BEST MEN’S MAGAZINE
Like Maxim? Crazy about FHM? Wonderful — they’re yours. We’ll take Barracuda any day of the week. Never heard of it? Maybe you just haven’t been looking in the right places. Launched on a shoestring in 1998 by local boy Jeff Fox, Barracuda ain’t the kind of high-gloss magalog you’ll find clogging the racks at the Barnes & Noble. What it is, though, is the best damn men’s zine around, devoted to the kind of lowbrow art and hot-rod culture that just doesn’t sell a whole lot of CKOne.
Every issue of “America’s No. 1 Stag Magazine” features funny, well-written articles on legendary “Real-Man” types like velvet painter Edgar Leeteg, hockey great Rocket Richard, and tough-as-nails actor Steve McQueen. There’s also a host of regular features, from how-to guides for shopping at tow auctions and using jumper cables to cheeky back-page cartoons by original cocktail-napkin artist Chic Tongue. But the real heart of Barracuda lies in the tastefully fun retro pinups. Fox may be something of a latter-day Hugh Hefner, but the Barracuda girls are strictly old school, the kind of bathing beauties that got our boys through the Last Great War (and most of ’em, by the way, are actual subscribers). So screw that Cosmo for Men crap you’ve been reading. It’s time to come home.
Probably best described as a kustom kulture oriented lifestyle magazine, Barracuda covers everything from hardcore hot rods and tasteful pin-ups to tiki artists. If you are looking for event coverage that will show everything that showed up in Paso with a Patina, Barracuda might not be for you. But if you enjoy actually reading thoughtful articles about all things related to kustom kulture, pick up a copy.
First published in July 1998, it’s aesthetically influenced by 1950s-vintage men’s magazines, as well as car magazines of the same era. Publisher Jeff Fox always intended to make a “non-dumb blue collar men’s magazine for guys who like to turn a wrench and turn a page.” Well-spoken and educated, Fox’s background is in film and television and production; in fact, he came up with the concept for Barracuda while finishing his master’s degree at the American Film Institute. “I was getting frustrated producing TV and film because it’s so expensive that you always need to play with someone else’s money,” he explains, “and, of course, they’ll want to tell you how to do everything.”
For some time, Fox had the idea to do something that reflected blue-collar, DIY values while avoiding crudity. “Popular media fosters the idea that either you’re a thinker or you’re a doer, and the two are mutually exclusive,” he says. “Either you’re a redneck laughing at fart jokes or you’re some hapless, high-fallutin’, Ivy League dandy who can’t even put air in his own tires. There was nothing in the middle…I started thinking about working in a medium that was less expensive. As long as I sold all the ads myself, no one could interfere with my crackpot vision for what it could be, which is an odd and unique blend of kustom kulture, Polynesian pop culture, rugged tales of he-man adventure, and corniness.”
Barracuda has an unmistakable aura of class about it, as well. As Jeff put it, “The devil is in the details, and one is its tone. Barracuda is a gentlemen’s magazine. It’s supposed to be fun and modest, not crude and raunchy. There are plenty of magazines already working the raunchy side of the street, and I don’t want to be one of them. In nine years we have never printed one curse word and I am very proud of that. I’ve had people accuse me of being a prude or a religious nut because of that, but it’s simply an editorial choice. I think that using expletives in editorial copy is lazy, uncreative, and uninteresting. I also think our Barracuda Girls are extremely classy. We have resisted the pressure to escalate the raunchiness of the photos we run. In the long run, I think the readers understand and appreciate what we’re trying to do in that regard.”
PAPERGRAM MAGAZINE – SWEDEN
DO YOU PREFER a cutthroat razor to an electric shaver? Do you regard pipesmoking as an art form and reckon threequarters of any wardrobe should consist of v-necked cardigans? Or are you fascinated by tenpin bowling outfits and classic pin-ups and want to learn how to cook with potato crisps?
If so, then you’re tailor-made for the British magazine The Chap – A journal for the modern gentleman and its US counterpart Barracuda – Yesterday’s stag magazine of the future today.
“Under a lot of retro window dressing, there’s a very modern editorial agenda behind it all. Barracuda has a lot to offer different kinds of readers,” explains publisher and editor Jeff Fox. He doesn’t view himself as nostalgic.
“People who say the forties or the fifties were better times or the good old days have fabricated an idealised version of the period. Ask someone who had polio, sat at a segregated lunch counter or had their career destroyed by communist witch-hunts what they thought of the ‘good old days’.”
Fox appreciates the optimism of the postwar years and celebrates the importance of being polite and showing respect for others, compared to the uncouthness of today’s society.
Which is probably one reason why Barracuda has plenty of women readers. “Many female readers have told me that they appreciate our modest, gentlemanly tone,” Fox says. “They also appreciate the fact that the women in our pin-ups look like real women, not teenage, heroin-chic anorexics or plastic surgery nightmares.”
Barracuda is big on rock and roll influences, mixed with a tinge of Polynesian and surfing culture — a cocktail that offers readers the taste of adventure. Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic odyssey and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki journey are natural subject matters. You can also read about how to look after your old car, find the best tattooists and enjoy classic crisp recipes.
Barracuda has a light, humorous style that’s entirely in keeping with the magazine’s zany beginnings and the equally quixotic disappearance of its two founders.