).
Of course, while there will always be a demand for the true lads’ mags,
those who want something different have discovered that a life dominated
by the ’phwooar’ factor is ignorant, narrow and ultimately restricting.
(And, let’s face it, a little sad.)
It’s time now for men to sharpen up, not dumb down.
Being sharp is not the same as being smart. It has nothing to do with
class or education. It has nothing to do with who-you-know and
everything to do with what-you-know. The new sharpness is about getting
the most from your talent and acknowledging that just as tequila
slammers can be a stimulant, so too can a good book.
By comparison, laddism suddenly appears tarnished and tired.
Peter Howarth is the editor of Esquire.