Londonist Reads... Fantastic Man

By Greg Last edited 161 months ago
Londonist Reads... Fantastic Man

We — well, those of us of a certain persuasion — adore the melange of high-brow interviews and low-brow gay porn to be found in BUTT

magazine (and

target="blank">we're not the only ones

), and so we squealed little a little girl when we read that the creators of BUTT were coming out with a "gentlemen's style journal" to be called FANTASTIC MAN.

After a frustrating delay, a pile has finally arrived at Soho's depressing emporium of bad taste, Prowler... and, oh my, it is a thing of beauty. And a joy to read. And you don't even have to be gay! (Incidentally, Turner Prize-winning photographer and regular BUTT contributor Wolfgang Tillmans unfortunately does not seems to be involved in the first issue.)

Amoung the many reasons we fell in love with BUTT in the first place were (1) its exquisite, effortless, clean typography, and (2) the the adorable way its Dutch editors produce that inimitable almost-but-not-quite-right English. Both qualities are present in spades in FANTASTIC MAN: the design is our first nomination for some "Graphic Design of the 00s" exhibition to be mmounted several decades from now. We especially love the odd little outbursts in the photo captions ("Pajamas... The stunner of the summer season!" or "get it together... the Thom Brown way!"), and their habit of putting certain words in the interviews in capitals (which might sound ANNOYING but is in fact DELIGHTFUL).

But it's the content that has us hooked. FANTASTIC MAN is not a fashion magazine. It is a style magazine. As noted homosexual James McCourt once explained, fashion is merely "style's own slower-witted stepchild." In practice, this means photo spreads devoid of gimmick or "costume", with a heavy helping of vintage clothing not available in a store near you, interviews of men with unapologetically idiosyncratic views on dressing (including Malcolm McLaren), and an essay in praise of pajamas. The editor's note begins with a list of style icons — Oscar Wilde, Brian Ferry, Magnum P.I. — not presented as objects of imitation, but rather as examples of men who thought seriously about clothes, creating individual looks for themselves that express more complicated messages than simply "I have money."

Not that the message of the magazine isn't consumerist or aspirational. It is (and we certainly couldn't afford many of the outfits on display). And yet, it is aspirational according to an aristocracy of taste, openly derisive of any false sense of style than could be purchased by a personal shopper. The point is made directly in an inteview with New York fashion editor and furniture collector Dennis Freedman, who, while clearly dripping with money himself, declares that the only good interior is the interior which speaks of the lives, passions, and intelligence of its inhabitant. (This pronouncement is illustrated with a hilarious blind-item anecdote about a certain "influential tastemaker" in L.A. whose living room is so sterile and dead that the decorative glass bowls are marked with little labels telling you exactly where they should be placed.) As with interior decorating, so with clothes: looking "lived in" is the one thing money can't buy.

Let us put it this way: is there another fashion rag what would make us feel so good about spending £10 on a coat at a charity shop, and then paying a tailor £70 to alter it until it fits? Would another publication encourage us in our decision to get our new trousers hemmed half-an-inch too short? It is a magazine about dressing like an adult, making bold choices while not letting them be made for you, and looking FANTASTIC.

Available at Prowler, and probably also the ICA Bookshop, Magma, and the Artwords Bookshop, although we can't say we've actually checked. By the way, when we say "Londonist Reads..." we mean "read" in the normal straight-person way, not the old-school drag queen patois way, although we strongly support the latter usage.

Last Updated 11 August 2005