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Dylan Jones at the Circle Club

Philip Hamer talks to the GQ editor about the evolution of men's magazines, and picks up some style tips along the way

Published on September 23rd 2008.

Dylan Jones at the Circle Club

Under the editorship of Dylan Jones, the men’s style magazine British GQ has become essential reading. Not only has Jones utterly transformed the magazine since replacing James Brown in 1999; he has changed forever the men's magazine market by deserting the tits, booze and action formula that Brown pioneered with Loaded magazine.

“That titillation approach to editorship had reached its end and readers were setting their sights higher. Anyway, blokes could get sex and sleaze on the internet,” Jones says.

So instead of imitating Brown as so many did with eventually catastrophic effects on circulation, he offered his readers a brew of the thoughtful and the literate, producing a magazine that he would enjoy as a reader. Recent figures reveal that 128,000 readers each month have responded to Jones’ approach.

“I was led by my gut as all good editors should be. In this respect I think of the famous Henry Ford dictum about his enthusiasm for the car and not allowing the sceptics to win who just wanted faster horses. I was also able to hire very good journalists who could deliver, over the past 10 years, the sort of magazine I wanted.”

The current bumper October issue reveals the secret of the magazine’s success under Jones’ editorship. A profile of the great twentieth-century writer Evelyn Waugh, whose novel Brideshead Revisited has just been filmed, appears along with a preview of Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War, a remarkable book of reportage on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's also an interview with Helen Mirren by former Mirror editor Piers Morgan. Mirren talks about her coke use and her views on rape in perhaps her most candid ever interview.

These high profile interviews, usually with politicians and conducted by Morgan, are a real hallmark of Jones’ editorship. They have often become news stories in their own right, such as Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s discussion of his sex life.

“Piers does these interviews with great skill,” says Jones. “He doesn’t set out to look for controversy and I think his warm approach disarms his subjects and they say things they would not to a more aggressive interviewer.”

Interspersed throughout the magazine are profiles of this year’s recipients of the GQ’s Men of the Year awards, another of Jones’ successful innovations. Needless to say there are several articles on autumn fashion: “We must never forget that we are also a consumer magazine,” he reminds me.

I ask how he thinks the current economic turbulence will affect the luxury magazine market.

“No idea but under no circumstances must we panic,” Jones says. “It’s never been easier to start a magazine. It’s maintaining its readership that’s more problematic. It’s no accident that apart from GQ, Men's Health is the other really successful magazine.”

He bemoans the failure of Manchester's City Life magazine, which was closed by the Guardian Media Group in 2005. “It gave many good journalists their chance,” he says. “I wrote for that a couple of times.”

As editor of GQ, Jones has been recognised for giving his readers a compulsive blend of the serious and the cutting edge, winning the British Society of Magazine Editors Editor of the Year award a remarkable four times.

48-year-old Jones studied design and photography at Chelsea School of Art and St Martins School of Art in London before becoming editor of i-D magazine in 1984. He worked on two of the most iconic magazines of the 1980s: The Face as a contributing editor and Arena as editor.

He has also worked on the Observer and The Sunday Times and has written several books on topics as varied as his iPod and rock star Jim Morrison. His style guide, Mr Jones' Rules for the Modern Man, published in 2006, is both informative and controversial. For those going to hear Jones talk at the Circle Club this week, here are a couple of fashion tips: don’t wear a logo emblazoned T-shirt or a suit with a red lining. They are just two of his pet hates.

Jones’ latest project is based on a series of interviews he conducted with David Cameron entitled Cameron on Cameron (Fourth Estate, £14.99). Spectator editor Matthew d’Ancona said that Jones gained the kind of access to the Tory leader that other political commentators could only dream of. Some reviewers have suggested that Jones was overtly respectful, even hagiographical, in his treatment of Cameron. How does he react to this criticism?

“It’s water off a duck’s back,” he says. “Cameron didn’t initially want to do the book. But I had interviewed him just after he became Tory chief and it was clear under his leadership that he had de-contaminated the Tory party, much as Blair had done with the Labour party.

“He had made his party electable again and for this achievement alone I felt I had to be fair to him. And though it was a difficult book it is the positive book I wanted it to be. It did create 18 separate news stories on the first four days since its appearance.”

An Audience with Dylan Jones will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 24 September at the Circle Club. Call 0161 819 2145 for more information. Tickets cost £15 and are available from michael@manchesterfashion.com

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GQ FanSeptember 23rd 2008.

Great article, im a massive GQ fan and moving away from the James Brown tits & ass mindset ensured men now have a great read but at the same time a place to pick up tips and hints not just on looking good but drinking and eating v well.

Mike BarnettSeptember 23rd 2008.

Did Dylan Jones really ever contribute to City Life? I worked for the magazine for 18 years, all but the first two and last two years of its life. I don't recall his by-line ever appearing. Dylan, can you elaborate?

GarySeptember 23rd 2008.

Ditto. Jones' influence on GQ has been phenomenal. The guts to move in the opposite direction of just about every other 'mens' magazine - away from skirting around soft-porn, and to make a genuinely interesting publication deserves huge accolade. He and they deserve every success. On a recent 7 day holiday to Tuscany, the GQ magazine I bought at the airport lasted the entire week, whereas the FHM my pal bought, the OK that his wife bought and even the ELLE my wife bought didn’t even last the flight. FHM was nothing but soft-porn – I knicked my pals copy whilst my wife read an article in my GQ on the flight – I had *read* every page (i.e. looked at every soft-porn, or *near accident* photo), and read every article that seemed in anyway interesting before she had finished one GQ article.

Dylan JonesSeptember 23rd 2008.

It will not surprise anyone that James Brown is now plying his trade at The Daily Sport!

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