Oil Changes & Fashion Magazines

May 2022 Issue of Vogue Magazine

While waiting for the oil to be changed in my truck at Right Choice Automotive Repair in Fairbanks, Alaska, I decided to hang around their modest waiting area rather than leave the premises (since I had no other ride). Instead of turning to my phone, I noted a disorganized pile of magazines and pulled the first one off the top because it appeared to be the newest.

The May 2022 issue of Vogue would be my muse as I waited for the ordinary yet necessary service to my rig.

The first thing that came to mind as I started to browse through the pages was what I often tell my students, “Stay up to date with as much as you can, stay up with current trends and fashion, the news, culture, art, everything around you whether it interest you or not. It will make you a better graphic designer.” Following up on that, I thought yes, a subscription to Vogue magazine would be a step in the right direction when it came to such advice.

As those thoughts went through my head, I pondered the last time I had picked up a magazine of this genre myself. It had been awhile—long enough that I couldn’t recall when. Mind you, when I was in my mid-20s, I had a subscription to Gentleman’s Quarterly (GQ) for at least two years. So, there’s that.

Unlike my mid-1980s, young-adult outlook, I wasn’t looking through Vogue as a consumer now, I was looking at it as a graphic designer—taking note of all the techniques and treatments they employed in their advertising and editorial pages. With that keen eye dialed in on the pages, I didn’t find anything too cutting edge. In fact, many of the layouts were fairly pedestrian. I reckoned that this conservative design ensured that whatever typography and design was employed, it wouldn’t distract from the “high-end” photography whether it was on the editorial or advertising pages. And, isn’t that why people pick up magazines like Vogue… for the photography?

Omega watches model: she clearly doesn’t like wearing a watch.

Along with the above, here are a few not-so-graphic-design take-aways from my one-hour romp with Vogue in a Fairbanks, Alaska, car repair shop.

Regarding the skin care and make-up advertisements throughout the publication, I would like to challenge these advertisers to run disclaimers in their adverts akin to what the tobacco companies are required to post in their advertisements and products, but a little different… something along the lines of, “No Photoshop was used in the creation of this advertisement.” I mean, think about it, you’re advertising a skin care product that is said to make skin look smooth and youthful, but like most advertisers, (and most folk know this) you have post-production Photoshop work on the images to make sure the model’s skin in the advert is actually smooth and youthful. That’s hardly a convincing sale.

Speaking of smooth and youthful skin, where are the older adults? I never noticed their absence when I was going through GQ back in my youth, but it was glaring in this 2022 Vogue issue. I mean if you want to talk about how great your skin care product is, why not employ a model who is at least pushing 40 instead of 20? (Who cares if they do Photoshop work at that point?)

My recollection of 1980s GQ was that the models all appeared happier, or at least not miserable—even if they weren’t all smiling back then. Most of the posers in 2022 (assuming this issue of Vogue represents today’s average model facial expression) are simply expressionless, and come across as bored, even miserable as if they were some kind of indentured, rich punk. I have to wonder, was the photographer behind the camera saying things like, “C’mon, show me sexy, babe,” or were they saying, “Show me how excited you are about a weekend getaway with… (insert least favorite celebrity/politician here).”

Perhaps the exception in fashion magazines: an older model who is clearly happy for Dolce & Gabbana.

I know these kind of publications are known for their advertisements and that’s one of the top reasons people purchase them, but I counted 27 pages of advertisements before I reached part one of the table of contents. Following that, more ads and then part two of the table of contents. The first editorial piece was listed on page 49.

A few things that I noted that haven’t changed at all since the 80s is the advertisers. There is still an abundance of jewelry, clothing, make-up, skin care, and perfume ads (and their fragrant pages), but only one cigarette ad in the entire issue and it wasn’t even a cigarette one would associate with fashion—Lucky Strikes, the cigarette my father smoked when he was a young man.

I suppose my grumblings here are somewhat expected given my past 60-year-old status, but I did find one very nice and refreshing feature of this 2022 periodical—it’s cover featured a pregnant, Black woman named Rihanna. I hear she’s very talented and popular.

All Black

17 August 2000
Auckland, New Zealand

If you go to New Zealand, take plenty of black with you because it is everywhere—women in black, men in black, kids in black, black trousers, black tops, black jerseys, black shoes and socks and I can only guess, black undies too. At first I thought it might be only an Auckland thing, but not so, I’ve seen an abundance of black in Nelson, Wellington, Rotorua and Christchurch. Maybe I’ll come to know the rationale in wanting to look like a relative of Johnny Cash before leaving the country next year.

Maybe the popularity of black attire has to do with Rugby—New Zealand’s favorite sport (I know, sounds like a stretch already). The national rugby team of New Zealand is known as the All Blacks—and as one would expect, their uniforms are nothing but black. Yet I have to wonder if rugby fans and fashion fanatics go hand-in-hand. Perhaps its a fashion from years past that has evolved into a low-grade New Zealand custom—some color trend that carried over from New York, Paris or London awhile back—kind of like a fashion “hiccup.” I’ve some nerve; writing about fashion after coming from Powell, Wyoming, where flannel is king.

In all of this fashion for the dark side, there are the “black shops” (as I like to call them). These stores cater to the darker dressed individuals and are everywhere in Auckland. For the most part, black shops all look the same too—a stripped down shop staffed by a twenty-something, black-clothed fashion victim with a bare-bones selection of, you guessed it, black clothing on the shelves. All accessories are black too. I just can’t figure out if this minimalist environment for a clothing store is considered sheik or is it the result of a limited bankroll that keeps inventory to this reduced state. I find them absolutely fascinating, yet I can’t say why. Seldom do I ever see customers in such stores, but surely they find their way in as I consider all the black on the streets. From my multiple observations, the clerk is always sitting at the front counter for a good part of the day mulling over fashion magazines or sending out email to friends because there is clearly nothing else to do in the store. Maybe these stores are a front for some kind of illegal operation.

If I had my way, I’d loiter in one of those stores for the good part of a day as an invisible man so I could be mesmerized by the listlessness of activity; contemplating the under appreciated, dressed-up clerk while enjoying the tranquil setting of a store stocked with a thinned selection of black attire.