Playboy, the men's magazine that Hugh Hefner, aged 27, founded on 1 October 1953, was as nostalgic as it was progressive. It was, in other words, a product of its time, the 1950s, a decade that was, as Hefner put it, "a very conservative time politically, socially and sexually". But it was also a decade that was to be characterised by the first stirrings of change in society's attitudes to sex and morality.
During the Second World War, millions of young men, Hefner included, were sent far from their homes and sweethearts, many for the first time in their lives. Glamorous pin-up posters of Hollywood starlets, such as Betty Grable, whose legs were insured with Lloyds of London for £1m, helped drive away the homesickness and loneliness. They would become the inspiration for the Playboy centrefolds.
More than anything, Hefner wanted to inject a little bit of that glamour into the drab life of the 1950s. He looked back with fondness to the heady Jazz Age of the 1920s, with its sharply dressed, mint julep-swilling Jay Gatsbys.That goes some way to explain the inspiration for what was intended to be the magazine's logo: a tuxedo-wearing stag. (The magazine was to be called Stag Party, but there was already a Stag magazine. The name Playboy was soon settled on, with its iconic bunny head logo, designed by the legendary Art Paul, added from the second issue.)
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While Hefner already had some experience working in the magazine business, he needed the funds to get his idea off the ground. His brother, a children's TV host, chipped in $1,000, which he added to the $1,000 his mother had given him. Using his furniture as collateral, Hefner was able to raise another $600 from the bank. All told, Playboy was established on a budget of just $8,000 – not enough to guarantee the life of the magazine.
Searching for a gimmick, Hefner hit upon the idea of cashing in on the popularity of 3D cinema, but found the free glasses too expensive to give away with the magazine. His luck changed when he secured the rights for $500 to images taken of Marilyn Monroe for a rather risque calendar. The star of 1953's Gentleman Prefer Blondes became the inaugural cover girl when the first issue was published that December. But so unsure was Hefner that the magazine would be a success that the first issue didn't even have a date. As it happened, Playboy was an instant hit, selling 52,000 copies. The next issue, with date, sold even more.
Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.
Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.
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