As an androgynously identified person who is interested in the more feminine side of men’s style I have always been at least mildly interested in men’s fashion magazines. I remember once before I actually started wearing men’s clothes, I picked up a Details magazine while grocery shopping. Later my gay male friend noticed the magazine in my room and said, “Oh yeah, that’s the magazine for gay men who are not out yet.” At the time I felt both affronted and amused at the comment. I felt amused because I understood the homoerotic nature of the magazine and affronted because I knew that in essence, I was one of those men. In other words, these magazines were incredibly clever because they marketed to out gay men, closeted gay men, metrosexual men, and the masculine identified female.
Nowhere else is gay window advertising more prevalent then in the genre of men’s fashion magazines. Homoeroticism is literally everywhere but it is especially visible in Details section on “the body.” There are pictures of scantily clad, oiled up, half naked men all over its health section (as well as many other sections). This would not be strange to our heteronormative society if these images were available in a women’s magazine but they are supposedly only for the consumption of men. This begs the question of how a mainstream magazine in our homophobic society is allowed to get away with almost blatant homoeroticism.
As is articulated in Katherine Sender’s piece “Selling Sexual Subjectivities” the reason that Details and other men’s magazines including GQ and Men’s Health get away with homoeroticism is because they can be coded as either gay or straight. A straight man or a closeted gay man can feel perfectly comfortable reading a men’s fashion magazine because they have enough heterosexual and homosexual cues to make the magazines fairly ambiguous to the unbiased eye. There are enough pictures of female eye candy to make the magazines fairly acceptable to the heteronormative society but not enough to overly upset the tastes of gay men. The homoeroticism depicted through the depictions of nearly nude men and the concept of men’s fashion in general is only acceptable because of the visible degradation of women. Men do not need to fear homophobia as long as women are portrayed as sexual objects somewhere in the magazine.
Gay Window advertising is an understanding of the realities of society while also understanding the possibilities of the gay market. Another group that we did not discuss in class and that these magazines may unintentionally hail is the transgender or androgynously identified female. A large audience of masculine identifying females has found men’s fashion magazines to be a great resource. Much of what is understood as “lesbian style” comes from the realm of men’s fashion. For instance, you see this particular queer model (to the right) incorporating men’s style into their fashion. You can see the sports jacket, the collared shirt, the watch, and the pocket square which are all important aspects of men’s fashion as can be seen in Details and GQ.