Scan through Gentry Magazine and you’ll recognize many of the same characteristics that define contemporary men’s magazines. There’s street style shots, spreads on seasonal trends, a nice dose of sports and culture to round things out, and advertisements from all your standard household names. What’s unique about Gentry Magazine (no affiliation to the store in Williamsburg with the same name) is that it’s not contemporary, in fact it’s older than most people reading this site right now.
Gentry’s inaugural issue was published way back in 1951, and while these similarities certainly do shed some light on its role as a groundbreaking men’s magazine, what’s most extraordinary is just how different Gentry is from the magazines that fill our shelves today. It is hard to imagine a publication today running a philosophical (not sensational) article titled “What Does It Mean To Be a Man?” or giving detailed instructions on “How to Build Your Own Finnish Bath” complete with blueprints, or dedicating sixteen pages to an excerpt from Siddhartha. And yet, it’s all right there in Gentry, and I’m just talking about the first issue. Even the sports covered in this issue are striking – bare-knuckled boxing, tuna fishing, and equestrian tips. But oh not for you, for your child.
Then there’s the cultural features, which read like exercises ripped from a collegiate course load – how to sketch (with parchment paper included), a look at the female face in Renaissance art, and of course, the aforementioned philosophical inquiry. All of this isn’t even to mention Gentry’s most impressive asset, the layouts. The design of each article, each spread, each photoshoot, even each ad, contains something that is downright fascinating. From the fabric swatches that accompany the advertisements, to the postcard sized drawings of classic automobiles, to the hand pasted “pop out” details, Gentry is truly a wonder to behold. While the magazine only lasted through six years and twenty-two issues, it’s value, in every sense of the word, has really only increased as the years have gone on. So do yourself a favor, take a few minutes to scour through eBay and pick up at least one copy of this magazine. The price will certainly be a lot higher than the two dollar sum printed on the front cover, but just think of it as an investment.