“If we are able to give the American male a few extra laughs and a little diversion from the atomic age we’ll feel as if we’ve justified our existence.”
(Playboy magazine. Vol. 1. No. 1)
|Hefner (centre) with two of Playboy's most celebrated covers: Lindsay Lohan (left), and initial cover girl, Marilyn Monroe (right).|
We want to make clear from the very start, we aren’t a family magazine.” (Playboy, 1953)
The initial issue of Playboy reached the newsstands of America in December 1953 and Hefner, unsure of the magazine’s reception, released the publication undated. As a new publication “Playboy addressed, and thereby simultaneously helped to created, the new masculine, always (allegedly) heterosexual consumer.”
The Economic boom within post war America created a new middle class within society, or the “new masculine.” One of the main reasons for Playboy’s success was the period of its release. Playboy was allowed to flourish in the 1950’s for a number of reasons, perhaps most significantly being the limited selection of men’s lifestyle magazines. Whilst women had a broad selection of consumer magazines “Male magazines tended to be based on particular leisure pursuits or hobbies, motorcycling, fishing cars or even pornography.
|Bunnies: Marketing technique associates the bunny image to Hefner's Playboy.|
Playboy also triggered the era of the male as a consumerist figure, not only did it sell as a form of entertainment but the magazine had the capability to sell a “lifestyle” to it’s readers, complete with items that had previously been considered luxurious. The economic boom following the war produced “an era of grey conformism, a time of mass consumption.” This demand for the latest commodity provided a platform for Playboy’s success, citizens were finally able to afford luxurious items after the frugality of the war but with this new money not only came innovative forms of entertainment but also introduced the idea of a new middle class within post-war society. Sexuality became “one of the key ways in which the new middle classes of the post war period sought to distinguish themselves from the old middle classes” and Playboy provided this distinction. The magazine appealed to this audience predominantly because they had disposable income to spend on the “finer things in life” and had a waiting audience. The sexual content within the pages of Playboy was also well suited to this new class movement as they began to become characterized by their “quest for the new and the latest in relationships and experiences.”