Few things epitomize it more than the Stateside success of so-called lads' mags such as FHM and Maxim. It seems that a staple diet of girls, jokes, girls, cars, girls and music sells men's mags by the bucket-load, whichever country you're in.
While Arena, Esquire and GQ summed up the big-spending, big-watch-wearing 80s, the likes of loaded lowered the tone and upped the fun quotient of the supposedly sharing, caring 90s. The Lad was born mid-decade, apparently, groping a girl with one hand and clutching a beer with the other.
Pick up a current copy of UK loaded, and you'll see that accessibility and humor is still going strong. In the January issue Bambi's told to duck as "loaded tears around the countryside in a Land Rover shooting stuff by torchlight" and 'sauna girls' sees ordinary ladies invited "to talk about what gets them hot and steamy." Meanwhile UK Maxim's got Rebecca Romijn-Stamos on the cover, and hordes of other gorgeous scantily clad gals crawling through rain-sodden streets/resplendent on couches/rolling on rugs. Plus mirthsome guides demonstrating the subtleties of stone skimming, how to flog your tap water and - yes - teleport yourself.
Despite their hefty circulation figures, however, it's been fashionable in the last few years (within the UK specialist press anyway) to say that lads' mags have had their day. The terms 'Lad' and its follow-on, 'Post-Lad', are way past it now, so surely their magazines must be too, right? That's too trite really. First, the lad was only ever a media tag. Second, most men are always going to be interested in women, funnies and cars - it's just the way that heady mix is packaged.
Enter Jack, the newest publication in the UK men's sector, from IFG Publishing. It's small, sleek and has illustrated retro pulp fiction covers (no photo cover totty for these guys). Pics of girls are invariably black and white 'erotic' shots and there's worthy feature fodder about film directors, spectacular – read big - wildlife and pared down fashion pieces. It sums up male cool.
Then consider Stuff, which in the UK is published by Haymarket and focuses on gadgets and technology. It's an example of how the men's market has expanded to successfully cover niche lifestyle areas, such as health, technology and film.
We're likely to see more of this kind of development at the margins of the men's magazine market. As well as a bit of crossover in the middle ground. So while Maxim is increasing its fashion content, GQ is happy to run a riske photo-shoot of Paris Hilton. And even Jack has got an hilarious send-up of corporate straight-face-ed-ness with its 'letters from a complete time waster' slot.
The Lad is Dead - as they say in England - Long Live the Lad.
Emily Booth is Associate Editor of Revolution Magazine UK. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org