Playboy Magazine was founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner. The magazine would go on to be a source of controversy for years to come and was the first of its kind. It was a magazine solely for men, featuring pictures of beautiful nude women and also featuring articles by some of the best writers of the time. Each magazine has a featured "playmate", interviews with a variety of people, fictional writings, and also art. Since its beginnings, the company has grown from a single man to an operation that has its stakes in many different areas, such as publishing, entertaining, licensing, and on-line sales and publishing, and a multi-million dollar philanthropic foundation. Playboy has paved the way for many other less "classy" magazines, but still remains at the top of the list for most sold men's magazines.
The magazine came at a time when men were only short time back from WWII, and women were sent back to their homes after having worked to support the war. The pendulum swings from left to right, as the metaphor goes. While the magazine was accepted and became popular in the 50s, it was OK for the men as long as it wasn't their wives. In the 60s there would be a backlash against the magazine and other "smut", as the women's rights activists would quickly dig their claws into what they saw as blatant objectification. The question is still debated as to whether Playboy and other magazines are visions of what men really want. Was the ideal woman of the '50s one that was portrayed in a magazine such as Playboy?
The overwhelming conformity and good natured behavior that was expected of people in their daily lives perhaps led to this new magazine coming out. Hefner was brought up as a strict Methodist, and went against his upbringing by laying out the first Playboy Magazine in 1952. This was a magazine that had not only soft core nudity, but also had a variety of articles that educated people would want to read.
The first issue of Playboy Magazine sold approximately 50,000 copies in the United States. The first issue didn't have any date on the cover because Hefner had no idea if he'd have enough money to publish another. The magazine got immediate attention from the world due to it's pictures of Marilyn Monroe, but it also accomplished something else. It revolutionized ideas about what a bachelor's life should be like. A bachelor wasn't looked at as someone in a stage before marriage anymore, but as someone who may potentially choose to be single. Being a bachelor was now a choice and lifestyle. The magazine appealed to its target audience by focusing on topics such as drinks, types of cigar, men's fashion. These would later become key elements to the playboy lifestyle for years to come and even today.
Once the magazine became more successful, Hefner was able to get more successful people to be in his magazines. Models for Playboy started off with people like Marilyn Monroe, and to this day have featured such people as Farrah Fawcett, Cindy Crawford, and Sharon Stone. Interviews have also included such people as Bob Dylan and Bill Gates. There have been articles by famous journalists such as Nat Hentoff and David Halberstam. There have also been fiction series in the magazine by people like John Updike, Tom Clancy, and Kurt Vonnegut. In short, the magazine was the first of its kind because it was the beginning of a "men's entertainment" genre of magazine, and it had basically intelligent content that was aimed at a specific audience.
Petersen, James R. The Century of Sex: Playboy's History of the Sexual Revolution, 1900-1999 Boston: Grove Press, 1999
Edgren, Gretchen. The Playboy Book: Forty Years.New York: General Pub Group (Reprint edition), 1994