You may have never heard of it (and neither had I), but SOMA has time on its side. The West Coast-based magazine first published 22 years ago claims to be the longest-running independent arts and culture magazine in the country.

The magazine is named for the South of Market area of San Francisco. In the early '80s, the region was revitalized in part by publisher Ali Ghanbarian, who says he started several restaurants and clubs after falling in love with the arts community there. He launched the magazine to support that community, which housed hundreds of photography, indie music and film studios.

Today, the magazine is distributed nationwide as well as in Canada, Britain and Japan and has little to do with South of Market or San Francisco, but rather strives to be a cultural voice for 18- to 38-year-old creative industry types.

Besides a subscription base and distribution in most major cities, SOMA has a controlled circulation with placements of thousands of copies in boutique hotel rooms, cool spas, hair salons and boutiques in major cities. Thousands of copies are also placed in gift bags on a monthly basis and passed out to target guests at the numerous special events the magazine hosts.

One of the mag's objectives is identifying talented people. Hundreds of iconic talents (fashion photographers, writers, stylists, architects and designers, like fashion designer Alexander Wang and model Alek Wek) have had their careers launched by the mag, according to SOMA Executive Editor Felicia McCrossin.

While SOMA targets the creative community, its readership extends beyond that community. As Ghanbarian says, "Artists are like pest control -- they clean up, yuppies follow."

Each issue has a theme; the current "The Street Issue" focuses on fashion and street culture. Besides fashion spreads (some of which I, with my conservative tastes, find downright bizarre), the magazine features profiles of people in film and music. I really enjoyed the piece on Wyatt Cenac, a correspondent on "The Daily Show." The content page promises that in the piece Cenac "divines the humor in race, identity and ultra-weathy jackasses." He does, and it's a good read.

SOMA claims to have pioneered the "person on the street" picture page with Street Pulse. The subject's name, age and occupation are listed along with answers to a few short questions like "Which city's street fashion inspires you?" It's fun to scope out the people and read their quick takes on things.

Another section, which I doubt you will see in any other magazine, is Hand Signals. It's a palm reading of a creative type, who is also profiled. Past subjects have included David Bowie, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Richard Branson and Rich Silverstein ("Got Milk?" creative director). The current issue features Band of Outsiders fashion designer Scott Sternberg.

The Urbanite section is very cool, with reviews of nightclubs and restaurants around the world and a recipe for a trendy cocktail. I'm going to test bartenders everywhere I go and see if any of them knows how to set me up with an "Andiamo."

If I read this mag regularly, I think I could raise my hipster quotient considerably. I hadn't heard of any of the bands featured in the music section, and I pride myself on being ahead of the curve in new music (at least for a 40-year-old.)


Published by: SOMA Magazine Inc.

Frequency: Monthly except January and June


2 comments about "SOMA".
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  1. Fiona La fluff from Fluff Publications, May 21, 2009 at 6:11 p.m.

    Soma is one of my favorite reads. It consistently features talented people who don't get the coverage they deserve, and brings them out so the world can enjoy them. They also feature cult icons and some of the coolest party places on the planet. All while having an artistic style it's own, it's a piece of art every month.

  2. Brad Christopher from Brad Christopher Photography, October 6, 2010 at 1:56 p.m.

    One of my favorite publications! Keep it up!
    <a href="">BradChristopher</a>

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