Before her dismissal on grounds of public/private nuisance, a recently defrocked Ms. Magazine Rack had the temerity to criticize the way I dress. Never had I felt quite so insulted--I was even wearing one of my few nonstained t-shirts when she hurled her sartorial invective my way. I mostly work at home and shun any social event that doesn't involve Bruce Springsteen or my nephew. Don't judge me: if you didn't have to wear pants, you wouldn't, either.

One of Missy-Let's-Go-Antiquing-During-the-NFC-Championship-Game's final gestures was to slap a copy of Details on my coffee table, as if exposure to a raft of gussied-up, impossibly-cheekboned male models would cause me to see the error of my slovenly ways. After conveying my thanks via a stentorian belch, I started paging through the darn thing. I can't say that I like it; Details and I are as much of an odd-couple pairing as April cover boy Vin Diesel and multisyllabic words (zing!). Nonetheless, I have no problem grasping why the title has surged in popularity since its extreme makeover a few years back.

Where other men's magazines throw a bunch of junk against the wall and hope it sticks (insert respectful moment of silence for Cargo here), Details has something that feels suspiciously like a personality. The front-of-book "Know + Tell" section lectures readers that they should already own khakis and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen, while the "Dossier" essays tsk-tsk those who would make a large-screen TV the centerpiece of a living space or consciously avoid tucking in their shirt (raising hand on both counts).

Granted, occasionally that willingness to preach and/or provoke leads the magazine into beyond-moron territory, such as the cover query of "Are You a Rapist? You Might Be" (the story it teases deals with "sexsomnia," in which people have sex while asleep without remembering anything). Most of the time, though, Details' chipper, slightly loopy takes on culture, style and celebrity come across as just that: airy entertainment for the velour-belt set.

It doesn't hurt that the mag's editors have the good sense to hire writers like Michael Chabon and Karl Taro Greenfeld, whose pieces render the issue a winner almost by themselves. Chabon laments the modern-day, pimped-up Legos with equal parts sincerity and wit, while Greenfeld gently layeth down the smack on what he dubs "male hysterical pregnancy" (e.g., men announcing "we're pregnant!," despite the absence of a living entity in their bellies). In a completely different vein, Bart Blasengame relates the plight of husbands of women stationed in Iraq with understated poignancy.

By comparison, most of the April issue's other features land somewhere between blah and irrelevant. The aforementioned Diesel piece and the sorta-profile of Donald Trump Jr. come across as way too worshipful of their subjects; the hanging-out-with-Ryan-Seacrest narrative can be summarized in four words, three if you use contractions: "he's very busy." Worst is an essay positing a theory that Generation X might have outlived its collective utility, or something. Note to my word-spewing peers: inserting Queensryche references into your stories doesn't make you Chuck Klosterman.

I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the fashion stuff for the reasons discussed above, but Details certainly presents it in a most comely manner. The mag's photographers earn their suppers with slightly off-kilter representations of fashion-title mainstays: polo shirts draped over one another just so, watches arranged in an almost lattice-like pattern, silver accessories (a lighter, a money clip) positively glowing against a slate-grey backdrop. I must admit, however, to having been more charmed by a six-page advertorial--in which four "Office" cast members don Puma gear for a round of office golf--than by any of the clothes spreads.

Roughly 72 words from now, Details and I shall part, never to meet again. But I'd be lying if I said that reading the April issue and writing this story was anywhere near the slog that most of these pieces are. You don't have to like something to appreciate the skill and creativity involved in putting it together; my only wish is that the magazines in my topical wheelhouse will someday ply their trade half as effectively as Details does.

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