SHOP THERAPY FOR GUYS

If we've learned anything from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," it's this: hetero men want to look good, too. The Fab Five can't be everywhere, but soon an entire category of magazines will exist to help men shop. Next month Conde Nast, home to GQ and Glamour, will unleash Cargo, a bimonthly guide to buying everything from socks to sports cars. In September, Fairchild, publisher of Women's Wear Daily and Details, will launch Vitals, a quarterly for shoppers who favor Prada over the Gap. And, for guys more concerned about cool accessories than wardrobe basics, this summer Ziff Davis will debut Sync, a quarterly rundown of the latest digital gadgets.

All three are following a model created in 2000 by Conde Nast's Lucky, which unburdened women from lengthy articles about cervical cancer and Brazilian waxes to provide a cataloglike guide to stuff with no heavy lifting. Circulation grew to more than 900,000 in its first three years, and Ad Age voted it magazine of the year in 2003. "[Fashion] editors have always been up on the mountain telling everyone how to dress," says editor Kim France. "Lucky was a success because we don't ever try to be too cool."

Men's magazines like Esquire and Playboy have traditionally delivered style advice in doses just big enough to keep fashion advertisers happy, but it remains to be seen whether men will want a digest devoted entirely to looking good. Conde Nast editorial director James Truman thinks today's men have reason to be image-conscious: "As we become more and more of a visual culture, more of a televised culture, even things like reality TV start to diminish the distance between the star who looks good and everyone else." Still, a trip to the mall makes most men sweat. "You have shelves of shaving cream and deodorant, whereas a few years ago you only had a handful," says Ariel Foxman, the 29-year-old editor of Cargo. "Guys are somewhat overwhelmed by their many options."

They may not be willing to ask for directions, but men finally seem open to shopping advice. Two years ago the hip-hop glossy Complex pioneered the concept by devoting half its pages to a catalog-style presentation of hoodies and trucker hats. Circulation is up to 315,000. "I think there's a lot of kids interested in fashion, but do they have to read 250 pages of GQ?" asks Rich Antoniello, Complex's publisher.

Some might see the new magazines as a kind of feminist victory, freeing women from the burden of correcting their mates' potentially faulty impulses. And these new titles are certainly an improvement over the last hot genre: laddie mags. "Now finally with men we are saying, 'It's OK if you want to shop without looking at naked women'," says Samir Husni, a magazine-industry analyst and journalism professor at the University of Mississippi. The Fab Five would be proud.

Join the Discussion