The Best and Worst Magazines for Men

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 6, 2009 · 120 comments

in Books, Travel & Leisure


One of the reasons I started the Art of Manliness website was because of the dearth of quality men’s magazines out there. None of them really took the idea of manliness and what it meant to be a man seriously, and they were filled with the same, tired articles on how to bed the ladies and attain six pack abs.

My hope is that AoM has filled a niche in talking about aspects of manliness and a man’s life that don’t get covered elsewhere. But of course, practically speaking, there’s still a need for magazines. Magazines help pass the time at the airport and provide a little extra relaxation when you’re sitting upon the porcelain throne. And it’s definitely nice to get something fun in the mailbox every month. Therefore, AoM set out to discover which men’s magazines were the best. We read through 2 months of issues from a variety of men’s publications. (Note: while magazines like Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, and Field and Stream have a predominantly male readership, we concentrated on magazines that were designed and targeted as general men’s interest publications).

We spent many hours reading and note taking so that you don’t have to. We examined who the magazines seemed to be marketing themselves towards, what kind of stories they published, and the quality of those stories. We then noted the pros and cons of each. While some magazines seem quite hefty, everyone knows that a lot of that bulk consists of advertisements. So we carefully tallied the page to ad ratio. Also, one of our pet peeves about men’s magazines is that they often mar the reading experience by placing a really tasteless ad in the back for some sex-related product. Whether or not a magazine is willing to print such scurrility is a good mark of its classiness, so we took note of which ones did and didn’t. Another one of our beefs with men’s magazines is that they sell a lifestyle few men can afford. Most men shop at places like Old Navy and don’t have the dough for $6,000 suits. So we took note of what kinds of products the magazines suggested to readers. Finally, we bestowed upon the magazine a certified Art of Manliness quality ranking. Now for our reviews:

Men’s Health Best Life


Sample Headlines:

  • 8 Laws of Building Wealth
  • The Sexually Satisfied Wife
  • 15 Flat Belly Power Foods
  • 17 Secrets of Male Style

Target Readers: Best Life is the older, more mature brother of Men’s Health. Aimed at men in their 30′s and 40′s who have successful careers and families or wish they did.


  • Articles are more mature and serious than many men’s magazines
  • Articles have useful information with practical tips you can immediately incorporate into your life
  • Covers a wide variety of topics: health, relationships, career, travel, ect.
  • Discusses sex in a mature fashion


  • Heavy on the ads
  • Format and layout could be a bit cleaner

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford $3,470 Tom Ford boots

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 45%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Nope

Rating: sullivanrank sullivanranksullivanranksullivanrank4 out of 5 John Sullivans

Read back issues of Best Life Magazine for free at Google Books



Sample Headlines

  • Do You Have Douchebag Hair?
  • The Rise of the A-Gay
  • Inside the Twisted World of Revenge Porn
  • The New Chauvinism

Target Readers: Younger men who fancy themselves as sophisticated and cool dudes


  • Some useful fashion information, although often aimed at a more hipster than classic style
  • Appealing format


  • Heavy on the ads
  • Tries too hard to be cool; a photo of Mr. Potato having a romp with a spread-eagle Barbie isn’t funny and ironic, it’s just lame
  • Articles are shallow and lack substance
  • Any magazine that lists R. Kelley, Clay Aiken, and Thomas Beatie (the pregnant “man”) in a list of the “40 Most Powerful Men under 47″ should have their editorial heads checked

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford a $395 Burberry scarf

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 45%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Nope

Rating: sullivanrankhalfrank 1.5 out of 5 John Sullivans

Men’s Health


Sample Headlines

  • Lose Your Gut!
  • Better Sleep, Bigger Muscles
  • Dress for More Sex
  • Lower Her Inhibitions

Target Readers: The all-American, well-rounded, fitness conscious man in his 20′s and 30′s


  • Lots of useful and practical tips and advice on a wide variety of topics
  • “Bulletins” section dishes out fast, easily digestible nuggets of information
  • Format is immensely readable, you can skim some sections or dive into the more in-depth articles
  • Provide effective new exercises and workouts to try
  • Lots of great features such as “Belly Off Club (profiling real guys who lost weight and how they did it), “Ask Jimmy the Bartender,” and “Ask the Girl Next Door (my wife says she’s usually spot-on in her advice)”
  • In-depth articles can be thoughtful and interesting


  • Try to sell you a lot of expensive crap
  • Lots of ads for junky fitness supplements
  • Doesn’t approach sex from a mature standpoint-more like Cosmo for guys
  • The photos of women seem to get racier and racier with each issue. Some are bordering on soft core porn these days.
  • Some articles get too foo foo. Do guys really need a guide to buying jeans? (Here’s the AoM Guide: Step 1-Try on jeans you like. Step 2-Buy them)
  • Two months in a row “Lose Your Gut” was the cover headline. Six pack abs are awesome; we get it

Attainable Lifestyle? Most of the clothes they feature are eye-poppingly expensive, but they do throw in stuff like Levis

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 40%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Yup

Rating: sullivanranksullivanranksullivanranksullivanrankhalfrank 4.5 out of 5 John Sullivans

Read back issues of Men’s Health for free at Google Books

Nylon for Guys


Sample Headlines

  • Mila Kunis Can Kick Your Ass!
    The Moody Genius of Mogwai
  • Vintage Cameras Go on Sale; We Go Crazy

Target Readers: 20-something guys who are so hip it freakin hurts


  • Decent video games reviews
  • Fashion features offer a wide variety of brands and prices, some of which a regular guy can actually afford
  • Interesting profiles of musicians and celebrities


  • Tons of ads, often hawking unmanly products
  • Not a lot of practical advice or knowledge
  • Shallow articles
  • In attempting for a cool and edgy format, it loses readability
  • Fashion heavy

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford $60 vintage-looking New Balance sneaks

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Yup

Rating: sullivanrank1 out of 5 John Sullivans



Sample Headlines:

  • The Sexiest Stars of 2009
  • The World’s Most Dangerous Sport
  • Shark Beach
  • Coolest Cars of 2009

Target Readers: 20-something frat dudes; teenage boys who aren’t old enough to buy porn


  • Mindlessly entertaining fluff, like a People Magazine for dudes
  • Decent reviews of music, movies, and video games


  • A complete lack of useful information or in-depth articles
  • Emphasis on babes, with lots of full spreads of scantily clad, airbrushed, seductively posed women.
  • Lacks a mature and classy approach to women and sex

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford $60 Banana Republic shirt

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 28%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Naturally

Rating: sullivanrank 1 out of 5 John Sullivans



Sample Headlines:

  • Wisdom and Damn Good Advice from…. (This is the focus of the most recent issue. I recommend picking it up. Esquire interviewed many prominent men about what they’ve learned in life. It’s a good read).
  • Ten Things You Don’t Know About Women
  • Living Rationally
  • Influence: The Art of Sweet Talking

Target Readers: The classy, refined, yet rascally gentleman


  • Excellent feature called “Man at His Best,” which is a monthly guide to culture, movies, books, health, advice, and style
  • Some obligatory scantily-clad women, but in general, sex is handled tastefully
  • Intelligent content
  • Often has classic, vintage features


  • Esquire is great all around, but suffers from the plague of all modern men’s publications: the fear of ever being totally sincere. There always has to be that hip, cheeky tinge

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford a $25,000 watch. No, I’m not kidding.

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 30%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? No

Rating: sullivanranksullivanranksullivanranksullivanrank halfrank 4.5 out of 5 John Sullivans

Men’s Vogue


(Note: Before we could even get this written up, it was announced that Men’s Vogue was being cut to a twice yearly publication. I guess not enough men wanted to vogue).

Sample Headlines:

  • Apocalypse Boot Camp
  • The Other Titanic
  • The 38 Year Old Giving Away 36 Billion

Target Readers: Classy, intelligent men of all ages


  • Men’s Vogue was a real surprise. It’s not just the dude version of women’s Vogue and was neither as foo-foo or fashion conscious as one might expect. It’s actually a solid, interesting magazine for men.
  • Excellent feature-”The Examined Life” which profiles the lives of interesting men, both famous and ordinary
  • Substantive and well-written articles on a variety of topics


  • Heavy on the ads

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can a $4,025 Hermes umbrella

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 45%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? Nope

Rating: sullivanranksullivanranksullivanrankhalfrank 3.5 out of 5 John Sullivans

Men’s Journal


Sample Headlines:

  • Reboot Your Life
  • The Man Who Defined Being a Man
  • The Algae Oil Boom
  • Better Than Yoga

Target Readers: The rugged and adventurous yet sophisticated athlete and traveler, or guys who aspire for such status


  • An excellent mix of articles of cars, sports, health, science, cooking, ect.
  • Articles are interesting, intelligent, and well-written
  • Arresting photographs of exotic locals and extreme sports


  • Some of the features are far more aspirational than realistic; sells a very narrowly attainable lifestyle

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford the $3,200 a week needed to lodge on a private island

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 40%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? No

Rating: sullivanranksullivanranksullivanrankhalfrank 3.5 out of 5 John Sullivans

Men’s Fitness


Sample Headlines:

  • The Best All Body Exercise Ever
  • Video Games and the Future of Fitness
  • Get Ripped Fast
  • Tight abs

Target Readers: Younger, fitness oriented men


  • Useful advice on health and fitness


  • Definitely trying to sell you stuff; articles packed with more high tech gizmos than useful information
  • Articles are shallow; presented as bite size nuggets of information
  • Lots of ads for supplements
  • Not as well-rounded as Men’s Health
  • Heavy on the ads

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 47%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? And how

Rating: sullivanranksullivanrank 2 out of 5 John Sullivans

Outside’s Go Travel and Style for Men


Sample Headlines:

  • The Season’s Hottest Ski Trips
  • The Most Incredible And Luxurious Tahitian Adventure Ever
  • Can Wayne Gretzky Skate to Another Stanley Cup?

Target Readers: Men who like to travel and who have a ton of money or dream that they someday will


  • Pretty, inspirational photos that let you travel to the world’s coolest places vicariously
  • Minimal ads


  • Sell a lifestyle that’s out of reach to most guys
  • Has a narrow focus-travel-without much content on other things

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford $230 cashmere scarf

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 19%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? No

Rating: sullivanranksullivanrankhalfrank 2.5 out of 5 John Sullivans



Sample Headlines:

  • How to Dress for the Big Job
  • The 25 Sexist Women in Film of All time
  • The (Overworked, Slightly Distracted) Man’s Guide to Finally Getting Productive

Target Readers: Guys who are cool, but also want to be taken seriously, man


  • Great fashion tips, although some veer to the more hipster than classic style
  • Sometimes offers engaging, thoughtful articles about current events
  • Great photography
  • Minimal Ads


  • The occasional topless lady can be found in its pages. Might not want to leave it around the house if you have kiddos

Attainable Lifestyle? If you can afford $640 diore homme jeans (although in fairness the most recent issue offers a guide to dressing for under $100).

Percentage of the Magazine that Consists of Ads: 26%

Raunchy Sex Ad in Back? No

Rating: : sullivanranksullivanranksullivanrank3 out of 5 John Sullivans

Agree or disagree with our reviews? Let us know in the comments section.

{ 120 comments… read them below or add one }

101 peter DOHAN, MD March 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

how about some gender neutral mags that stimulate the mind, just do not cultivate style and attitude, viz, sci am, discovery, foreign affairs, some british pubs such as the economist. your list overall in my opinion is geared to the lowest common denominator of manhood. and perhaps recommend some books some stimulate the synapses. all style and no substance wears thin. i do not mean to sound like a pointy headed snob, but we all, myself included, need to learn how to use our synapses. thanks for letting me rant, peter

102 Jason Jones March 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I have been a read of many of these magazines over my life, and by far my favorite 2 are Best Life, and Mens Journal. They have great articles, and a good level of maturity without being too stiff or serious. Esquire and GQ come in just a bit lower in standards for my taste, but are still far better than most of the others. I also agree that Mens Health should not have had 4.5 out of 5, especially seeing that Best Life and Mens Journal did not.

103 Tim March 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

I am ready to subscribe to “The Art of Manliness” magazine.
C’mon Brett.

104 Bob March 9, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I agree with the bunch that wouldn’t pick up any of these – try Primitive Archer magazine – that’s psycho manly.

105 Tom March 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Why is having pictures of attractive women in a magazine a bad thing? Especially when the magazine offers so much more? Playboy is a great magazine and wasn’t even mentioned in the article. The Playboy Interview has given insight into the great, the famous and infamous. They cover music, literature, fashion, politics and even science although not necesarily in the same edition. This is a magazine that follows us through our development, as kids we would sneak it from our dad or brother to see the women, as we got older we began to notice the interview, the Advisor and the reviews, then we begin to notice that it has great indepth articles. Possilby the greatest men’s magazine ever, all the above pale in comparison.

106 Stoner With A Boner April 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Joke: What’s the difference between a Men’s Magazine and a Woman’s Magazine?

Both have pictures of pretty woman….they are just wearing less clothing in the mens’ mags…..

107 A. May 11, 2010 at 3:26 am

Sirs -

I must heartily second the earlier (and, presumably, British) posters, and recommend The Chap magazine – – it has interviews, recommendations as regards alcohol, pipe tobacco and books, historical articles and style tips.

You can also look on Amazon for The Chap Manifesto and The Best of the Chap, which latter book also contains that wonderful and scholarly article “The lost art of doffing”.

Keep up the good work on the Art of Manliness!


108 Ben K May 26, 2010 at 1:45 am

When can we see “Art of Manliness” magazine at the news stand? I would buy it!

109 Kevin May 26, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I never knew there was such a thing as a $4,000+ umbrella. Heck I’d be downright afraid to get it wet. Also Kanye West is a little boy not a man. Any magazine that rates him among their men of the year will not be getting any of my money.

110 Nikolaus July 20, 2010 at 4:26 am

First of all cudos to the over all great quality of The art of Manliness! I recently stumbled upon it and it has now becomes one of my go-to sites for a good read. What you’re doing is really great and I love your approach. I can’t help but notice though, that the writers seem to hold a huge grudge against anything hip or hipster. It seeps through the writing and I find it, well, a bit childish. While I’m not much of a hipster myself I must acknowledge that many great musicians, writers, and thinkers, some who have been written about here, were decidedly hip for their time. Was not much of what is considered classy today was once lavish hip fashion?

111 Darrin K August 9, 2010 at 11:09 am

So is it safe to say that most of them portray a lifestyle that is unattainable? If so, I see little value in any of them. Is this an incorrect assessment?

112 Ralph P October 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

What? No Playboy?

113 Ray O'Brien December 6, 2012 at 4:35 am

i love jason statham, i want to see him on more mags!

114 Dave A March 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

Pretty spot on. Although AoM blows them all out of the water.

BUT, I totally disagree with the AoM guide to buying jeans. “Here’s the AoM Guide: Step 1-Try on jeans you like. Step 2-Buy them” as opposed to the Men’s Health guide (which I haven’t read.) It seems to me this could be an AoM article. And I don’t think Antonio would agree with your guide either. I have read and enjoyed AoM articles on picking the right coat, hat, and how to wear clothes properly. I like AoM’s focus on quality vs quantity and I like your focus on being “classic” While your tips to buying jeans are obvious and could be applied to EVERYTHING, (Step 1. Pick the Men’s Mag you like. Step 2. Buy it.) I prefer the informative approach. There are of coarse huge differences in denim quality, style and cut. Jeans are classic and certainly manly. Frankly knowing how to choose the right pair of jeans is probably more practical then knowing whether it’s fedora weather.

Every man is going to buy and wear jeans from time to time so a little insight on the matter is not a “CON” in my opinion.

115 James May 10, 2013 at 12:45 am

There are two online man magazines I think should be mentioned on this for one of the best. The two are called and there

116 Flynn June 20, 2013 at 11:48 pm

What about Popular Mechanics…no finer men’s publication on planet Earth! Keep up the good work AoM!

117 Mike Sullivan November 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Six pack abs, and the latest tips on how to bed the latest chick aren’t going to attract a large male reading audience. What will attract them are articles or adventure stories set in strange, exotic lands, highlighted by a dark secret waiting to be revealed. Keep the reader guessing. Stimulate his mind. Tripe about his bulging muscles, or how to attract the hottest chick at the local meat market won’t do it. That’s b.s. writing, and boring too.

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119 Magazine Express March 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Magazine Express has a section of the most popular magazines among men:

120 Kyle April 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

I don’t entirely agree, for one I don’t understand why Mens health care a 4.5 out of 5. When others with more pros listed didn’t. I haven’t read any of these but if it has scantily clad women I don’t think it is truly manly, especially for a married man why do you need to fill your mind with images of other women when you have your own woman that should always be on your mind. How is looking at women who are on display honoring to her?

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