For the life of me, though, I can't figure out why a solid 15% of the magazines I'm sent appear to be aimed exclusively at New York and L.A. hipsters/scenemakers/whatevers. These people aren't inclined to spend their money on magazines and the products advertised therein -- or, for that matter, on vegetables or combs. They have navels to pierce, tattoos to etch, clubgoers' shoes upon which to barf.
Perhaps realizing this, Nylon Guys tries to play it both ways. Most of the mag's summer issue is devoted to street-art "legends" and designers of "complicated" clothes. There are check-'em-out featurettes on an artist inspired by death-metal (or vice versa, maybe) and a string quartet that used to back up Sigur Rós. Want some aural candy? A hip-DJ sort proposes up a mix tape featuring the family favorite "I Know Kung Fu (Nightmoves Remix)" by Sh*t Disco. I know -- I totally thought he'd go with the "Firelake Remix," too.
Yet Nylon Guys just can't bring itself to fully invest in its hipster mission. On the summer issue's cover, the mag flags up items on mainstreamers like Sophia Bush, Shia LaBeouf and lumpy old Ozzy ("Ozzy Osbourne shows us his abs!" has just been anointed the prohibitive favorite in the Worst Cover Line 2007 derby). The message this sends? "We're not secure enough in our editorial premise to shout it from the mountaintops; we'd rather entice you with people and stuff you've heard of." Compare this with recent Mass Appeal or Urb covers, which celebrate rather than gloss over the diversity of content, and you'll better understand what I mean.
It doesn't help that several of the stories are massively overwritten, like the 300-or-so-word profile that begins with the following I AM A WRITER! LOOK AT ME WRITE! I AM WRITING NOW! flourish: "On an unexpectedly balmy afternoon in New York, I am waiting for actress Leighton Meister in the decidedly wintry lobby of the Gramercy Hotel. She blows coolly into the room and returns the greeting of a handsome bellhop leaning near the revolving doors. Her glistening brown hair is swept back and she looks camera-ready, all smoky brown eyes, pinched pink cheeks, and lips dripping with gloss." Martha, fetch me my crossbow and tranquilizer darts, will you?
Nylon Guys runs "funny" fake letters attributed to Tom Selleck and Brooklyn's "Ephin Wancher" (dumping on your own audience -- smart). It hypes $100,000-and-up cars to an audience that can't afford detergent and randomly devotes pages to mainstream grooming products and electronic gizmos (Advertisers? Yoo-hoo! Over here!). The sub-headline "You Know It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" also raises a few questions, as it accompanies a prosaic lineup of 12 hooded sweatshirts. I don't actively solicit comment from people who work on the magazines featured in this space, because they tend to be in a stabby mood after hearing what I have to say, but I'd love to hear the thinking behind that particular decision.
And really: When did the original Nylon officially become a mag for women, or tweak its positioning so as to prompt the creation of Nylon Guys? Has anybody noticed anything different?
On the plus side, the mag sure looks purty. The art staffs of Nylon and Nylon Guys consistently rise above the material they're asked to illustrate, infusing every page with the kind of imaginative thinking not seen often enough in the publishing world. The spread on Johnny Depp's "Blow" style, for instance, features a mischievous sprinkling of white dust (hair powder, naturally). I sure wish they could talk the mag's urban-waif models into striking something other than a pouting, disaffected pose every so often, though. I like people who smile. They're friendly.
Listen, I have nothing against the Nylon brand, nor against any title that attempts to fuse elements of music, art, style and underground culture into a compelling whole. I admire the ambition. But jeez, either do it or don't. You can't be both megahip and mainstream; you can't have one hand in the gutter and the other clutching a bejeweled KRZR. As presently constituted, Nylon Guys is a mishmash of content and attitudinal contradictions. Until the mag decides what it wants to be when it grows up, there's no reason to pay any attention to it.