Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

How Esquire Engineered the Modern Bachelor

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite takes a fascinating look at the lab that cooked up the world’s first Modern Bachelor, Esquire Magazine:

Instead of highlighting the realities of single life, Esquire‘s portrayal of bachelorhood was based on looking and acting the part of the swinging ladies’ man, even though most of the magazine’s readers were married. Esquire’s idealized postwar bachelor had no obligations outside of his own desire for women and luxury products (often considered one in the same) [sic]. He bought his own clothes, drove his own car, and took solo vacations to exotic places.

The bachelor became a symbol of postwar consumerism and hedonism, and as a result, became a symbol of freedom for white American men looking for a way to feel important again. Because Esquire relied on corporate advertising to continue existing, overthrowing corporate hierarchy and stratification didn’t factor into their discussions of masculine rejuvenation.

In the Handbook, women were presented as an obstacle to men’s success at entertaining, which reinforced the theory that women were ultimately responsible for men’s inability to control their lives.

Ah, yes. Women: the obstacle to controlling your life. Aren’t they a damn shame? Now here. Buy these clothes and drink this scotch and buy this snack food. Don’t listen to women, listen to our advertisers. These dudes are cool, these women are hot, and unless you do what we say, you won’t be cool and hot women won’t like you. You wanna be a winner, or you want to sit on the sidelines like some loser?

This is what it means to have your sexuality rented by people who want to sell you Doritos.