I don’t buy these sorts of periodicals, ever. But I did have positive preconceptions about them, that both (Esquire in particular) aimed themselves at a sort of literate, successful, politically adjusted male with a broad worldly curiosity.
Sadly both seemed just like, well, every other men’s mag you might browse through. Desperate to be relevant by being a brochure for irrelevancies.
The same old reliance on list formats and quick reads pervades. Both assumed I’m interested in features about people who have been bitten by sharks, homoerotic sports, scars, cars, wounds and generic doe-eyed crumpet. And not much else.
And the advertisers clearly assume I’d want to buy gaudy, expensive wristwatches. And nothing else. More on this in a second.
I’m not saying wounds are boring. Some are very interesting. That scene in Rambo where he stitches himself up is excellent. But cars are boring. So is generic crumpet.
In one of the various car-related features, GQ had Jeremy Clarkson bashing a small economical saloon from the Pacific Rim with a large lump-hammer. “This car isn’t as good as a Ferrari,” he says, with great sagacity, “so I’m going to hit it for a while!”
I read this thinking wish I could afford a car. Any car. A bike even. Kids in the world are so poor they can’t even afford a bag of polluted air. You just smashed a family car to bits. You were no doubt paid more than the car cost to do that. And you’re what the reader (me?) should aspire to be? A well-heeled, modern-day Gumby.
But back to the adverts…
The most bewildering thing about GQ, Esquire is the astonishing number of adverts for wristwatches.
Almost every third page is a glossy close-up of a time-piece (sometimes pictured on a wrist, sometimes in an oyster shell, occasionally draped over a dead sparrow with hat pins in its eyes). Each one of these small clocks falls into the 1 to 2 and 3 thousand quid range.
Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. Page after page.
Each magazine, after a while, begins to feel like a watch catalogue with annoying bits of car and wound interspersed.
How many watches is a modern man meant to own? Are watches to men what shoes are to women? I can’t believe that for a ticking second. Who buys a £2000 watch every time the season moves on? Am I being naïve? Even if you have all the money in the world, surely you’d only need a decadent 2, maximum. Three if you’re a playboy and a part-time police diver.