The quaint days of skin mags

Despite seeming relatively tame today, Playboy and the like fought the early censorship battles in '50s and '60s

Topics: Imprint,

The quaint days of skin mags
This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintIf you were one of the “Mad Men” (which boringly premiered the new season on March 25) or any other kind of man in the late ’50s and early ’60s, you probably subscribed to Playboy and/or any one or more of the many so-called “skin magazines,” “stag magazines” and “girlie magazines” that copied the pioneer’s form and content. Playboy, art directed by Art Paul, was an original, but others including Escapade, Cavalier, Dude and the Gent (shown here) were helping to define the era’s maleness. Even more significant, each of these magazines became an outlet and launch-pad for some major literary and art talents. The names on the covers were impressive, Nelson Algren, Groucho Marx, Tennessee Williams, Tom Lehrer — and they are just among the writers. The best were hired by the Gent, which was better than average, even had a virtual line-for-line Jules Feiffer doppelganger doing similarly themed socially satiric cartoons.

By today’s standards of legal and social acceptability, the skin mags were rather tame. Some evocative nudity was sprinkled lightly between the fiction and lifestyle stories. There was the requisite fashion feature that never did anything to mar the product. Rarely if ever did anything step to far over the line — the imitators let Playboy take the first steps. In retrospect, there is something almost quaint about the Gent and others. The layouts are modern without being avant garde. The illustrations are contemporary without eschewing old-fashioned verities, like realism. And the texts, while a little more racy than the pictures, stayed within the bounds we would today call propriety.

Still, these magazines were hounded by the authorities (especially the U.S. Post Office) and by fighting the early censorship battles, helped open media up to what we see, hear and experience today.



Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

Salon is proud to feature content from Imprint, the fastest-growing design community on the web. Brought to you by Print magazine, America’s oldest and most trusted design voice, Imprint features some of the biggest names in the industry covering visual culture from every angle. Imprint advances and expands the design conversation, providing fresh daily content to the community (and now to salon.com!), sparking conversation, competition, criticism, and passion among its members.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>