Friday, 27 March 2009

Fantastic Man - Truly Fantastic


I must admit, I was completely wrong about Fantastic Man.

It has been around for a few years now, but I had avoided it, purely on the basis of my own prejudices. 

It's pretentious, I thought. And cliquey. And trying way too hard to be cool. It's just the sort of magazine that irritates the hell out of me. 

And then I actually read a copy. And yes, it was pretentious, and somewhat cliquey - and even so - I loved it. It is now, bar none, my favorite magazine being published today.

Why? Well, it reminds me of some of my most beloved magazines in their heyday. I get the same thrill from it that I used to get from Interview in the eighties, or nest in the nineties - that wonderful feeling of amusement, discovery and desire that great magazines can impart. 

Like all good magazines it has a strong and singular editorial voice. And that voice is decidedly odd - in a good way. If Marcel Proust was writing for Andy Warhol, you might get an editorial style like this. Everything is approached with a certain amount of etiquette, particularly introductions, so we learn that 'Mr' Aiden Shaw is 'an acclaimed author and pornography star' and 'Mr' Simon Clarke is a 'full time model'. 

In the Fantastic Man world live in 'residences', they are 'men of words' and read books that are 'unfeasibly fashionable'. They are immaculate in every detail. 

The formality of the language fits the subject matter perfectly. Men's clothing here is a series of rigid codes that are either strictly adopted (the correct break of a suit trouser, the importance of remaining sockless when wearing a loafer) or subverted (a story on men in skirts discusses styles that allow the wearer to 'remain demure'). Details are exhaustively noted - for example, a study of sports clothing regulations tells us that at track meetings, runners 'may compete in bare feet, or with footwear on one or both feet' - great news for those of us who like to take part in competitive sports while remaining asymmetrically clad.

Most pleasingly, it's clear that the editors, Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers are endlessly enchanted by their subject matter. There's nothing cynical or insincere about their approach - their pleasure is entirely genuine. 

Despite my previous misgivings, Fantastic Man doesn't smirk ironically, it smiles beatifically. And after a few hours reading the magazine, so do I.


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