Today, Esquire editor-in-chief Jay Fielden left his job at the helm of the original men’s magazine, packed all his belongings into four small, fancy weekend bags and strutted purposefully out the front door of Hearst Tower like a man with a gondola to catch. In the tradition of fancy men paying tribute to other fancy men of yore, the photo is an homage to a sepia-toned portrait of Jack Nicholson, which can be seen just a few squares down on his Instagram feed. In his parting note, Fielden does not mourn his departure. Rather, he writes with F. Scott Fitzgeraldian flair that he has “felt the lure of new possibilities” and thus “time has simply come to press on in a new direction.”
What do these new activities include? Quoth Jay: “I hope to practice my piano, play a little more tennis than usual, and make my kids breakfast while my wife gets to sleep late. I might even get to take all these bags on a long summer trip … or two.” Based on what I have learned from Jay’s glorious Instagram feed — and especially now that he will have plenty of free time to enjoy the full gamut of fancy man leisure activities — I must confess: I sure do like this bitch’s life.
As a longtime observer of “man” culture, I have learned that there are some key hobbies and interests you must possess in order to qualify as a fancy man. In the first tier are the essentials: Watches, cars, cocktails, shoes. The second tier is optional, but still encouraged: interior design, food (light bites only), literature, suits, and other fancy men like yourself. Jay Fielden enjoys the best of all of them.
Here are some things Jay Fielden likes to do: Jay Fielden likes taking photos with his vintage Leica M camera, which is “the camera that has no equal, especially when photographing your wife.” He enjoys participating in all the fancy leisure activities: tennis, golf, skiing, apres ski, countryside walks, and watching soccer once every four years. He appreciates the value of a bespoke object, knows the difference between different brands of dinner knives, and is partial to a nice chair. Each morning, he is racked with indecision over how to get to work, but ultimately figures it out.
For Jay Fielden, items that most people possess for their practical capabilities — cars, or watches — are art objects and collectibles, and he owns more of each than most people have pairs of socks. (He also has cool socks). He refers to these items by their proper names, which are things like “A rose gold Vacheron American 1921” and “Patek’s new Aquanaut chrono” and “Two-tone GMT master II.” He enjoys doing quirky things like putting his Rolex in a plate of shellfish in order to appreciate the power of juxtaposition. Yet his love of fine objects does not preclude a robust life of the mind. He has many leather-bound and paperback books, written by all of the century’s preeminent major male authors.
He is well-versed in all the essential types of man shoes: dove gray loafers, tuxedo pumps, black croc double monks, and dope sneaks. He’s a family man who makes time to spend time with his kids, obliging them by taking them to do dumb kid stuff, such as spectating the U.S. Open. And while he may be a workhorse, after a long day spent hobnobbing with, say, Quentin Tarantino, he likes to unwind with a martini (avec two olives) in the lobby bar of a five-star hotel in one of Europe’s major cities.
Which isn’t to say that running a men’s magazine is all sunshine and roses and custom Ferragamo crocodile loafers. Being a print man in a digital age is a tough gig, which is perhaps partly why Jay decided to call it a day. He has to avoid the “digital Jacobins” who are busy preparing “the guillotine” for him when he, say, puts a Trump supporting teen on the cover of the magazine, or loses their Bryan Singer exposé.
Still, mostly his life seems very fun, and I am very happy for him.
What is it about being a fancy man that seems so uniquely joyful? Surely being a fancy woman, or even a fancy child, might have its perks as well. But when I think of the platonic ideal of a career — one that combines intellect and aesthetics, gravitas and iconoclasm, the cerebral and the tactile — being editor of a fancy men’s magazine takes the cake. It’s one of those jobs, like being an architect, that only four people actually do but is vastly overrepresented in pop culture because it serves as an easy shorthand for “man with really good taste.”
Most importantly, being a fancy man magazine editor includes all the perks of fancydom without all the pesky drawbacks of being a woman. You don’t have to worry about the burden of making content that speaks to the diversity and multiplicity of all women (you only speak for fancy men), or grapple with structural inequalities designed to keep you down no matter what career heights you reach (there are none). You don’t have to worry about keeping up with fashion trends, because men’s clothes have been and always will be exactly the same (it’s true, sorry). You don’t have to worry about glass ceilings (except in an interior design sense) or being considered unattractive when you reach a certain age (age only makes you hotter and more valuable). Jay Fielden is pretty hot even at the ripe age of 49.
Anyway, congratulations Jay Fielden on leaving Esquire to pursue whatever your dreams are, and good luck on your future journey. I hope when I grow up I can be a fancy man just like you.