When Maxim readers expressed an interest in more stories covering fashion and grooming, publishers took it as incentive for rebranding the 20-year-old title. The new focus highlights a movement towards the evolution of traditionally shameful reads. This change has the potential to significantly impact how the average man views the fashion industry. The change also opens up the opportunity to revise the way women are viewed through male-centric publications.
It was an unexpected move for Maxim, a publication that currently boasts 2 million subscribers (consisting mainly of men in their 30s), to hire fashion industry darling Kate Lanphear as their new Editor-in-Chief. Lanphear, who has previously held positions at Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Elle, and T Magazine, says that her aim for Maxim is to portray women “as three-dimensional as they actually are, that they are confident, healthy and energetic and happy. I want women that men can fall in love with and not just objectify.”
Lanphear’s first issue as EIC debuted in March. The decision to place Candice Swanepoel on the cover demonstrated the first move strategic towards reconciling the past with the future. Swanepoel, a well-known high-fashion model, topped Maxim’s Hot 100 list in 2014. However, rather that choose a cover that flaunted Ms. Swanepoel’s famously toned body, Lanphear went with a close up of her face. “It was one of my favorite pictures from the shoot,” she says. “But I think it speaks to our ideas about desire and sexuality, not shying away from that. You don’t see almost anything but Candice’s gorgeous face and how hypnotic her eyes are. I think that speaks to how surprising and challenging sexiness is.”
Though Maxim remains America’s largest selling men’s lifestyle magazine, it still retained a negative connotation until Lanphear arrived. I associated it with editorials of soft porn fostering the objectifying male gaze. While Lanphear could not do away with this content all together (and risk loosing long-term subscribers), the magazine now features more relatable women who look natural in front of the camera.
For April 2015 Lanphear gave the cover to another Victoria’s Secret Angel (a group known for their athleticism as much as their sexiness): 29-year-old Lily Aldridge. Again the cover focuses solely on her (albeit flawless) face- this time in profile.
The story features the lingerie model writhing around on a beach wearing little more than a pair of jeans. However, this editorial stands out against previous covers because she is clearly in control. She reveals just enough, but makes a point to leave something to the imagination. “I’m very careful about it. I enjoy feeling sexy and beautiful; I just don’t think everyone needs to see everything,” she told the magazine in the accompanying interview.
These are a new genre of fantasy women that accurate reflect the times. They can easily keep up with their male counterparts and are not the least bit interested in making you a sandwich. “We feature the type of women a guy could fall in love with, the same way you celebrate any kind of beauty,” Lanphear explains. “It’s just outside of your reach. We want to celebrate women’s physical beauty because it’s an essential part of the brand, but we also want to celebrate their success and tell their stories. They’re as successful and energetic and driven and confident as the men we want to speak to.”