I had never heard of "Gentry" before some of my favorite style bloggers began discussing this book a few months ago. But that's hardly surprising: Gentry ran for only 22 issues between 1951 and 1957. But what a run! Positioning itself as "A Guide for the Civilized Male," Gentry is far, far from your stereotypical 1950s men's magazine. This book serves best as a monument to the vision of the magazine's founder William C. Segal -- a man interesting enough that Ken Burns has turned his camera upon him (Seeing, Searching, Being: William Segal - Three Films By Ken Burns). But there's also a lot of just plain interesting reading here for the "civilized male" (and the women who love them?) in 2012 and beyond.
In its early years, "Playboy" magazine (Playboy was born roughly in the middle of Gentry's run) was known for promoting Hef's vision of bachelor culture -- not just women, but art, jazz, and a stylish pad. But Playboy seems positively parochial compared to the range of interests of the Gentry man -- interests which, I hasten to add, do not include prurient photographs of women, at least not in this book. If the Playboy man was a swingin' young bachelor, the Gentry man could have been his wealthier, better educated, and probably married older brother, a man of more diverse tastes, more widely traveled, and more comfortable in his preferences with less need to impress others with his hipness.
With sections devoted to "Style," "Home, Cars, and Travel," "Food and Drink," "Sports," "Art and Culture," and the still-valuable "What Every Man Should Know," this book covers a lot of ground. And it does so not only by reprinting words, but by recreating the original layout as those articles appeared in Gentry magazine. You come away from this book with a strong sense of what the magazine must have been like. For aficionados of classic men's style, a bygone approach to journalism, students of the era, or guys trying to get a handle on the era their fathers or grandfathers grew up in, "The Gentry Man" has a lot to offer.