| January 6, 2009

Last updated: November 16, 2017

Books, Travel & Leisure

The Best and Worst Magazines for Men

vintage magazine stand rack 1940s 1950s

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

best life magazine cover kyle chandler fnl

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 30s and 40s 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, etc.
  • 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


details magazine cover hayden christensen

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

men's health magazine cover jason statham

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

nylon magazine cover spring 2007 pete wentz

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


maxim magazine cover hilary duff

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


esquire magazine cover george clooney december 2004

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 Journal

men's journal magazine cover harrison ford

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

men's fitness magazine cover andy roddick

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


gq magazine cover kayne west man of year

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

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