What we lost when we lost magazines

Stack of magazines from the early 2010s.

Lamenting the loss of the past feels foundational to nostalgia. Nothing feels the same, and even though things sucked in the past, they somehow feel better than now. This includes magazines, a topic of my 90s nostalgia that I’ve written about a few times on CHD. 90s magazines were a huge part of my experience as a pre-teen. I was borderline obsessed. I collected them, organized them by year and month, and cut out my favorite images to collage my bedroom. I know I was not alone in my practices.

Magazines were a pretty huge part of my life up until the early 2010s. I read Seventeen, Teen, Ms. Magazine, Essence, Vogue, InStyle, Jane, People, and probably other titles I don’t remember now. I went to Barnes & Noble and spent what felt like exorbitant money on niche fashion magazines from the UK. If it was on the newsstand, I had it. If it was a newly launched fashion publication, I had it. As a fashion blogger in the early 2010s, I often turned to magazines as resources and inspiration for my posts.

And then pretty much overnight, they were gone. It still feels like a shock.

As an avid thrifter, I still find myself looking for them, and let me tell you, they’re almost nowhere to be found Last year, I did find a stack of hair styling magazines from the early 2000s, but to date, that was my only fashion magazine score. Sometimes I think of how many of our fashion bibles were recycled or tossed into the trash, never to be seen again. Many books were, too, but at least those still circulate at thrift stores and secondhand sales. Just go to a thrift store and ask them if they have any magazines, and you’ll probably get a confused look in return. No, those aren’t usually accepted or are just tossed out. Trust me, I’ve looked.

Still, I ask myself if we lost all that much when we lost magazines.

It’s worth saying that, yes, there are still some fashion magazines still in publication including Vogue, Elle, InStyle, and Marie Claire, to name a few. However, they are nowhere near ubiquitous like 10-15 years ago. As much as I loved magazines, they did uphold unrealistic body image standards and planted the seeds for disordered eating.

For all the downsides of social media today, I do appreciate that fashion is no longer dictated by fashion elites in high-rise buildings in New York City. I often get whiplash at how fast trends change now, and the impact of fast fashion on the environment cannot be underestimated. It is amazing as an elder millennial to see that the average person can impact our culture more than Anna Wintour and the late André Leon Talley. Could Anna ever dream up the mob wife aesthetic or the coastal grandma trend? I think not.

Another thing that’s important to consider is the almighty dollar. I think about this about the rise of secondhand fashion. In the early 2000s, secondhand shopping was largely stigmatized. Now, most people shop secondhand. This, frankly, was never promoted by magazines because, well, it didn’t make them any money. They certainly weren’t going to benefit from promoting something like eBay or Etsy–that’s not where their advertising dollars came from, after all.

The demise of fashion magazines opened the door for everyday people to have a real impact on how our world looks and the trends we see. Overall, my personal opinion is that it is a good thing fashion has become largely decentralized and less controlled by a handful of people. I do miss being able to cut out my favorite outfits and collage together my fashion daydreams. I also miss having something printed and tangible that I could set on a shelf and look at from time to time. This may be a controversial opinion, but I think if fashion magazines cannot adapt to the changing fashion landscape, they should be left behind.

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