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British GQ is a magazine for men of the United Kingdom to flick through idly and uninterestedly when they are waiting for a haircut, a manicure, or a colostomy, or if they have a few minutes to kill at a busy brothel. It consists of countless pages of advertisements and a few pages of pretty actresses in lingerie, and it playfully invites its readers to play the “GQ game”: see if you can find the tiny morsels of editorial text concealed within its pages. Even the scant millimetres of editorial verbiage tucked somewhere inside the magazine are mostly commercial pap, which tells you nothing about the real world but usually attempts to hypnotize you into buying expensive watches, pricy suits, costly moisturizer, extortionate training shoes, high-priced gym equipment, or inflated penis pills. Nobody ever receives any prizes for winning the GQ game.
GQ is the British version of American GQ, which means that the most tedious specimens among its hundreds of readers are irritatingly fond of calling it “GQUK”. Chaps who wear suits and training shoes and use penis pills will often walk into a newsagent and bark a ridiculous question such as: “Do you have the latest edition of GQUK, Mr Newsagent?” or “That GQUK, my man, is it here yet?” Some of them will even attempt to pronounce this abbreviation as an acronym, and may eventually leave said establishment with a certain quantity of gak by mistake. Fortunately, if they insert this in their nose of a lunchtime, it will give them a much more euphoric experience than flicking through glossy pages stuffed with advertising and boilerplate prose.
How British GQ came to be
The magazine was born when an enterprising but unimaginative publisher, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, visited America in 1988 and fell upon a copy of American GQ while he was waiting impatiently for a difficult appendectomy. Immediately realizing that there was a cultural anomaly here – that the people of Britain had long had access to a bounty of imported New World artefacts such as Reese’s Pieces, Beverly Hills 90210, Jar Jar Binks, catsup, peyote, and the Green Hornet, and yet they could not read GQ unless they got on an airplane or visited their local Borders – the Brigadier resolved to launch a British version of the magazine when he returned to UK soil. He borrowed £146.50 with menaces from his sister-in-law and walked to the premises of a professional printing company in Bedfordshire. The firm, long since burned down, agreed to print a gross of copies of the first GQUK edition.
The Brigadier decided from the early days that the “new” magazine should be perfect-bound, because, as he said to the local printing firm at the time, “it will be read by perfect bounders!” The printing operative on the end of this joke didn’t get it, took the remark at face value and walked away.
The very first GQUK contained 356 pages of advertising, and a few millimetres of clever writing by famous penmen such as Tony Parsnip and Thomas Tools-Tool, all of which is now altogether forgotten. A rare surviving copy of GQUK #1 did sell on eBay in 2011 for £1.09 plus postage, but it has been left in a moist drawer by an idle and depressed man who needs help, and it has never been read.
The first three issues of GQUK came with free gifts to delight the professional man. The first issue contained a card-and-paper artefact that you shook to make a loud bang; the second came with a Spider-Man gun, complete with spidery bullets; and the third came with a plastic pennant to attach to your bicycle, in which you could insert pictures of sexy ladies or superheroes.
Since those early days of 1988, we have seen such years as 1989, 1993, 2002 and even 2007. And the magazine has continued to be printed for all this time, with unsold copies regularly returning to GQHQ in grimy white vans. Famous actresses who have “stripped” for GQUK include the flighty woman from the TV commercial for Charlie perfume, and the girl with the teeth from Ugly Betty. They didn’t go all the way.
The flick-book trick
Cheeky voyeurs have invented a fun game with GQ's pretty-actress-in-lingerie pages. They tear out all the relevant pages and make a "flick book" with them, which creates the illusion that the pretty actress is taking her clothes off right there in front of you, quite quickly. These improvised flick books have entertained drinkers in public houses up and down the land of Britain, and beyond. The remainder of the magazine is customarily discarded. Let's hope the unwanted pages are recycled responsibly.
What’s it mean?
In 2011 the then editor of GQUK, Thomas Tools-Tool, was asked out of the blue what GQ stood for. “To be honest with you every once in a while,” said Tools-Tool, “I don’t have the merest shred of a clue. Gorgeous Quickie? Genesis Quintessence? Guatemalan Qu-qu-qu-qu-qu-quinoa? The Q can’t stand for Quarterly, can it, because we come out every month, God permitting. I don’t really care about anything, to be honest with you once in a while, except suits and killing d-d-d-d-defenceless animals.”
For those of you who care, it’s extensively rumoured that GQ actually stands for Gigantic Quiffs, and that GQUK stands for Gigantic Quiffs, United Kingdom. The original name for American GQ was Up Your Arse.
The future of GQUK
“Who knows? Que sera sera,” said the Brigadier and Thomas Tools-Tool in unison, when I asked them. The latest edition is probably coming back in the white van as you read this. Vroom vroom.