GQ: Response to Kyle’s Criticism

GQ Magazine carries a reputation of class, high fashion, and prestige among the various publications targeted toward men. As Kyle notes, there is a structural difference in the portrayal of the “normal” and the strive for such in GQ, one that is complicated and not easily fitting within common masculine tropes. By looking at each advertisement and article within the April 2012 edition of GQ, it is evident that GQ’s representation of men promotes cleanliness, trendy, upscale outfit combinations, and professionalism. For all intents and purposes, it can be said that the average man does not typically dress this way. Therefore, if one looks closely at the tactics of GQ, beyond supplying a message to look nice, there is a branding strategy and a lifestyle supported by the publication. One of the main examples of the GQ-branded lifestyle is their article about the 100 things that men need to know about now, where they put the label of “GQ-endorsed” on 100 articles of clothing, accessories, places, people, and scents. Thus, following GQ’s endorsed clothing does not simply point to a level of normal; rather, it suggests a higher echelon of sophistication and living, mainly defined by the physical appearance of men and even the places that a man goes to while looking “GQ.” Like Kyle explains, it appears as if there is a restructuring of the a masculine identity. However, it is more a creation of a masculine identity aimed at a specific class for those who most likely are already living a lifestyle similar to the one portrayed in GQ. (Hence, the abundance of advertisements that depict men playing golf, lounging on a yacht, walking on a beach, attending a business meeting, etc.)  

In the UGG Australia advertisement Kyle analyzes, he states that the trope of masculinity and athleticism is evident. The father draws the next play in a game of football on the beach for his son. While football connotes a male love for sports and athleticism, the setting is on the beach, the father dressed in stylish loungewear with UGGs on his feet and his long well-conditioned hair blowing in the wind. The choice of the beach conjures the sentiments of relaxation and leisure as opposed to the father and son playing in a muddy field in the backyard. The idea of playing a sport on the beach with your son is more romantic than rugged, coinciding with the lifestyle suggested by GQ over and over again. Therefore, the UGG advertisement fits well in GQ, for it aids in the perpetuation of the GQ lifestyle targeted toward men of a specific social class and an existing successful lifestyle rather than depicting a universal image of masculinity. 

Lastly, Kyle concludes his criticism by examining GQ’s direct address of masculinity. The Hagary article Kyle chooses as an example is quit apropos to the subject, telling readers not to care about what anyone thinks of them, which will make them truly a man. There are several points of contention here that are perplexing to analyze. One is that Hagary boldly redefines the given trope of a masculinity. Rather than being macho, rugged, and athletic, a “man” is one who “does not give a shit.” The man is one who disregards judgments and criticism. This “I don’t care what people think” attitude contributes to GQ’s cause of attracting more men to openly subscribe to the GQ lifestyle, to rid of their insecurities of emasculating themselves by caring about fashion and using the publication as their “Style Bible,” as suggested by the April 2012 issue. However, GQ is based off the premise of looking good, of exuding a fashion-forward, stylish appearance. Hagary perpetuates the mantra of GQ while seemingly contradicting it. Thus, GQ possesses an inner conflict to attract men to purchase their magazine and follow their lifestyle, while taking on the beast of creating a specific GQ masculine identity.

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