Esquire (UK)

Go Big or Go Home


unless this is the first time you’ve picked up an issue of Esquire, you will, I hope, notice that we’ve made a number of significan­t changes to the magazine. Does it seem taller, broader, heavier, more likely to do serious damage if wielded about the head in a tight spot? That’s because it is all those things. It is taller, broader and heavier. And no, I don’t advise hurling it across the room, outraged though you may be by these unexpected changes in dimension. Nor allowing it to slip from your fingers, to fall on to your stockinged foot. Ouch.

Is Esquire’s weight gain the result of the fact that there are now more pages than there were previously? Yes, it is. Because there are. Do those pages feel somehow thicker? Hope so, that’s what we paid for. Is the gloss glossier and the matte, somehow, matte-ier? At the risk of magsplaini­ng, we call that rougher paper “uncoated” in the print trade, not matte, but yes the gloss is glossier and the uncoated is… well, we didn’t have the uncoated before.

Is the result easier on the eye, more pleasing to the touch, more — to use a word more appropriat­ely applied to the very slightly softer toilet roll — more luxe? Yes and yes and yes again. Just what the Dickens is going on here? To descend, for a moment, to the language if not the ethics of the marketing seminar, Esquire has been refreshed, redesigned, reimagined, re-engineered. Rebranded. Rebooted? No, not rebooted. That’s a digital thing.

(If this really is the first time you’ve ever picked up an issue of this magazine and consequent­ly you have not the foggiest idea what I’m droning on about: Welcome! Excellent choice! And please do feel free to skip the throatclea­ring and move directly to the main event, which begins on page 65.)

What have we done? We’ve taken the best of the old Esquire — the wit, the style, the spiffy shoes — and combined it with the best of The

Big Black Book, our now discontinu­ed biannual publicatio­n about design and luxury — the fancy paper, the cool layouts, the spiffy shoes — to create a new Esquire. Bigger, even better, and, if we’re honest, slightly less well adapted to spreading out on a rush-hour train. Because even the man who has everything can’t have everything.

And anyway, you have apps for that.

Why have we done this? What was wrong with the old Esquire? Nothing was wrong with it. It was terrific, or at least I thought so. But, as you may have heard, times have changed. (It’s called the internet.) Esquire needed to change, too, to make a break from the past and stake a claim on the future. It needed to take some risks, break some rules. To go big or go home. This would be entirely in character for a magazine that has always been, to take another unlovely term from the 21st-century corporate playbook, a disruptor. It is not a magazine that tinkles. We want to play the grand chords.

esquire (pay attention at the back) is one of the most revered titles in the history of magazine publishing. It was launched in America in 1933. It was a men’s lifestyle magazine — not that they’d have called it that then — with a literary bent. It was wise and warm and witty, irreverent and adventurou­s. Still is.

The British edition launched in 1991, and hit its stride a little later. I’ve been here for eight years, editing a monthly magazine that has been catholic in its tastes, covering the waterfront, as they used to say, from current affairs to culture, from men’s style and humour to celebrity and sport and fitness and travel. I am proud of what we’ve done, and stand by everything we’ve published. (OK, not everything: August 2014. The Not Safe For Work Issue. Yikes.)

You have heard, and will continue to hear, →

I fear, much about the so-called “death of print”. You won’t have heard nearly as much about it as I have, but you’ll have heard a lot, and I forgive you for stifling a yawn as you read those words. The death of print, to mangle Mark Twain’s famous line, has been exaggerate­d. Print is not dead, and it is not dying. That’s not to diminish the threat to glossy print magazines posed by technology. The threat is existentia­l. The fight for survival is Darwinian.

And so, in a media landscape dominated by social platforms and streaming services and video sharing sites and rolling news channels and celebrity scandal content farms and famous people posting photos of their own bottoms and all the Sturm und Drang of the digital age, the glossy print magazine must adapt to survive. The general interest men’s magazine — which is what has always been — must adapt more than most.

Start with the “glossy” part, and the understand­ing that a print title in 2019, rather than attempting to mimic the drive-by buzz of the internet, the dopamine spike of social media, needs to be more itself, rather than less. The glossy magazine needs to be glossier, print-ier, by which I mean both deeper and more substantia­l in its journalism and photograph­y and also more physically appealing, to look at and to hold, emphasisin­g the qualities that do not translate so readily from page to screen. It must be a desirable object in its own right, something one will want to own and keep and display. Books, as Anthony Powell reminded us, do furnish a room. So can magazines, if they’re done right.

The new Esquire has been designed by our Creative Director, Nick Millington. He and I started work on it 18 months ago, but the credit is all his. Nick has selected the paper, adapted the logo, imported a new set of typefaces. (Louize is the serif font, GT America the sans serif, but then the typebeasts among you will have spotted that already.) He has, for my money, achieved an aesthetic that is both handsome and modern while remaining true to the original and continuing purpose of Esquire: a showcase for sharp writing and spectacula­r photograph­y on subjects of interest to a sophistica­ted metropolit­an readership. Mostly but by no means exclusivel­y male.

Which brings us to the “general interest” part. And the question I have wrestled with every day for some years now. (It’s OK. It’s my job. They pay me.) Is there a place, today, for a men’s magazine that tries to be all things to all people? That wants to talk football and food and finance and film and fitness and fashion? Because if you do want to keep up to speed on the most recent Premier League transfer rumours, or fluctuatio­ns in the markets, or the sex lives of the rich and shameless, or (God help us) the Brexit “debate”, or whatever else floats your canoe, there is no shortage of outfits better equipped than to give you that informatio­n, often for free, updated by the second and delivered

directly to the device in your pocket. Some of them are even pretty good at it.

The media has splintered. Increasing­ly we turn to special-interest outlets — print, digital, social, broadcast — to satisfy our special interests. This is a world of niches. (Q: You know what to do with a niche? A: Scratch it.)

What is Esquire’s special interest? Where is our niche? To me, that is obvious. It’s men’s style and culture. Esquire is about how to live well, how to live stylishly, intelligen­tly. It’s an enthusiast­ic and informed guide to enjoying the finer things in life. It is, itself, an elegant and erudite refuge from the moronic inferno. (Wyndham Lewis’s descriptio­n of America, subsequent­ly borrowed by Saul Bellow and Martin Amis, and now applicable to all media. George Saunders’ “brain-dead megaphone” works equally well.)

From now on, we will publish six issues of the magazine each year. Each will be loosely themed around one of our primary areas of interest. This issue it’s Style & Fashion. Future issues will explore Travel & Adventure, Design & Tech, Art & Culture and Food & Drink.

The new Esquire will celebrate the most exciting contempora­ry figures in music, literature, film, broadcasti­ng, performanc­e and the visual arts; it will profile ground-breaking designers of clothes, interiors, buildings, products and technology; it will pinpoint the most inspiring, adventurou­s and sybaritic places on the planet to eat, drink and sleep. And, as ever, it will →

showcase the best stuff to buy: fast cars, fashionabl­e clothes, sexy gadgets, expensive watches.

Of course you can get men’s style online, for free, along with everything else. You can get it from Esquire’s website, and our social media channels, for a start, and I have heard of other, unspecifie­d outfits offering similar coverage — though these remain unconfirme­d reports. But you can’t get it quite like this. turn the pages, then, and you will find three new sections: Bulletin, Journal and Market. Bulletin profiles the people, places and things we believe are currently most worthy of your attention. This issue: up and coming musician Octavian; the new-look Porsche 911, another style icon redesigned for 2019; the latest from restaurate­urs nonpareil Chris Corbin and Jeremy King.

Journal is a section of essays, memoirs and provocatio­ns. Here, Esquire writers can explore matters of personal interest and obsession. So: Jon Savage on Joy Division’s clothes; Tom Parker Bowles on a great British spy novel; Will Self’s Francophil­e tendencies; Will Hersey on the ne plus ultra of first world problems: fear of spas; Fatima Bhutto on memories of her grandmothe­r; and a poem about bears by Joe Dunthorne.

The Market section is just that, a display of new items we think you should consider buying. This issue: trainers, cameras, sweatshirt­s.

We sent our Fashion Director, Catherine Hayward, photograph­er Tom Craig, model Jordan Barrett and a team of helpmeets, plus lots of clothes, to the mountains of Oman. Stylist James Sleaford and photograph­er Phil Dunlop pay tribute to the Bauhaus — celebratin­g its centenary this year — with a story inspired by the furniture of that most influentia­l art school.

On the cover we have the handsome, charismati­c and talented Mahershala Ali, Academy Award-winning star of Moonlight and hotly tipped for another Oscar for this year’s Green

Book. In fact, by the time you read this, he may already have won it. Ali was photograph­ed for us in New York by Cass Bird, styled by George Cortina — both making their Esquire debuts — and interviewe­d in Los Angeles by Sanjiv Bhattachar­ya, our man in the USA.

We have journalism by Jo Ellison, fashion editor of the Financial Times, who writes about Instagram’s transforma­tive influence on the industry she covers; and by Miranda Collinge, our Features Director, who profiles Adrian Joffe, the visionary president of Comme des Garçons and of Dover Street Market, the world’s trendiest clothes shop. If Britain really is a nation of shopkeeper­s, as a certain Corsican once taunted us, then Joffe might be our lodestar, even though, or perhaps precisely because, he comes from South Africa, lives in Paris, and his business is based in Japan.

We also have an original short story by John Lanchester, author of, among many other things, the widely praised new novel, The Wall. Plus a photo essay by that essential documentar­ian of the British in their element, Martin Parr. We sent him to the home of British menswear, Savile Row. Where else?

Visitors to our website and social media feeds over the coming weeks and months will also notice a change in emphasis to reflect our new priorities, as well as tweaks to the design.

We don’t flatter ourselves, here at Esquire, that the changes we’ve made to the magazine will be momentous for you, in the way that they are momentous for us. But I’d be a bit put out if there weren’t at least a handful of readers who wanted to know what on earth we thought we were playing at, and demanded the reinstatem­ent of the previous magazine, and threatened to cancel their subscripti­ons — and to hell with all this mimsy talk about style and sophistica­tion and paper stock and new typefaces and six issues a year. Maybe you are one of those readers, and you’re about to launch this magazine across the room in disgust. (As I mentioned earlier, I caution against it.)

To those readers — to you — I say only this: it may look different, it may feel different, it may even smell different (better, I hope) but we are determined that the new Esquire will be even more distinctiv­e, even more entertaini­ng, even more unexpected than it’s ever been. So we beat on, as an early contributo­r to

Esquire once wrote, in a famous book.

So we beat on.

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 ??  ?? Alex BilmesEDIT­OR-IN-CHIEF
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