Here's the thing about last month's infamous Esquire/Michael Kors incident: For all their faults, one thing you can't say about the likes of Esquire is that their editorial staff lacks some fundamental understanding of men's style. They know that nobody should buy $300 Michael Kors pleated khakis. The decision to feature them can therefore only be an economic one.

And there's the problem with the business model of men's style magazines in general. The need to remain cozy with deep-pocketed advertisers means not only making the sorts of dubious recommendations that throw the credibility of the entire publication into question, but it also means missing out on some of the most important things happening in the industry. There is no one thing more exciting in the world of menswear right now than the rise of affordable online bespoke clothing, offering men the opportunity to have completely custom, original, perfectly fit garments made from whatever materials you or they can source. At no point in history have we had such options open to us. But as full-page advertisements in international magazines are beyond the budget of the likes of Luxire, Hemrajani Bros, etc., we'll rarely hear about them in their pages. Instead we'll get Kenneth Cole's square-toed loafers and Louis Vuitton's logo-covered vulgarities. And $300 Michael Kors pleated khakis.

Without being privy to the inner budgetary workings of men's magazines, of course it's possible only to speculate on a solution. But looking through the pages of Esquire and GQ it's clear that in each case the loss of a few advertisers from among a broad and varied current base wouldn't sink the enterprise. Maybe the answer is to accept lower revenue as a tradeoff for editorial independence and the credibility that it would bring. A trade-off that might not seem too appealing now, but if an increasingly savvy readership realizes that the best options for dressing well never make it into the magazine, perhaps the resulting impact on circulation will make its necessity clear.


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