Man About Town magazine:
Man About Townnmagazine – the brainchild of John Taylor, one of the most influential journalists of his generation – can be seen as Britain's
first modern style title for men. Yet this was not its only
influence on the development of magazine publishing. After
being sold on, it provided the basis of success for Michael Heseltine's
Haymarket. Furthermore, a similar business model was later used by For
Him, which was sold as FHM in 1994 to Emap
by publishers Tayvale.
1950s pioneer of men's sector
Man About Town, About Town and Town covers (1955-1968)
Man About Town – first issue in 1953. The cover design was by Frank Bellamy
John Taylor made Tailor and Cutter 'the most quoted trade paper in the world' (The Times); 'the bible of the British needle trades' (Time); and 'the leading men's fashion industry journal' (New Yorker). His memoir, From Ovaltiney to Angry Old Man (2007)
Man About Town was launched as a quarterly in 1952 by John Taylor. He was then editor of the long-established tailoring trade weekly Tailor and Cutter. Taylor was born in Glasgow in 1921 and raised in London. He served as a Fleet Air Arm pilot during the second world war (there was a photograph of him from this period on the walls of the French House pub in Soho for many years). He had no journalistic training, but became editor of the weekly Tailor and Cutter on being demobbed in 1945. He spent 24 years in charge and made it "the most quoted trade paper in the world", according to The Times. The Daily Mail held that "no man nowadays may be regarded as having achieved celebrity until his clothes have been criticised by The Tailor & Cutter." While the Guardian said: "The considerable increase in the public interest in men's wear fashion in recent years must be largely attributed to the writings of the editor of The Tailor & Cutter." For US magazine Time, Tailor & Cutter was "the bible of the British needle trades and "dictatorial but often waggish"; and The New Yorker labelled it "the leading men's fashion industry journal".
Man About Town was seen as funny, off-beat and original in format, with cartoons by Heath, Calman and Scarfe. It became a cult success. For Taylor, Man About Town was a platform to indulge his interests in fine wines, especially champagne, good food, women and entertaining company.
And the magazine never seemed to take itself seriously. For example: "Man About Town is edited by John Taylor, but never mind"; Taylor described himself as "the bottle neck with the bottle knack"; and the magazine had a subscription price of "sixteen shillings, which shows that a fool and his money are soon parted".The format was perfect bound with a size of 218mm by 280mm.
Man About Town – autumn 1958
Man About Town magazine: Autumn 1958 contentsThe front cover of Autumn 1958 had no individual cover lines for features but listed the topics covered: clothes, sport, travel, drink; and a competition to win a Savile Row suit. Earlier covers had added: "women and various other bad habits". The magazine was personified by a moustachioed man in a dinner suit, who on this cover can be seen leaning against the masthead in the top left corner. He also appeared on the contents page.
The issue cost 3/6 (17.5p). The 'squiggle' cover design was by Maurice Rickards and the model was Pat Gardener. Rickards pioneered the study of ephemera and his collection formed the core of the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading university.Page by page listing of Autumn 1958 contents
Heseltine beside a poster for the 'New! Lively' Nov 1960 issue (Getty/Hulton)
About Town – March 1961. The cover of prime minister Harold McMillan was by Terry Donovan. Michael Heseltine did the interview – perhaps doing research for a career in politics
About Town – September 1961
Topic – lasted just a few months
Cornmarket: the new ownersMan About Town was bought by Cornmarket in 1960. The company was run by Clive Labovitch and Michael Heseltine, who had met at Oxford university. Labovitch had bought What's What, an entertainment guide for students. Heseltine has described doing a property deal to fund the purchase. Although the magazine was not a financial success, Cornmarket took it away from its Savile Row origins and it provided the launch pad for the Haymarket group.
Tony Rushton, a director of the satirical magazine Private Eye, described in a letter to the Times (29 April 2000) how Heseltine and Labovitch had invited the Eye's staff to the offices of Man About Town and suggested that they should take charge of the opening section of editorial. The offer came at a time when the Eye faced (not for the last time) financial crisis. “Fortunately,” wrote Rushton, “The offer was turned down. Man About Town no longer exists and the Eye has just celebrated 1,000 issues.”
In interviews 30 years later, Heseltine was derogatory about the magazine he bought. He told Campaign: “We bought a spin-off consumer magazine from the trade title, Tailor & Cutter. It was called Man About Town and had little to commend itself. A supplement to its parent, it was about the trade and for the trade. Clive [Labovitch] recruited a team that was to turn this tatty quarterly into a glossy monthly for men. In one sense we were ahead of the time. Men's fashion was at the margin of acceptability and men's magazines relied almost entirely upon their willingness to peddle soft porn. We were not in that business. The magazine relied for revenue on the advertising industry, and on the wish of art directors and copywriters to see their work displayed in this pace-setting publication.”
However, the company was brought to its knees in 1962 when it bought the weekly news magazine Topic. The title was relaunched but folded a couple of months later when it was incorporated into Town.
Heseltine shortened the title to About Town and, in 1962, just Town. He described the advertising sales techniques it used as revolutionary. Rather than sending out salesmen on foot to make four to five visits a day, they made many more sales by phone.
Town – June, 1964. On the cover is photographer Bob Brooks, "wearing moustache and girl". The "girl" is an uncredited Sue Lloyd, an actress in the film of Len Deighton's The Ipcress File and TV series The Baron
About Town – nearing the end, December 1967
Haymarket switches tack
At Cornmarket, Lindsay Masters was publisher; Tom Wolsey
art director and Dennis Curtis production editor. Simon Tindall
sold advertising space. There were several editors,
including Labovitch, David
Hughes and Nicholas Tomalin. Labovitch left the magazine in
1965, when Julian Critchley, who had been an MP since 1959,
became editor until its closure in 1968. (He later wrote an
unauthorised biography of Heseltine.) According to Heseltine,
Critchley was photographed by David Bailey and Don McCullin
was sent off to war in Vietnam for the first time by the magazine. (Though McCullin lists his first visit to Vietnam as being
for the Illustrated London News.)
Haymarket's profitable rut
Heseltine's biographer Julian Critchley has said of the early Haymarket days: "However well-produced they may have been, Michael had no wish to be known as the publisher of Camera World or Cage Birds." But the demise of Town has been described as forcing Haymarket back into a less glamorous, yet more profitable, rut.
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