Battle Of The Conde Nast Cannibals: GQ Vs. Men's Vogue

Does the world really need -- and will guys really read -- two men's fashion magazines? Perhaps. But if they're both published by Condé Nast, won't they cannibalize each other?

As the male version of an iconic female brand, the two-year-old Men's Vogue is targeted to a fashion-conscious guy, supposedly more affluent than the GQ man. The two pubs' media kits bear this out, with MV readers' median household income ($182,548) more than twice GQ's ($67,141 ).

Beyond those numbers, you gotta wonder just how different the two mags really are -- and if, in fact, MV is a worthwhile addition to a fashion publishing empire.

Here's how the October issues of each compare:

Clothes make the man: GQ, A+; MV, C-. In a "special" edition dedicated to "American Visionaries," MV avoids those fashion-only spreads most fashion magazines major in.  Instead, most of the visionaries -- from Liev Schreiber to BuzzFeed chief Jonah Peretti -- pose unconvincingly in new clothes.

GQ's October edition is also labeled "special" (hmm, could they try any harder to make readers confuse the two mags at the newsstand? Not cool), but there's a real rationale for the tag -- the pub's  50th anniversary. GQ editors use material from past issues brilliantly in features like "GQ Regrets," which apologizes for past fashion mistakes and quippily recaptions photos ("What you see when you take peyote at J.C. Penney.").

The pictorial on what guys can learn from "The 50 Most Stylish Men of the Past 50 Years" works the angle a little frantically -- the Kurt Cobain lesson is on "beat-up jeans." But this section also provides a look at the magic of tailoring. Apparently Cary Grant disguised his "thick neck and uneven shoulders" (who knew?) with "upturned collars and high-cut armholes." Voila, a style legend was born.

 Features: GQ, B; MV, C. Of three major features in MV, only one is compelling and well-written: "Are You An Astronaut?" by New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who experienced astronaut training firsthand to report on space tourism. The cover hints at pirate adventure with a teaser for "The Man Who Found a Half-Billion-Dollar Treasure," yet the piece itself has all the zing of a press release on corporate earnings. And a personal essay by a guy who dated younger women -- how original! --skims the surface with two less-than-riveting anecdotes about first dates.

As befits a retrospective issue, some GQ pieces reference the past, with mixed results. The story about GQ staffers of the '70s  acknowledges the mag's once-pivotal role in gay life, though the piece itself is probably too inbred for most readers.  "The 1957 Man," chronicling one writer's temporary immersion in the culture of GQ's birth year, is  funny -- but pales before the brilliant recreation of that era in TV's "Mad Men."

GQ redeems itself with two portraits of political big guns. There's a Q&A with Colin Powell where he describes the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military so it almost makes sense.  During a slice-of-life visit with Donald Rumsfeld, he comes across as just another unemotional, but regular, guy. Baby scoop: Rumsfeld wrote a memo predicting many problems with the Iraq war, which, he says "carefully," was "appreciated" by President Bush -- but, one deduces, was disregarded.

Culture vulture: GQ, A; MV, B. MV includes reviews of movies, TV shows, books and art -- some astutely written, but mostly material you'd also find in weekly mags and newspapers. For example, I had no desire to read another article about the premiere of Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited," but the movie director was not so coincidentally chosen one of those "visionaries."

GQ, meanwhile, puts a witty analytical spin on its cultural coverage, as in the chart that lists "What Everyone Will Be Talking About" (Wes Andersen's new movie, natch) vs. "What Everyone Should Be Talking About" ("My Kid Could Paint That," a documentary about a 4-year-old girl who supposedly paints like Kandinsky).

What GQ has that MV doesn't: Humor, and the intellectual heft of regular political coverage. Considerable virtues, indeed.

Bottom line: GQ still features snappy writing, fashion education, and intelligent content, as it did when I first reviewed it. MV, however, lacks a point of view strong or original enough to justify its existence.

 

GQ

Published by: Condé  Nast

Frequency: Monthly

Web site

 

Men's Vogue

Published by: Condé  Nast

Frequency: 10 issues scheduled for 2008

Web site