Much has been made of the rivalry between The New York Times' T magazine (helmed by former Vogue fashion news/features director, Sally Singer) and The Wall Street Journal's WSJ. (helmed by Domino founding editor, Deborah Needleman), both of which cover the same stylish ground—and vie for the same luxury fashion advertisers.
Lately, they've even been trading the same cover photographers (Terry Richardson and Hedi Slimane) and stylish subjects (more on that later), which is a bit odd for any magazine looking to establish a singular voice and vision, let alone two blatantly competitive titles working within the same rarefied genre.
As a reader and fan of both magazines (full disclosure: I've also contributed to The New York Times' Arts & Leisure, Styles and, yes, T mag), I decided to do a head-to-head comparison of three recent issues to see if one magazine really did trump the other, content-wise (though judging by the most recent issue of T, which is stapled rather than perfect bound, WSJ. seems to be pulling ahead in the ad page arena).
Here's how they stacked up on the editorial front, beginning with the most recent holiday issue, and continuing throughout the week with the men's and women's spring 2012 issues and T vs. WSJ. online.
T - Cover Star: Viggo Mortensen
Verdict: Mortensen is gorgeous and I love, love, love photographer Cass Bird's work, but there's nothing more unappealing than an adult in age-inappropriate clothing, and T styled the soulful 53-year-old actor to look like a 15-year-old SoCal skate punk. Ick. Plus, what's festive about grungy plaid and an old knit cap? Nothing, that's what. Two thumbs down.
The Issue: Highlights: Great articles by Sarah Mower (on dressing to meet the queen), Daphne Merkin (a glowing Tory Burch profile), Suzy Menkes (on Olivier Theyskens' reinvention at Theory) and Joan Juliet Buck (who reminisces about Christmas in Venice c. 1970). There's also a terrific spread called "The Gifted" (focusing on breakout talents like Charlie Day, Theophilus London and Tyler, the Creator) and a fun piece on man sheds.
Low points: Way too many dispiriting features, from "Bad Tidings" (about a narcissistic French guy who survives a tsunami) to "The Graveyard Shift," which follows a group of kids in Gaza who do parkour in a local cemetery, to D.W. Gibson's article profiling the chronically unemployed (happy holidays, reader!) to Will Self blah-blahing about hotels as community centers (which isn't so much dispiriting as it is sleep-inducing). But the worst—by which I mean, most depressing—piece in the issue is an incredibly ill-conceived gift guide called "The Complete Package," which includes page after page of high/low items (Graff canary yellow diamond earrings, a Victorinox Swiss army knife, hunk of tenderloin steak and a Judith Leiber key ring) trussed up in twine, string and wire and shot amid old cardboard boxes and dirty packing crates on a dimly lit set. This is supposed to put one in a cheery holiday shopping mood how, exactly? On the whole, this issue made me feel more upset and melancholy than inspired and uplifted. Way to go, T!
WSJ. - Cover Star: Chanel Iman
Verdict: Iman looks beautiful in her pearl cat's mask, glittering diamonds and lavish fur, shot by legendary Swiss fashion photographer (and Pirelli calendar founder) Hans Feurer. Now this says "Happy holidays!" Two thumbs up.
The Issue: Highlights: Fascinating piece on the cost of owning and maintaining a British, Downton Abbey-like estate ("Upstairs, Downstairs and In Between"). Smart, insightful profiles of Martha Stewart (by Adrienne Gaffney), Kevin Spacey, Dries Van Noten (by Dana Thomas), Barbara Gladstone, Bruno Frisoni (by Meenal Mistry), Francois and Betty Catroux, and Robert Downey, Jr. and his longtime artist pal, Tobias Keene. On the style front, there's a fun spread on "Winter White" items and another ("The Shining") on metallic gifts, from an 18k gold phone to limited edition Phillippe Starck speakers to Tom Dixon light fixtures. Yes, please!
Low points: None to speak of.
Final Score: WSJ. by a landslide.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's Style Smackdown featuring T vs. WSJ. Women's spring 2012. Additional entries in the T vs. WSJ. Style Smackdown include Men's spring 2012 and T vs. WSJ. online.