Magazines: the new Woolworths?

Pile of magazinesIn the last few weeks I’ve found myself having numerous (nay, endless) conversations with colleagues about the magazine industry. Titles, even those that only a year ago were doing pretty well have seen devastating plunges in circulation which, let’s call a spade a spade here, means their readers are actively rejecting them.

As a former editor myself, I sympathise hugely with the people who helm today’s magazines. In my day, the internet was still its infancy, the market was still bouyant and the hot topic in the industry wasn’t survival but whether you should really stoop to sticking sunglasses on your cover to boost sales.

Much is made, of course, of how the internet has utterly decimated the industry (to a degree it has but then, did no-one in the big publishing houses see that coming?) but let’s not make out print media itself is blameless here. Whilst pioneering and offering an entirely different business model to conventional magazines and newspapers free titles like Shortlist and Stylist (and then the Evening Standard) didn’t just shake up the market, they mortally wounded it in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, all three are excellent publications but, to me, the fact that they are handed out like club flyers devalues the idea that journalism and photography have an intrinsic value. After all, if there were people standing outside your local train station handing out free household cleaner every week would you ever consider paying for it? Unless I wanted really good household cleaner I know wouldn’t.

So how do magazines survive? In truth, I don’t have the answers and I share the pain of those who are expected to come up with them – especially as they’re increasingly expected to offer more bang for a diminishing buck (and with fewer staff too).  I suspect the glossies will hang on in there because they’re still able to do what most websites, blogs and free publications can’t – they can provide luxurious, decadent content, spread over numerous pages. Vogue can still do the indulgent 12-page fashion shoot in Machu Picchu with three world-class supermodels and Men’s Health can still do a six page in depth-feature about men and mental health. At some point we’ll get sick of the two-paragraph stories magazines are so fond of feeding us these days and will demand the read again.

Or maybe the industry survives by stealing some tactics from the music industry, with which is largely comparable. In the same way the music industry has responded to falling sales and pirating by turning music in to an artefact –  producing high value special editions, boxed sets and collector’s sets – I can see some magazines producing high-price issues and limited editions (Vogue logo in real gold anyone? Limited edition Lady Gaga cover signed by…Lady Gaga?). Certainly more will have to do digital (I subscribe to a couple of digital editions of popular magazines so can’t see why people won’t cough up if the content and – crucially – the interactivity is there). Others will have to think out of the box – not replicating what the internet can offer (that USP is taken) but delivering what it cannot.

As for the weekly gossip titles I honestly don’t know what the future holds for them. I loathe the Daily Mail‘s website but as much for its genius as what it stands for. After all, if a reader wants to see what shoes Helen Flanagan is ‘walking out in/showing off’ on any given Tuesday why would they wait until the following week to find out when the Daily Mail is scrutinising her every move on an almost hourly basis?

There are those that advocate a charity-like approach to the salvation of the magazine industry, imploring us to ‘use ’em or lose ’em’. I sympathise with the sentiment but that’s an awful lot like saying we should have shopped in Woolworths just to save it from closure. Yes it was a dearly-loved institution but it closed because it couldn’t keep up with its customers’ changing needs and, as a result, was fundamentally…rubbish.

If magazines are to survive they have to earn our love again. Though I work mainly in the digital arena these days I spent half of my working life in magazines and have a real and genuine affection for the format. And I really hope they make it – or at least that the deserving ones do –  as much as anything because I don’t want to see all those talented journalists, subs and designers out of jobs, not to mention all the other creatives who rely on their existence. But at the end of the day, there might well be a case for doing the decent thing and putting some titles out of their misery. When your number’s up, your number’s up – especially when that number’s down 40% year-on-year.

In the red: the new Ralph Lauren Polo fragrance

POLO REDThere are some amazing fragrances in the Ralph Lauren portfolio. Safari is one of them, as is the original Polo For Men. And I loved the bold modernity of the Big Pony Collection. Alas, Polo Red, the latest fragrance from the iconic American fashion house, has shifted things out of the black for me. Sweet, cakey and derivative (it reminds me of a host of fragrances currently riding atop of a particularly crowded gourmandy bandwagon) it’s perfectly okay but just…disappointingly lacklustre. If you like smelling like Mary Berry’s kitchen on baking day I suppose you’ll love it but it doesn’t do it for me. The opaque red bottle is fabulous mind.

The notes

Top:  red grapefruit, Italian cedrat, red cranberry

Heart: red saffron, lavandin, red sage

Base: red wood, amber, coffee berry (or Mary Berry?)

Matt Alber’s End of the World

If you’ve never come across singer/songwriter Matt Alber I do suggest you look him up.  I’ve seen him perform live three or four times and, big softie that I am, have never ended a performance of his end-of-relationship tear-jerker End of The World with a dry eye. I’m featuring the video here because it reminds me of my recent hols  (I managed to catch him in concert whilst in Provincetown and then bumped into him in a bar one night) and because it’s set in a barber shop so there’s a (very) tenuous grooming link. I will warn you, though, it ends with a fleeting same sex kiss, so if you’re easily offended, watch to the end to feel the rush that comes with outrage. Or try getting out a little more.

Kicking up a stink – Aesop A.P.C Post-Poo Drops

APC Post-Poo DropsI’m very sensitive to a micro trend me. And the word on the street (not to mention in the bathroom) is that A.P.C Post Poo-drops are big. A product that emerged through a collaboration between trendy fashion label A.P.C and uber-cool skincare brand Aesop they’re an absolute must-have in the office of one of my friends, where everyone seems to have a bottle and, one presumes, particularly obnoxious bowel movements.

If you’re unfamiliar with the product it’s essentially a posh way of masking any unwanted smells after you’ve visited the toilet. A Swedish friend of mine used to do this by striking a match, which worked a treat, but I must say I was reluctant to adopt the technique in case I accidentally blew up my bathroom in the process (I love baked beans).

These drops are much safer and, thanks to a delightful combo of citrus oils, smell much better too. To use you simply administer three drops to the toilet bowl post-fush. Surely the ultimate gift for the person who has everything, except fragrant plops.

How to groom like Gatsby

Alongside Star Trek Into Darkness it’s the film everyone’s talking about right now and since Jay Gatsby’s look is a little easier to emulate than Spock’s (copying those pointy ears is hard) I thought I’d focus on how to groom like The Great Gatsby rather than how to Vamp it up like a Vulcan. So to discover how to get the Gatsby look check out my piece for MATCHESFASHION by clicking on the pic below.


The Remington Touch Control Hair Clipper: great hairstyles at the touch of a button

Touch ClipperAs someone who’s been cutting his own hair for about 15 years now (I gave up any pretence of needing a hairdresser after a friend told me “baldness is really trendy these days – just accept it”) I need no instructions about how to use a set of hairclippers. But the new Remington Touch Control Hairclipper is so easy to use that neither will you, even if you’re a newbie to home cutting.

The world’s first hair clipper for men with touch-screen technology it allows you to adjust the length of blades in at the touch of a button and by the tiniest of increments (from 0.4mm to 42mm) meaning you don’t just get a good cut you get a truly bespoke one.

Its versatility means you can buzz cut, trim, blend, taper or create the perfect cut for you. It’s perfect for people like me who simply whizz over their heads to keep their hair at a manageable length but is also great for guys with longer hair who want to maintain their style between visits to the barber or, for that matter, for ones who want to create their own unique styles.

REM2It also features self-sharpening Titanium coated blades, USB charging and a Pro-Power Motor to speed the whole process up and can be used on wet or dry hair. And unlike some clippers, you can lock the length setting so you don’t have any cutting accidents mid trim (something I must confess I’ve been a victim of in the past).

A couple of tips to get the most out of your clipper:

1. Keep it charged (sounds obvious but helps!).

2. Dispense with the guard altogether to remove annoying neck hair and to tidy up the nape of the neck.

3. For a professional-looking blended finish begin cutting with the comb guard flat against the head, move it upwards against the grain and flick it outwards aways from the hair as you do so.

REMINGTON TOUCH CONTROL HAIR CLIPPERThe Remington HC5950 Touch Control Titanium Hair Clipper is available from Boots with a RRP of £69.99. You can also buy it from the Remington site where you can get a third off the normal price if you enter the voucher code  TCSAVE. Happy clipping!


Grooming Guru Essentials: Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur Shower Gel

Geranium pour monsieur boite+baseHROne of the great things about having a blog is being able to write about the products you love simply because you love them. So I make no excuses for quickly mentioning this fantastic shower gel from Frederic Malle. Along with patchouli and the scent of lilac, geranium is one of my absolute favourite smells, partly because it’s so wonderfully uplifting.

If you’ve sampled Malle’s Geranium Pour Monsieur you’ll know what a great fragrance it is but this shower gel is superb too partly because, unlike many other shower gels, it has the ability to scent more than just the water but your entire bathroom. That turns bathtime into a truly sensational (I’d say scentsational if I was being tabloid about it) experience.

Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.

Give your skin a sporting chance with Palmer’s MEN Cocoa Butter Formula Body & Face Lotion

PALMER'S MEN BODY & FACE LOTIONWhenever people ask me what my best grooming tip is I often fire back with one simple word: moisturise! Of all the steps you can take to protect your looks it’s the probably the most important and, luckily, the simplest too.

It’s no good just looking after the stuff on your face though: you need to take care of the skin on the rest of your body too. This is especially important if you’re a gym-goer and shower a lot (all that hot water can strip skin of its natural oils) or play a lot of outdoor sport and subject your extremities to the elements.

Palmer’s MEN Cocoa Butter Formula Body & Face Lotion is the perfect way to moisturise both your face and body with one easy-to-use product. Containing skin-nourishing Vitamin E and high-quality Cocoa Butter it smells great and is ideal for keeping skin in tip-top condition, whether you’re an office worker or a rugby pro.

And speaking of rugby, to celebrate the Six Nations and the forthcoming Lions Tour Palmer’s are running a great competition where you can win one of 20 Palmer’s ‘Be Smooth’ packs (featuring a 250ml and 400ml Palmer’s MEN Body & Face Lotion, along with other Palmer’s products,  plus a selection of Kooga Rugby products including a rugby ball, watter bottle and sports bag. There’s also a Grand Prize you really won’t want to miss out on! For more info click here.

Palmer’s MEN Body & Face Lotion is available in the Bodycare section of the larger Boots, Sainsbury’s and Wilkinson.


5 great Valentine’s Day fragrances for women

Fancy buying the woman in your life a fragrance for Valentine’s Day but not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, I’ve made it easy for you by asking some of my favourite beauty industry pals what they’d recommend…chaneljpegJane Cunningham, founder of  Chanel No5, from

“It’s the classic floral you cannot go wrong with, not least because every woman in the world would like to think she deserves Chanel and she’ll love the fact you realise that!”

westwoodlLauren Naylor, The Sun’s Beauty Expert: Vivienne Westwood Boudoir, from

“If you want to get in your woman’s good books, opting for a designer fragrance like this is a sure fire way, especially when the bottle looks so goddamn exquisite. She’ll love you for choosing such a quintessentially English brand too.”

moleculesNadine Baggott, Health and Beauty Editor of HELLO! Magazine: Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, from

“If you want to indulge your partner in a scent that works for you as well then go for this one by maverick nose Geza Schoen. I never tire of this unisex, pheromone-based, mossy, light-as-air scent.”

amyrisLynnette Peck Bateman, Beauty Director of Saga magazine: Amyris Femme by Francis Kurkdjian, from

“If you’re looking for a unique and imaginative gift for a more sophisticated woman I’d recommend this warm powdery scent with hints of citrus. It’s not by one of the large cosmetic houses so also has the advantage that it won’t be worn by every other woman in the world.”

avedaJacqui Ripley, beauty writer, author and Dolly Mixture blogger: Aveda Pure-Fume Ancient Attar, from

“In its presentation it’s low-key and mindful rather than a big splashy blockbuster. It smells natural on the skin too, with Bulgarian Rose being at its heart. Gives the sentiment of love without being predictable.”