When we feature an article about men’s fashion magazines from the 1920’s and 1930’s, most inevitably mention Apparel Arts or Esquire. These American magazines had indeed a number of fantastic fashion illustrations, informative articles about the fashion at the time, pictures and sometimes even fabric swatches. This is one of the reasons why individual issues fetch up to $400 on eBay nowadays.
On the other hand, it is unlikely that a non-German speaker is familiar with an equally esteemed publication from the era, the German magazine Herrenjournal (Gentlemen’s Journal). This periodical was considered the leading German magazine for men’s fashion from the first issue in 1927 (4 years before Apparel Arts started) to its last in 1987, even tough there were a few others such as Der Herr. Therefore, we would like to introduce you to the Herrenjournal today.
The Beginnings of The Herrenjournal – Der Modediktator
The idea for a German men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine was born in the Golden Twenties in Berlin. Gentlemen and Dandies who were interested in men’s fashion met on a regular basis at the bars of the noble Eden Hotel and the Excelsior Hotel. The leader of this group was Baron von Eelking, who was portrayed in our series Gentlemen of Style. Von Eelking was able to convince friends and Berlin-based clothing manufacturers that they needed a voice in form of a Gentlemen’s magazine. Consequently, they founded the magazine Der Modediktator (The Fashion Dictator) in 1927, subtitled The Magazine For The Well-Dressed Gentlemen And All Of His Suppliers.
The Men’s Fashion Council
Just a year after the introduction of Der Modediktator, Baron von Eelking founded the Zentralamt für Herrenmode (later, Deutsches Institut für Herrenmode) which was the first men’s fashion council in the world. Later, the British, Italian and French would establish similar organizations as well. The idea behind this council was to create a harmonizing fashion trend between, shoes, shirts, suits, hats, accessories, and so forth. As such, Der Modediktator became the magazine of the men’s fashion council and subsequently influenced German men’s fashion considerably.
By 1930, Der Modediktator had become quite successful, and Baron von Eelking realized that affluent readers were also interested in fine living, culture, and good things in general. Though fashion remained the main focus of the magazine, lifestyle aspects became more important. Of course, the name Fashion Dictator was no longer desirable, and so it was decided that Der Modediktator would be renamed Herrenjournal as of January 1931. The subtitle was changed to The Magazine for Fashion, Society And The Pleasant Things in Life. The Herrenjournal was rather successful until it was shutdown in October 1941 due to WWII. Between 1939 and 1941, the Herrenjournal was published only in a reduced format.
Over the years, the main focus of the magazine was men’s clothing and fashion, which was supported by articles about literature, societal life and art. In 1933, when the new regime took over the government, the Herrenjournal shifted its articles towards the political right, and hence, they often reported about party-conform clothing and the like. Interestingly, this trend seems to only have lasted until the end of 1933. In the following years, foreign fashion designers were portrayed just like American film stars. Apart from that, a lot of illustrations and were explained in German, English and French. However, all that changed in mid 1939 when topics and language switched to German exclusively.
The Herrenjournal After WWII
Post-war, the Herrenjournal was published again for the first time in January 1950. In the first years after the relaunch, it focused heavily on etiquette and men’s fashion. Later, the topics were expanded to range from history, interior design, and cars to literature and art.
The level of the discussion about clothing was very high, and often it was all about the little details. Each year, the subtle differences in the tailcoat fashion were outlined or seam widths were discussed. The Herrenjournal also had a section for reader questions and once they published a most interesting etiquette discussion between a reader and the German president about the importance of not wearing a wrist watch with a tailcoat. Today, most people do not even know what an evening tailcoat looks like.
With regard to fashion illustrations, the Herrenjournal contracted with numerous top notch illustrators such as Lang, Grimm and Lawrence.
With regard to its content, the peak was probably reached sometime in the late 1950’s. Baron von Eelking remained responsible for the articles about men’s fashion until 1965! He wrote all of the articles about men’s clothing himself, which is quite an accomplishment if you look at the number of years in which the magazine existed.
The End Of The Herrenjournal
After Baron von Eelking passed away in 1970, the quality of the Herrenjournal deteriorated considerably; he truly served as the heart of the endeavor and the operation would never have the same character again. At the same time, the readership began to decrease and finally, in 1987 – 60 years after it was launched – the Herrenjournal was discontinued. Although the magazine did not have anything of the glory and pomp of the Berlin dandies at the Eden bar, the Herrenjournal remains to this day the longest lasting men’s fashion magazine in Germany. Though you may not have much opportunity to enjoy the depth and creativity of this legendary publication in person, we have a fine collection from which we will continue to cover at the Gentleman’s Gazette.
The Herrenjournal of 1935 was, thankfully, provided to us by a kind reader. Should you ever have something that might be of interest to us, please contact us.