The fear of emasculation will keep a man from saying many things. ("Where do I find the low-carb beer?" Or "Check out the pecs on Howard!") Alas, I am a Mets fan, and long ago (Sept. 30, 1:30 p.m.) surrendered any pretense to manliness. Which means I'm free to confess the following: Men's magazines make me feel bad about myself.
It's an accusation women have been hurling at Vogue, Comsopolitan, et al for decades, so why do GQ, Men's Vogue or Details get off scot-free? I mean, sure, we all need tips on how to dress ourselves better, make the perfect rack of lamb and smooth-talk women who want nothing to do with us. But when you use words like "crucial" to describe a $600 umbrella, or include a $1,200 pair of Italian loafers in a list of "must-haves for Fall," you make me feel bad about me. And because I'm most likely reading one of these magazines in the gym to begin with, I don't need any help in that department, thank you very much.
So where is a regular Joe with hopes of bettering himself to turn? Allow me to suggest Best Life -- the only title in the category that doesn't leave me feeling like a socially awkward hobo.
The November issue of Best Life, a sister (brother?) publication of Men's Health, weighs in at 148 pages, 58 of which are ads. Like others in the category, pretty much all the editorial, whether it's a front-of-book item on how to gracefully end a fight with the wife or a surprisingly readable cover story on Jon Bon Jovi (my expectations were low), is presented with an eye toward making you a better man. Here, the advice manages to be aspirational without overreaching.
For example, on the "Best Style" page, Tim Daly of "Sopranos" and "Grey's Anatomy" fame shows off a nifty wool vintage topcoat ($350) and silk tie ($68) from Banana Republic. For most men -- this one included -- the coat would pose a risk. Is it appropriate for the office? Can I wear it with jeans? Can I wear it at all without looking like I learned about it from a fashion magazine? But Best Life presents it as just that -- an item you probably wouldn't have bought on your own, but might if you knew what it was all about. What it doesn't do is imply you're a hopeless loser for not already having a few in your closet.
Likewise the financial advice. Rather than telling you which of your hedge funds to dump, the mag's recurring "How Would I Invest" column features a financial guru saying what he would do with varying sums of money, from $1,000 up to $1 million. And the advice itself is refreshingly non-patronizing. Only have $1,000 to work with? Take your kid to New York for a Tom Stoppard play and dinner at Sparks. Got a million bucks burning a hole in your pocket? Start a charitable fund, ya lucky jerk. Either way, the message is clear: Investing is about more than money.
So is Best Life simply GQ for guys on a Men's Fitness budget? Does its appeal to me say more about my tax bracket than its editorial excellence? Maybe. But I prefer to think it's about a difference in philosophy. Best Life is appropriately named. It's not about having the best stuff or being the sharpest-dressed guy in the cigar lounge. It's about living the best life available to you, wherever you may fall on the hobo-CEO continuum. That might ultimately make it a smarter place for advertisers to find men than a magazine that leaves them feeling worthless.
Published by: Rodale