From 1992 to 1995 I worked as an editor at GQ magazine. Public perception to the contrary, most of the people on GQ’s editorial staff are not professional fashion people and have little if anything to do with the magazine’s fashion coverage. (That’s mostly handled by fashion director Jim Moore and his staff. Before Jim, the job belonged to Nonnie Moore [no relation], a delightful woman who once complimented me on a striped-tie and checked-shirt combo by saying approvingly, “You don’t want to be too matchie-matchie.”)
I was one of GQ’s non-fashion people–an articles editor, essentially–but I created a humorous little monthly feature called “GQ Regrets” in which I selected and wrote up some of the magazine’s “occasional lapses in judgment,” fashion-wise: the trends that dated poorly, the ill-considered photo shoots, the truly absurd garments that never stood a chance of catching on (like the “Jumpajama” pajama-jumpsuit hybrid promoted in a 1958 issue). The feature continued onward well after I left, and GQ, as part of its 50th Anniversary festivities, has posted an online slideshow of its “Regrets,” which you can access here.
But as easy as it was to make fun of stuff in old GQ’s, especially the issues from the anything-goes 1970s, I couldn’t help but admire some of the more progressive fashion photography from the latter half of that decade: stuff that jumped out for its clarity, sharpness, and forwardness. I soon realized that I was admiring the early work of Bruce Weber. And as I studied the masthead from those early-Weber years, to see who he was working with then, I realized that I’d never heard of most of these guys; they weren’t in the magazine game anymore. I soon found out why: These guys, the ones at the top of GQ’s late-’70s masthead, were early casualties of AIDS.
For October’s gala 50th Anniversary issue of GQ, I’ve written an article (not available online) that tells the story of these GQ-ers who are no longer around to speak for themselves. Bruce Weber was generous with his reminiscences, as were the surviving members of that staff, including Jim Moore, who was but a young intern when he started out there in 1980. The article, “It All Started Here,” is kind of the flip side of “GQ Regrets”–a belated recognition that the ’70s had much greatness to offer, and didn’t always warrant the snotty, facile treatment I gave them in my younger years.