IDYSM: Hey Marcus. So, please set the scene of where you are in London and what you’re up to as we do this.
MARCUS: Our office is in Haggerston which is the more genteel part of east London between Dalston and Shoreditch.
Whilst Dalston is a mecca to youth and exurberant partying and Shoreditch is a mix of big corporate companies and indepdent bars, etc, Haggerston is actually quite untouched in that way, with a lot of small independent creative industries working from there.
It’s an ideal location for what we do. I’ve literally just got back into the office after about three weeks of travelling for the men’s shows. So a frantic catch up to make sure we can get the next issue ready and a strange and nice sense of being home
IDYSM: I’ve tried to give an insight into Jocks & Nerds above – how would you describe the magazine and it’s voice?
MARCUS: We recently redesigned the magazine as it has developed so much since we began five years ago. This includes a new logo and we have added a tagline “The Lifestyle Quarterly for Men” Not exactly the sexiest description in the world but one that is important to us.
In fact, the fact that it is so perfunctory is a good thing as that reflects the honest, journalistic drive within everything we do at the magazine.
I found that most men’s magazines today are either these rather self-conscious, fashion industry focused bi-annuals that have high production value photo shoots but, for me, feel very empty at the core.
At the other end of the spectrum, the mass market monthlies seem to lack a voice and soul so I wanted to create a magazine that better reflected the interests and sensibility of men. (Well, the men I know, at least)
IDYSM: Who is the mag designed to appeal to?
MARCUS: Curiously we have been speaking about this a lot recently.
Alongside the redesign, we have also begun to stock Jocks&Nerds in all the WHSmith’s in the UK. (They are the big national high st chain of newsagents). As I said before, we always set out to make something completely accessible and straightforward.
I’ve been saying that Jocks&Nerds truly is an “everyman” magazine but with totally unique content which we care passionately about. I never wanted to create a magazine that felt exclusive or niche, just truthful and independent.
It takes time to get the message out but we have been building a larger audience with each issue.
IDYSM:: The content you gravitate towards doesn’t feel obvious and cliched. Where do you go for inspiration and ideas?
MARCUS: Internally there is actually a framework that we work with for each issue so the topics we cover our balanced so that helps a lot.
As I said, we want to be a true lifestyle magazine so those topics, in my mind, are the ones that are the key male interests.
We don’t ever review anything in fact but we do get excited about things and, in particular, people. In fact, we always talk about this archetypal character that we want to portray and celebrate in the magazine as well attract as our reader. With that in mind, we often find that we are focusing on individuals and groups who have or are shaping and influencing the broader cultural landscape.
But that can be broad, from someone like Elon Musk to Paul Weller. What is key is to be asking these guys the questions that are relevant to the editorial focus of the mag.
IDYSM: What’s an average day for you?
MARCUS: It really depends where I am in the cycle of doing the magazine but it involves of lot of internal and external meetings and a lot of conversations with a range of people such as contributors, PRs, etc
IDYSM: A common theme I see within the mag is how the past defines the future. Do you think this is something that is often lost in the current climate?
MARCUS: I actually think we are in an age of looking back and recycling old ideas.
It’s rare that a fashion trend isn’t expressed as something retro at the moment. I would say that in some part we reflect that notion as a magazine.
That said, I do believe that context and history are key to what we try to present. I want to know why a jacket might look a certain way or who adopted it in the past. Likewise, I’m interested to know the history and cultural relevance of a sport we might cover in the magazine.
IDYSM: Which era/sub-culture especially appeals to you and why?
MARCUS: I like to think that I’m always moving forward as a human being but the 90s was really important to me as that was the decade of my youth. I left school in 1990 and I think the whole music/club scene was really interesting in that decade, especially in London where I was then.
I went to art school and that was the first time I met a bunch of people not from the same social class as me. That was really interesting for me. It was also a time of independence and lack of responsibility so that was a great time for me.
IDYSM: Through the mag you work with luminaries such as photography icon Janette Beckman, whose work has helped shape and define countless eras in the past. How did this relationship come about, and just how invaluable is Janette’s insight into culture, music and style?
MARCUS: Well, the contributors are key to the success of any mag.
It’s crucial to work with the right people, people who understand the editors drive on a fundamental level and can communicate that in their work. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to build a team around me that I really trust and enjoy working with.
I actually didn’t know Janette when I started, but I knew I wanted to get her involved. I can’t remember how I got hold of her but I somehow tracked her down and told her what I was trying to do. Actually I thought she’d tell me to shove it. Why would a successful photographer like her needed to aid my little idea get of the ground? In fact, she was really gracious and immediately understood what I was trying to do which was great.
She’s based in New York and really well connected so she makes so many things happen for us that we could never have done otherwise.
I was really surprised at just how many people helped out at the beginning. Mitzi Lorenz and Barry Kamen of the Buffalo collective actually got involved in issue 1. They were heroes of mine so to get that approval and support was truly unbelievable.
IDYSM: What does it take for a brand or story to meet the Jocks & Nerds seal of approval?
MARCUS: “Seal of approval” is probably not a phrase I would use.
We don’t set out to be arbiters of taste and gods of knowledge.
As a magazine we want to both absorb and reflect the current cultural landscape so being topical is important. I think it’s also important to have shared voices on a topic. For example, we might discuss some key brands for a fashion shoot but, of course, the stylist, photographer and the team on the shoot are going to give everything a unique meaning and sensibility based on what they produce.
We never use professional models in the magazine either so casting is a key part of what we do. It gives another editorial layer to shoots and stops them being only decorative.
It also means you have a character who will also give a unique identity to what they are wearing which in turn will be absorbed and interpreted by the reader.
IDYSM: How much of a role does London play in Jocks & Nerd’s identity?
MARCUS: That’s a good question and maybe one that is better answered by our readers than me.
When I started the magazine, I was very conscious that we should have a global reach in terms of production. Aside from Janette in New York, we have contributors all over the world including Europe, Japan and LA. As you know, we also do a city guide in each issue. (The current issue is Lagos).
This is an explicit attempt to recognize the world is much smaller today and that ideas are shared from everywhere within the click of a button.
It would be wrong and frankly disingenuous to create a cultural magazine today that doesn’t have a global outlook. That said, we sit in an office in London and our immediate influences come from there.
IDYSM: What are your top 3 best kept secrets in London right now?
MARCUS: The best kept secret is that the weather isn’t as bad as everyone says. (Although it’s pouring with rain right now!!) The weather is never great but for city living it’s quite an easy climate. And you get to wear lots of great clothes to deal with it all.
To be honest, as I write this the UK has just voted to leave the EU. I was actually in Paris when it happened. There is political turmoil at the moment and actually there is genuine fear about what all of this means for London.
Usually I am the biggest PR for London but currently I’m feeling a bit lost having just come back from Milan and Paris. Hopefully our Muslim major who reminds us that diversity and liberalism are the only future for humanity is a good thing.
I’m always amazed at the choice in London and the boundless creative energy. You can eat at any number of pop up restaurants, find a one-off cinema experience and look at amazing art (the new Tate Modern extension just opened – that’s not a secret though)
IDYSM: How do you view the creative scene in London right now?
MARCUS: Creativity in London is ageless but I am fearful that the younger generation are being pushed out by the cost of living and the right wing political climate that is taking over. There is genuine concern that that generations’ needs are not being supported.
IDYSM: Historically we’ve seen many cultural uprisings come from a sense of political unrest. Detroit is a great example of this in the US.
The UK is in a time of Political unrest, so it’s seems apt to ask where you see the current scene of culture and style in the UK. Are we in a creatively enriched era, and if so, why?
MARCUS: It’s too early to know what impact leaving the EU will have but it certainly doesn’t feel positive right now.
London has always been a mecca for young, creative and liberal people from all over the world. If they leave and others stop coming I think the landscape will change massively.
Places like Berlin are attractive cities to young creative today so we will have to see. The creative industry is one of the biggest for London’s economy so the fall out could be huge.
IDYSM: How hard is it to run a print publication in the current era?
MARCUS: I have no idea how it was in the past so I can’t compare but it is very difficult from a commercial point of view.
Less and less people want to invest their advertising and marketing into printed magazines and they are the life blood of the business.
There is a very simplistic view too with brands and marketeers in that they want to see their own thing big which in turn destroys the editorial clarity and dynamic of the magazine which is of course the key to having a dialogue with the readership.
I think we are in an era of “spreadsheet” marketing with everyone looking for a bottom righthand corner figure without truly understanding how best to engage with people.
IDYSM: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to make a foray in print?
MARCUS: Be sure that you have a point of view and that you offer something different to what else is out there.
Also, decide if you want it to be a business or a hobby. There are lots of well known mags that aren’t run as businesses as such, they are either a sideline to other work or a way to promote themselves, which can be a really good way of doing it.
IDYSM: What are your plans for both yourself and Jocks & Nerds for the future?
MARCUS: We’d like to build Jocks&Nerds print run and distribution. I see it as an accessible magazine. It is also popular abroad, especially in the USA, so we’d like to look at what we could do there. And we will build the offering online too.
IDYSM: It’s time for the signature question that ends all ‘In Their Shoes’ interviews…what’s on your feet right now?
MARCUS: Ha. Actually I’m barefoot!!