Dian Hanson’s: The History of Men’s Magazines. Vol. 2: From Post-War to 1959
WWII crushes European publishing; Playboy puts the U.S. on top
WWII was devastating to Europe, but the U.S. emerged with a robust economy. People who were encouraged to save every cent for the war effort now spent freely, including on magazines. The U.S. quickly came to dominate the men’s magazine market.
Playboy, launched in December 1953, made a huge impact on publishing, but it was not the only American men’s magazine in the 1950s. The quirky burlesque titles Beauty Parade, Wink, Titter and Eyeful, featuring Bettie Page and covers by artist Peter Driben, inspired a spate of competing titles. Much loved WWII pin-ups, often of aspiring starlets, led to “news and nudes” titles with cover girls Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, and to more lurid titles like Shock, blending burlesque and celebrity scandal. In New York City a clandestine fetishist magazine industry, bankrolled by the mob, emerged, first with John Willie’s Bizarre, then Lenny Burtman’s female dominant Exotique.
Argentina, with a strong European influence, produced sophisticated Vea (Watch), while England, suffering paper shortages, produced little magazines with big buxom models, charting a path it would maintain through the 1960s.
Then came Playboy. Eschewing the strippers, Hugh Hefner offered up “the girl next door,” eroticized innocence, and espoused consumerism as the route to sexual success. This combination made Playboy the most successful men’s magazine in history, shaping international publishing for decades.