Farewell Nuts: a eulogy for lad culture

The cover of Nuts magazine, UK.

The cover of Nuts magazine, UK.

Weep into your airbrushed photographs of female pudenda, gentlemen: Nuts magazine has announced plans to shut up shop in the UK.

It's a sad day for people who enjoy looking at naked boobies, but can't bring themselves to buy actual pornography. That, or they don't know that the internet exists. Seriously guys, they've got heaps of boobs online. Like, hundreds!

Some have pointed out that print media is in a parlous state generally in 2014 and that this is just the reality of the times we live in. A magazine closing up shop is no more unexpected than a species going extinct, or a vital government agency being told its funding won't be renewed in July.

A 'news' page from Nuts magazine, UK.

A 'news' page from Nuts magazine, UK.

There's also been the suggestion that this is a terrifying sign of the insidious grip that online porn has over the male imagination. With so much hardcore action at the planet's fingertips people are no longer enjoying paying cash money for the genteel and sophisticated world of leering at boobs are reading badly-written double entendres and ghastly puns.

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And there has been a suggestion that maybe – just maybe – this means that lad culture's dead. After all, Zoo, Ralph and a load of actual proper nudie mags have fallen over in the last few years, and everyone's bitching and moaning about “hipsters” with their “beards” and their “glasses” and their “fancy inner city lifestyles” and “yes I realise this is basically younger and better versions of myself and shut up”.

The magazines that are aimed at chaps right now are… what, exactly? GQ is still going strong, as is Esquire, and most of the stylish gents of my acquaintance seem to have copies of Smith Journal casually lying around their pads.

Even the laddish archetype appears to have dimished. Sure, there are still “bros” out there, but they seem rather more laid-back than lads ever were.

See, back in the mid-90s the word “lads” was generally preceded by the phrase “get your tits out for…”. They were into football and booze and Oasis and knew precisely which order they'd shag the Spice Girls. This was the generation that spawned most of the Lads Mags.

Nuts was a relative latecomer to the party, only arriving for the hangover in 2004, and has spent much of the decade watch its circulation fall away despite getting as many mid-to-low range UK celebrities as possible to take their tops off and pout.

Slowly but surely, they've vanished from the newsagencies and suburban service stations that they once bestrode like well-boobed collossii, replaced with covers of sharply-suited chaps pushing features on bespoke cravat makers. Our own Dom Knight spoke of this only recently, in fact.

And my issue with lads mags wasn't because of the boobs – I'm a straight man, and therefore my brain is wired to welcome and enjoy images of the nuddie female form – but because of the attitude.

Pornography is a subject far too complex to be given proper exploration here, but mainstream porn is, at the very least, unambigous. People experience porn for pretty uncomplicated reasons. There's an agenda, and the agenda takes about 12 minutes from start to finish.

Lads mags are a different thing: they're about a lifestyle, and the women in those magazines are accoutrements to that lifestyle. They're a prize to be demanded if you're hard enough. And that's a hell of a lot more poisonous an idea.

We needn't start celebrating this brave new world of sophisticated chapdom just yet. There are still plenty of naked women in upmarket magazines (artsy boobs are still boobs, after all). And fashion is fashion and therefore ephemeral: despite their beards and lumberjack shirts, the notion of the effete inner-city fancy man is an easy target. These days the hipster archetype is so entrenched that we have anti-hipster ads (like the recent “Manesia” campaign for some cable channel or other).

And sure, there's going to be a backlash at some point – but if the future of mainstream manhood has football stars accessorising with vintage cufflinks rather than scantily clad women, then it hardly looks like a step backwards to me.