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These fearless youth culture mags shaped life as we know it

These are the essential out of print mags that supported subcultures and helped them survive

When I moved to the UK and my mum made me throw away all my magazines – “how would I be able to read them from nine thousand miles away?” Fine, but these were titles I’d hoarded for years, had travelled miles for, or paid an extortionate amount in postage for. I never thought about it then but those magazines transformed my suburban peephole of the world into a clear(ish) vision – shaping my interests in music, fashion and art, all from my bedroom. Cliche, yes, but I guarantee magazines made us all feel this way – that’s kind of the point of them.

I started thinking about all the titles that played a crucial part in youth culture’s trajectory that, for one reason or another, have since closed their doors. From helping to shape Russia’s first generation of teenagers to creating shrines of teen heartthrobs over our bedroom walls or embracing club culture misfits, here is a list of the out-of-print mags that we really, really wish were still in print.


There's probably not a single one of you reading this that didn’t buy Smash Hits. Don’t be too quick to palm this off – after all, on the surface Smash Hits gifted us a plethora of posters to paper across every inch of your bedroom walls, ultimately pissing your mum off as you created a shrine to 90s heartthrobs such as Will Smith, Nick Carter and Abs from 5ive. It also gave us stickers, blow up neon backpacks as gifts, temp tattoos to emulate Mel C and basically everything you needed as a teenager in the 80s and 90s. Their studio photoshoots with plastic flowers and backwards chairs could be easily re-enacted in bedrooms worldwide. But mostly importantly, their interviews were packed with a unique tone of voice and in-jokes that actually poked fun at the interviewee (and got away with it). Summed up by Time Out’s obituary to the mag best, “For Smash Hits, pop wasn’t just a gaudy theatre of the absurd, it was a colossal in-joke – one which, crucially, the stars themselves didn’t quite get.” Questions subverted the expected and instead were often along the lines of, “Can you bite your toenails?” or “Do you ever wear other people's clothes?” Publishing fortnightly from 1978, we said goodbye to Smash Hits ten years ago. Lest we forget.


I’ve actually never had my hands on an issue of Ptyuch or OM – and you’re likely to not have either. That’s because it existed in a bubble of 90s Russia, where fashion and club culture thrived in the wake of the iron curtain’s fall. I’ve put them together in this list because they both had an incredible hand in how youth culture formed for essentially the first time in Russia. As Dazed contributor Anastasiia Fedorova wrote, “Young people of the 1990s were the first generation to live a life radically different from those of their parents,” adding that the influence of these two, largely forgotten or unknown (especially outside of Russia), magazines and their DNA can still be felt even a decade since they both closed.


Nick Logan was a master of youth culture mags, previously founding the aforementioned Smash Hits he went on to launch The Face in 1980. Perhaps the most seminal moment in its publishing history is Corinne Day’s first photo shoot with a then-15-year-old Kate Moss, launching the model’s career. Also when they opened up a fund to help them pay their legal fees after being sued for Jason Donovan for claiming he bleached his hair with lemon juice (the fund was called “Lemon Aid”). Its time sadly came in May 2004, and while its inclusion in this list might seem like the obvious choice, that doesn’t make it any less deserving – The Face was deemed so iconic that it is now included in the permanent collection at London’s Design Museum.


While Sleazenation turned up on mag shelves 20 years ago it actually began life as one of those freebies that people thrust into your hands as you make your 6am exit from a club, bleary-eyed and out of your mind (not sure how many of those survived?) Unafraid to satirise the scenes they found themselves smack bang in the middle of (hey, they even fired shots Dazed’s way) or ditch the cover star for ironic graphics and humour, what Sleazenation gave us was an unapologetic, archaic and incredibly 90s take on fashion and culture. Art director Steve Lazarides also had a penchant for rejecting established photographers for unknown names, like a young Ewen Spencer.

The brainchild of Adam Dewhurst and Jon Swinstead, while founding editor Steve Beale left in 1999 to work for The Face (another sorely missed mag) and Arena the talents of Stuart Turnball, Steve Slocombe, and Neil Boorman would go on to lead the mag until it published its final issue in 2003. Shortly after, it relaunched as Sleaze but only lasted four issues. It seemed its golden days were behind it – brightest stars burn the quickest type thing, I guess.


Like most good mags, BLITZ began life during two students’ – Carey Labovitch and Simon Tesler – time at university. Influenced by club misfits and 80s fashion, BLITZ delivered monthly for 11 years, from 1980 until 1991. Emerging in post-punk Britain, BLITZ arrived on the publishing scene the same year that i-D and The Face did, but set itself aside by embodying a bold cross-section of art and fashion. Spotting a gap in the market, Tesler said, “In those days, teenagers were limited by such narrow choices: music newspapers such as NME, or girls’ magazine such as Jackie. There just had to be more to life than this!” There certainly was, and Boy George, Nick Knight, David LaChapelle, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Pam Hogg are just a taster of those featured making BLITZ a staple in Britain’s style history.


Potentially the feminist publication of all feminist publications, Spare Rib was at the forefront of the second wave of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Founded in 1972 by Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe and running until 1993, the magazine wasn’t afraid to discuss issues most were running miles from, such as abortions and domestic abuse – and often these tough subjects sat alongside features on self-defence or how to put a shelf up. Often criticising mainstream press for simplifying women’s interests to fashion or food, Spare Rib helped to break down gender stereotypes and exploitation at a time when women were really beginning to question their role, and find new roles, in society. The full archive is thankfully available online here.

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