You know you love it...
Tuesday 07 February 1995
In just under a year, Loaded, the magazine for men "who should know better", has achieved a circulation of 96,000 - a figure that took better-behaved men's magazines far longer. And GQ, FHM, Esquire et al are now either gleefully climbing into their metaphorical shell-suits or bemoaning the premature passing of New Man.
Men's magazines, say publishers and editors, are undergoing a shift towards the irreverent, juvenile and just plain sexual. A cursory glance round the newsagent reveals covers that would not look out of place on the top shelf. One displayed a naked, sandy-bottomed Naomi Campbell, while others include a bevy of sexy articles, including one in December's GQ entitled "Me and My Pussy" by a woman pictured with two pink balloons in front of her genitalia.
"Men's magazines have gone through an odd cycle," says John Wisbey, publisher of Esquire. "What seems to be happening is GQ and FHM are finding it difficult to resist the trend set by Loaded. That bothers me."
According to Mr Wisbey, the slow but steady growth in the male general-interest market has been the result of a persistent chipping away of men's in-built aversion to buying "glossy" magazines. Young men are quite happy to be seen buying Loaded, it seems, as it is so blatantly filled with testosterone.
Loaded is an unembarrassed goodie-bag of women in skimpy underwear, a celebration of such tenets of New Laddishness as football, music and getting drunk. Regular features include "Platinum Rogues - The Premier League of Bad Behaviour" and a letters page entitled "Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Hard Enough". Instead of wanting to shunt the obnoxious interloper out the back entrance, many men's magazines are congratulatory. Danny Kelly, editor of Q magazine, believes the swing back to "laddishness" is welcome.
"There is also a very strong tradition of resisting political correctness, which is po-faced interfering bastards trying to impose their pathetic po-faced views," he said. "Hats off to any magazine resisting that.
"There is this great double standard," he added. "Men's magazines are starting to get a little bit sexual and they say it's a change in the Zeitgeist. But for the last 10 years, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire have been full of penises and `me and my clitoris'."
Rodd Sopp, advertising manager of Arena and The Face, suggested that male readers enjoyed the magazine's "vicarious laddishness".
"I've been told it has already become a bible for young lads.It's all very well for me to see a picture of a woman in her underwear and say `oh my God', but out on the football terraces they'll go `whoooaarr'."
First impressions of Loaded's chaotic offices and its wall-to-wall "babe" posters might suggest so. But according to 29-year-old editor James Brown, the reason for the magazine's phenomenal success is that Loaded Man was always there in the first place.
Half an hour late for the interview, his crumpled, hungover appearance lives up to his maxim that Loaded is written for people who like the things he does; people, he says, who have been ignored by publishers.
"Before, there wasn't a magazine for them," he says. "They read Viz for laughs, or Arena for clothes, or NME or Shoot, but there was nothing that put all those things together."
The acquisitive, New Man images of the Eighties, he says, did not seem relevant to his life. "Men's magazines before Loaded were all about improving yourself... But this magazine isn't sending men backwards," he adds, vehemently. "Men were always like this."
And it is women, whom Loaded has been accused of exploiting and alienating, he says, who understand that.
"Women aren't surprised by Loaded. Women know what men are like and it doesn't matter what all the intellectual columns say because they don't affect people's real lives."
Brown admits the "visual, sexual" content of the magazine may offend. But he adds that many women love its humour and irreverence.
"They are tired of being patronised by women's magazines, which are absolutely obsessed with the physicality of sex," he said. "They make you think there's something wrong with you. Or they say `don't worry, you're not the only one who doesn't have a clitoris'. We just say `let's have a good time'."
As long as it's in a spandex bikini? To be fair, January's issue featured an article by comedienne Jenny Eclair on judging "Mr Phwooar '94", in which she rampages lecherously through a male beauty contest, salivating over a man with the "thighs of a shaved bison". February's edition features Jimmy White, tabloid hero snooker player, and story about a night in a kebab shop.
Brown is aware that other magazines are chasing Loaded's success. He is scathing about one, which he accuses of "copying", adding that Loaded is the only magazine that is "honest" about its representation of women."Those images were prevalent in existingmagazines but weren't presented in an honest way. It was like `this is art', or `this is fashion'. Why don't we be more honest about it?"
Messrs Wisbey, Kelly and Sopp, perhaps predictably, express doubts as to how long the joke can last. But Brown is aiming for sales of 300,000, like Marie Claire, his unlikely IPC stablemate. Boys will be boys, he says, so deal with it. "Someone wrote in Campaign that men's magazines tell me what I should be, but Loaded, unfortunately, tells me how I am. I liked that."
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