I'm told that Playboy is doing away with nudes in its print edition. I've no idea if it's just moving all the nudes to its website, but I have to assume it is. Still, I do have to feel a bit sad about the announcement.
I grew up with Playboy, after all. If I'd been a few years older, it could still have been a key source of lifestyle advice and aspirational longings for me as an undergraduate, but when I was young it was still a way to be at least marginally part of some better world.
I subscribed to Playboy when I was sixteen. I kept the subscription until just a few years ago--- 2010, I think. In the last decade of that, I was keeping it out of nostalgia and habit as much as anything else. I let the subscription lapse because they'd lost any edge they'd once had. They still had photos of lovely girls, but the Playmates had become a bit bland, and the actresses and models and singers who posed nude weren't cutting-edge.
Now I'll make no secret of the fact that I read Playboy in my youth primarily for the nudes. I'd never be the cliched person insisting he read it for the articles. Yes, fine, I read a lot of the interviews and articles and reviews; I read a fair number of good short stories over the years. I do recall articles about men's fashion and accessories and furnishings that I probably took notes on. But it was always the nudes that I cared about--- the vision of sex with lovely girls.
At some point, though, the Playmates weren't enough. I like my fantasies aspirational and stylish, and Playboy's commitment to the Girl Next Door idea wasn't what I was looking for. The nudes in high-fashion magazines were better. Taller, thinner, more posed in settings that were elegant and noir. I never minded airbrushing and artificiality--- remember, I always prefer the artificial to the natural ---but the poses I wanted weren't upper-middle California suburb, they were a lot more Euro-boutique hotel-decadence.
Playboy's original target market was the late-1950s/early 1960s young striver. Someone in his mid-twenties with a college degree and a white-collar job and a decent salary in a booming economy, but not from the old Eastern upper classes. Someone who'd need to learn about how to dress to impress and how to furnish a flat to seduce. Their target buyer was the same young man Ian Fleming had been writing for in late-'50s Britain: someone who read the Bond novels to know what suits to wear and what to order at the bar or at an upscale dinner. I might've enjoyed all that, if I'd been there. By the end, though, Playboy had come down in the world--- become a bit jockish, become more than a little tired. The finance bros had moved on to magazines and websites that didn't pretend to be retro-hip, that were brassier and more in-your-face. Playboy had been about jazz, and it managed to hang on through rock, but it couldn't deal with hip-hop era attitudes about wealth and bling.
So here we are. No more Playboy nudes, at least in the print editions. What will undergraduate boys put up on the walls of their freshman dorms? What will mechanics put up in the office in garages and car-repair shops? Well, they can all look at porn on their phones and laptops, but I'll miss centerfolds. I'll miss Playmates-of-the-Month there on glossy pages.
Maybe I'll see if episodes of "Playboy After Dark" are available on YouTube and just watch the days of the Chicago Playboy Mansion in grainy black and white and see if I can still feel...hep. Not even hip, I think--- hep.