Of all the magazines in all the hairdressing salons in all the world, InStyle has to be the absolute worst.
We've written before about the strange melange of fashion-speak, made up vernacular and imperatives that characterise InStyle, a publication which, to an ordinary, intelligent human woman, is essentially neck and neck with the Voynich manuscript on the WTF list of 'strange, esoteric documents written in unbreakable code that I don't understand and probs never will'. Nevertheless, I wanted to revisit it for your reading pleasure. Not because it's improved in any way, but because my mum rang me up the other day and boy, was she fucked off.
Mum: Hello darling, sorry to bother you when you're working, but what the HELL is this shit?
Me: Beg pardon?
Mum: I bought that InStyle magazine that you said to buy, and it's terrible, TERRIBLE. I HATE it. Why did you subject me to this?
Me: Mum, I never told you to buy InStyle.
Mum: Yes you did, you said it was intelligent, and that it had a column by Lucy Mangan in it. Well, there was no column, there were barely THREE SENTENCES in it. Or at least they looked like sentences, I couldn't really understand what they were on about. IT'S RUBBISH I TELL YOU, RUBBISH.
After explaining to mother that she was mistaken and that I had been referring to Stylist, I decided to take another look at InStyle. After all, if it was able to reduce an ordinarily sensible woman to apoplectic rage, then they must be doing something sensationally pants. So I picked up the November AND December issues and took a look. Here is what I found:
- InStyle reads like a failing fashion robot in its dying throes, randomly spurting out context-free segments of editorial before grinding to a hollow halt
Take, for example, this 'Style Candy' page, which reads:
'Look to the fuschia', 'runway to red carpet', 'Instant Wow! Feathers', 'Ear Cuff, £35'
Clearly, it is written by pre-verbal marketing chimps, because no sentient human being could produce this free-floating nonsense, not to mention use the phrase 'hot and in stock' outside of an edible dumpling context. Meanwhile, such sentences as: 'Flaunt your pins in ladylike, heeled loafers', 'Make no mistake: these rock'n'roll skyscraper heels mean business' and 'cerulean tones are having a major moment' leave me feeling baffled and anxious, and 'The A-Z of faux fur' (A is for Armani...G is for Goatskin...J is for Jumper...X is for Xtra cash. I'm not making this up) leaves me wondering whether I'm the victim of a giant practical joke engineered by a spambot on pill.
- The benchmark is incredibly low
InStyle clearly don't like to challenge their readers. 'A checked jacket with removable sleeves? Genius,' they declare. Genius. That's before we even get to the 'Style IQ' feature (yes, really), a regular interview slot that desperately tries to eke some deeper meaning from celebrities' style choices for what I imagine must be an increasingly weary readership. With inane sentences like this: 'I've worn a lot of Balenciaga over the years...the pieces manage to be classic and new at the same time' and this: 'I tend to wear the same things over and over, like my Lanvin flats and my leather jacket' it's difficult to imagine that this publication even HAS a readership. How anyone can read the sentence 'my style is influenced by what I'm doing' without their brain melting out of their ears and all over their £35 ear cuffs is beyond me.
- What recession?
All for an outfit that looks like it comes from the 'lumberjack chic' section of Tu at Sainsbury's.
- You're probably too old for these clothes
'There comes a time in every woman's life where she has to look at her wardrobe and make some difficult sartorial decisions', I'm informed, gravely. This apparently means ditching the 'stripper heels' and 'cheap tube dresses' and becoming, essentially, something resembling the Duchess of Cambridge (think: wrap dress). Stuff you're no longer allowed to wear include distressed denim, crop tops, sparkly nail polish, and slogan T-shirts - aka, things no woman outside of her teens tends to go for anyway. Nonetheless, you can't help but resent the smug sentiments displayed here, as some up own arse woman tells you that Spanx are now your 'total BFF' because you may be a 'mature, wise goddess' (is there another phrase which invokes a greater feeling of nausea than this?) but that doesn't mean you don't need control pants, you big middle aged fatty. Fuck the fuck off, InStyle.
- Fashion takes on unparalleled significance
Never have I seen a magazine whose life priorities are so out of whack. We're talking whole features called things like 'Natalie Wears Coats' and 'A Boot for Every Occasion' (how to wear boots at breakfast, lunch and dinner.) Although a cursory nod is given to other interests in the form of 'loving the culture' (take the unprecedented use of a possessive as a hint as to InStyle's familiarity with the term outside of a yoghurt context), as the title suggests, fashion is the name of the game. The November issue even covers something that appears to be along the lines of church chic. 'Religious studies' features some vaguely-Catholic looking shoes and crucifixes along with the slogan 'Open your heart to this HEAVENLY trend and worship at the altar of FASHION'. Don't mind if I don't.
By this point, I'm starting to waver in my commitment to InStyle (which was, let's face it, minimal to start out with). Their repeated use of the phrase 'fashion royalty' is having a strange impact on a vein in my temple, and despite not yet having checked out the December issue's 'best dressed 2013' (WHO IS LILY COLLINS? CAN SOMEONE TELL ME PLEASE?), the urge to nap is becoming unavoidable.
Occasionally, I flick past something that might pass for an article, only to feel deceived once I discover it's actually a 'reader event' or 'promotion', and, much as I'd love to say that I'm interested in 'the new underwear' (just like the old underwear, but less so), reading InStyle makes feel like Dorothy: I just really, really want to go home. It's not as though I believe myself to be above InStyle (although tbh with a vocabulary like theirs, it wouldn't be much of a stretch): I love experimenting with fashion, I enjoy reading Elle and Vogue, and am pretty au fait with what designers are up to. It's just that InStyle saps all the joy out of fashion in a way that I couldn't quite put my finger on until I started writing this sentence. It's not just the rampant capitalism of it all - the lack of prose means that InStyle is essentially, a catalogue - although reducing a crazy, creative vibrant industry populated by eccentric, inventive, interesting people to a few buzz words on a page doesn't help; it's also InStyle's vision of 'woman' that strikes me as extremely misjudged, mainly because I DON'T THINK THIS WOMAN EXISTS. I don't know a single lady, for instance, who would just sit there and take being told that this is the season where 'curves make a comeback' and so here's 'how to stay chic if you're north of a c-cup'. The patronising, you don't know how to dress yourself tone does the target reader (surely someone who not only loves clothes but also knows the meaning of the phrase 'tonal separates') absolutely no favours, the lack of discernible content even less so. No wonder my mum was so pissed off. She'd paid £3.90 for a glossy picture book, which would all be very well, if the pictures were high quality. Unfortunately, they're not, which is where we get to the crux of the massive, irreparable problem with InStyle. It's not just that they think women are shitmunching idiots incapable of reading more than a paragraph of text in one go. It's not even just that they seem to think fashion is the most important thing in the world ever. No, it's that the clothes aren't even that nice, thus rendering their name a big fat, massive lie.
Do not want.