September 18th, 2008
02:08 PM ET
Happy anniversary, Esquire
Got my 75th-anniversary issue of Esquire in the mail a few days ago, and I’m looking forward to plunging in. The issue’s theme: the 75 most influential people of the 21st century, which turns the backward-looking theme of the magazine’s 50th-anniversary issue - “50 Who Made a Difference” - on its head.
Looking at that 50th-anniversary issue - a 616-page giant dated December 1983 (which, yes, I saved) - showcases some of the remarkable cachet Esquire has maintained. The focus then was as much on the writers of the essays about the 50 notables as it was the notables themselves, and what writers: Saul Bellow, Roy Blount Jr., Truman Capote, Alistair Cooke, Frances FitzGerald, Richard Ford, David Halberstam … and I’m not even halfway through the alphabet.
That’s the thing about Esquire. Though it has occasionally flagged, the magazine has remained devoted to good writing (and smart art direction, too). Its 1960s heyday alone offers enough for an entire run of other magazines; during that era, the magazine published Norman Mailer’s “Superman Comes to the Supermart,” Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” Tom Wolfe’s “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson, Yes!” and John Sack’s “M.” And those George Lois covers - amazing.
Most readers (including me, sadly) don’t have the patience for several-thousand-word profiles anymore - and the occasional celebrity profile can be embarrassing (what was with that Mike Myers piece a few months ago?) - but Esquire is still well worth reading, thanks to a masthead that includes Tom Junod, Charles P. Pierce and Thomas P.M. Barnett.
The writing remains strong, the fashion tips impeccable, the Answer Fella amusing and the women still worth loving. So is Esquire.
Happy 75th, Esky.
- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer
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I own the full set of Esquires from the ‘80s. I bought them on Ebay a few years back; bought them from a library jettisoning its collection of worthless ephemera from a decade of excess. Now, they take up too much space in my bookcase, but I don’t mind. I own several copies of the 1983 Golden Anniversary edition, including the bound version they released for posterity. I have the June ’83 Fiftieth Anniversary issue. I have the 1984 American Register, How We Lived, The Soul of America, and of course, The American Man (bound) from June ‘86. And I still consider myself to be an Esquire fan… up to a point – that point being somewhere around 1989.
These magazines were influential. Moffitt knew how to reach his readers. When Greene wrote for Esquire, it was magic. I wish Esquire still had its power. But, it does not. Now, I just don’t feel it. I bought these old magazines because they were the best I could get. I can’t get the 1940s Esquire wonder years and I don’t want what the newsstands have now. Esquire was once great. Maybe for a new generation of readers, with new tastes, Esquire is once again on fire. But, for me, Esquire’s best is behind them, and behind me, right there in my bookcase, taking up too much space. But, I don’t mind.
@David - Yes, and I've fixed, thanks. – TL
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The Esquire magazine of today–a withered, creatively calcified, irrelevant and impotent geriatric shadow of its former self–is a reflection of our times. Most of yesteryear's literate middlebrow class is gone, and while the descendants of Esquire's former readership still have the economic means and academic achievements of their parents and grandparents, but they no longer have a working cultural literacy. When today's educated class reads and thinks, it is about their professions, economics and finance, and occassionally politics. They have neither the taste nor time for the sharply written and deeply meditated general interest journalism that the magazine perfected in the era of Camelot. Esquire's final breath of cultural relevance was expired with its publication of the last regular contribution by prose innovator Mark Leyner, at the turn of the century. Since then, Esquire magazine has been coasting on the combined goodwill of an older generation's nostalgia and a newer generation's dutiful respect. But such goodwill in business–even in the cozy, nepotistic world of New York publishing–cannot last long. A change of residence for the doddering Esquire to whatever passes for a retirement home in the magazine publishing world is long overdue.
"It's occasionally flagged" do you mean that it has occasionally flagged?
Esquire – an American class act!
Thought the Myers piece was a hilarious (and creative) celebrity profile. You're telling me you didn't laugh?
Got into the magazine in the late '70s; writers like Bob Greene and Harry Stein had a profound influence on my own efforts. Doubling back to the archival material was educational as well, but in recent times it has morphed into a publication FOR AND BY a buncha sanctimonious wimps. The fact that they did away with the legendary "Dubious Achivement" simply underlines its present irrelevance.
Visit Borders, Barnes & Noble or possibly any other major newsstand and see the "Special Edition" of the 75th anniversary Esquire issue. It is the 1st time print media contains movable text. The front cover and the ad on the inside cover contain "electronic ink" displays from E Ink Corp.