Last week, Vogue announced that its September issue would have 658 pages devoted to ads. That's 13 percent more room for artful couture advertisements than in its 2011 September book, and its best September showing since 2008. Elle and InStyle are also talking up their biggest September issues ever, with 400 total pages and 440 ad pages, respectively.
Those figures have captured plenty of buzz in the fashion world, but lost in all of the chatter are the men's magazines. They don't come in at the hernia-inducing weights of the more women's-focused publications (and they get far less attention), but magazines that focus on men's style say that the September issue gets an outsized focus as well.
"Our year isn't quite as lopsided as for women's fashion magazines, but this one issue does represent somewhere between 16 to 17 percent of our annual revenue. It's definitely weighted toward this issue," says Chris Mitchell, vice president and publisher at GQ.
"September's like sweeps week for television," explains Kevin Martinez, VP and publisher at Details, whose September issue will also be its largest thus far in 2012.
The month is crucial for fashion and style magazines, with plenty of new clothing collections from top designers to showcase. Details and GQ, two major men's magazines that focus on style, are showing boosts over last year's September page count. GQ reports that its September 2012 issue has grown by 5 percent from last year, to 204 ad pages, and Details says its September issue will have more than 240 pages, including 140 ads—20 percent more advertisements than last year. Meanwhile, Esquire will have an estimated 99 ad pages. That's down 20 percent from last year, but the publication's September 2011 issue was its largest September ever, and was up 26 percent from the year before.
A slowly improving economy may be boosting these magazines' ad sales, but cultural trends also appear to be at work.
"The last couple of years, men's spending has been a bright spot," says Martinez. Men's designers have begun changing their clothing lines periodically, he says, exchanging narrow lapels for wide lapels, for example, as the seasons change.
"They're changing their design every single year to force men to say, 'Okay, I gotta pick up some more clothes. I gotta buy more shirts.' ... So it's really similar to what they were doing for women," he says.
All of this contributes to an atmosphere in which men being conscious of their looks has become the norm.
"We no longer look at lot of these guys who really care about how they look, how they dress, how they groom, as fanatical. It is now perfectly acceptable." says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group.
This even makes for a shift at men's publications that are less focused on style. Chris McLoughlin, publisher at Men's Journal, says that his readers have been clamoring for more content about grooming, despite the fact that his magazine is focused more on "gear," as he describes it.
"What I think is really interesting is the idea of 'metrosexual' is already really passé," says McLoughlin. "We're beyond it now."
Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at email@example.com.