Every month, I’m most excited to get the latest issue of GQ magazine in the mail. I’ve had this every month since one of my dearest friends gave me a gift subscription two years ago. I was almost shocked when I paid for the next year, but continued to get last chance warnings. I called them up and said they spelled my name wrong. So relieved because I need my dose of crafty magazine writing, style tips, celebrity interviews, and so much more. Last year, my Magazine Editing class prompted us to write about our favorite magazine and offer some helpful tips for better topics. I, of course, picked GQ. Here’s my love letter to my favorite magazine that keeps me happy every month (although a bit outdated since it was written in May 12, 2008).
My First GQ Magazine way back in 2003.
Dear the staff of GQ Magazine,
My name is Chris Huqueriza, I’m a student at San Francisco State University, and I’ve been an avid fan of GQ Magazine for many years. Since the 2003 issue with Colin Farrell cover, I’ve had my subscription, and loved every issue since. I love reading your engaging articles (I.e. Scott Greenberger’s piece “Don’t Stop the Presses, the profile on Bruce Weber, etc), each issue on Glenn O’ Brien’s “Style Guy” column, and the photo shoots (loved the March 2008 issue with actor Steven Strait blue jeans photo shoot contrasting with actor Milo Ventimigla’s khaki photo shoot). Your magazine is the sole reason why I’m studying to become a journalist/magazine writer. Your magazine’s motto, “Look Sharp, Live Smart,” speaks to me as a way of living and carrying confidence to the average American male who likes style and movies.
For one of my editing class assignments in magazine editing class, we had to choose one of our favorite publications, and critique it for the Spring 2008 semester with 3 issues (the February, March, April issues). I’ve found many articles and pictures that I’ve enjoyed, although there might be some areas of the magazine that could be improved.
Some of the articles I don’t enjoy from the past 3 months were the Rachel Bilson profile (it didn’t really say much), the Superbowl article (downgraded the most important event in sports), and the headline that said “Cassie: So Hot She Only Needs One Name” (uninteresting and really boring). But the one article I did not like was “The Most Whipped Men in America” because it just downgrades men when we should be supportive and crush those stereotypes. I felt it was tacky and a low blow.
I won’t stress them in lengthy paragraphs, so I’ll bullet point some ideas as merely possible advice from a guy in your targeted demographic (American-born, male, age 23):
1. Look Sharp, Live Smart…with an price. I love some of the items you promote in the magazine, but their prices have become absurd for the modern, average male. $1,000 for a jacket? That large sum of money can go a lot more beneficial things in life, like say retirement. I know there is a fantasy aspect that comes along with the magazine where the average male strives for that rich ideal, but it would be a lot more lucrative and successful to appeal more to the masses. Maybe balance the idealistic with the realistic. For example, showing clothes which are more affordable, yet still stylish. As a man who cultivates his style, I don’t go for the priciest clothes. I like to mix and match clothes from H&M, Target, Levis, and Armani Exchange. It’s highly doubtful the majority of men buy $700 jeans. It’s not sensible on an average basis.
2. Minimalize the ads. While I know the ads are very important for the magazine because they provide the major revenue, but maybe it should be lessen to provide more content for the magazine. The editorial content most likely pulls in the reader more than the advertisements, so maybe focus on improving that part (I.e. 40% ads, 60% editorial). If you can’t , then maybe picking certain ads that differ from your competition like Details Magazine and Esquire Magazine. Demanding more original and risqué advertisements from your advertisers will set you apart from the competition as it’s more eye-catching and special. A main portion of why I buy GQ is because of the advertisements as I cut the pages out for references in photography, style, and haircuts. GQ is the premier men’s magazine on style since 1957! It wouldn’t hurt the reputation or lose any of your advertisers.
3. Incorporate more lists. I loved your 50th Anniversary showcasing the 50 stylish men from the last 50 years. Some of my favorite were Richard Avedon, Tom Brady, Sean Connery, Hubert de Givenchy. I love that there were short profiles and a side note of style tips that any average, modern male can imitate. It was my favorite issue and I feel the magazine can continue the tradition, albeit smaller size. Many people have short attention spans and incorporating list format might help to catch the reader and attain them after. As a suggestion, I recommend making a list of movies that evoke the best style and profiles on iconic men and women with a sidebar of their styles.
4. Promote more of the magazine. GQ magazine has been publishing issues since 1957, but maybe there should more promotions involved with the magazine. Promoting your magazine through the “Make Me A Supermodel” TV show was the right move, but maybe now you can continue that tradition. Contests through events and MTV (to get the younger crowd) might help and also through promotion through organizations that promote vintage Hollywood and politics (to get the older crowd).
5. Lessen the Satire. I like many of your satirical articles, but some of your articles felt pointless, hollow, and missed the point (I.e. “When the Superbowl was Superbad,” “How To Play Guitar Hero In 10 Easy Steps,” South by Southwest Survival Guide”). They were interesting articles but the guitar hero article felt more in place at the now defunct FHM magazine. I do like the articles where you present satire on politics such as Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, and President Bush. Maybe choose satire where the magazine stays away from superfluous topics that don’t support our magazine’s motto “Look Smart, Live Smart.”
6. Expand the Magazine’s Horizons. Your magazine’s probably already doing this, but continue the image of the sophistication. Focus more on the perspective of what the modern American gentlemen is to the rest of the world and bring fashion advice from men across the world that show style. I already see the magazine doing this with exotic photo shoots and style tips from the French and the Italian (on suits and grooming). Another way to expand your magazine’s horizon is to have more interaction on your website. Maybe also have a myspace if your magazine hasn’t done that yet.
These are just suggestions on maybe improving the magazine, nothing changes that I still enjoy reading GQ every month. From the 3 issues I researched, I’ve particularly enjoyed the Bossip (the alternative ethic blog to Perez Hilton’s), the music profile on Vampire Weekends, the Bloody Lamb image, showcasing the Barracuda jacket as classy and part 50s Americana/part 60s mod style, the two photoshoots with actors Steven Strait and Milo Ventimiglia, the “Do You Have a Backburner?” article, and “9 Ways to a Deeper Sleep” article. But my absolute favorite piece was “Project Upgrade.” The piece presented average men on the street and how they could improve their style. It spoke to me and probably a lot of readers as it shows a connection with the audience. Having more pieces like that can vastly improve readership. Again, I love GQ magazine. My favorite issue was the 50th Anniversary Issue as I saw it as flawless. I would be astonished to find the next anniversary issue better than this year’s. Although, here’s hoping the magazine can surprise me.
May 12, 2008