We've had a great run with the fabulous WM Brown and before we run out completely, we asked Bath writer, watchmaker and musician Tom Corneill to review it for us.
Every magazine wants to stand out and most will attempt this by trying to offer something new. WM Brown definitely delivers something new but, intriguingly, manages to do so using some very old-fashioned ingredients.
I have been aware of Matthew Hranek for some time but this was the first time I’ve been able to get hold of a copy of this, his passion project. Hranek’s name pops up in magazines and podcasts such as Hodinkee, The Rake and other purveyors of predominantly men’s style and luxury lifestyle. He’s a man who enjoys a bit of opulence and good company and this magazine is – quite literally – the perfect vehicle for him to share his journey with a much wider audience.
The ‘newness’ is offered in the layout of the magazine; Hranek is taking us for a train ride. In the opening pages it is explained that Matthew and friends will be boarding a beautiful vintage locomotive and you are invited to join them for a few days while they discuss food, drink and style. You are then introduced to each of the passengers, who make up the contributors to the rest of the magazine. The rest of the magazine then meanders through various aspects of luxury-living and eventually drops you off at the end after a fun few days.
The concept is wonderful and the photography has a visceral feel that really brings the adventure to life. Fans of The Rake, Plaza Uomo and other luxury end style magazines will feel right at home while being offered a novel new layer. The writing is intelligent and flows as smoothly as the ride itself. It majors on simple pleasures done well and will leave you craving a Negroni and a world-class club sandwich.
The ‘oldness’ comes in its physical form. It’s a fairly average size but much of the look and feel is curiously reminiscent of a seventies cook book. The colour filters, the alignment of the text and the narrative on each individual page (not to mention the fact there are several double-spreads actually detailing recipes) all lend themselves to something of a bygone era. It’s a bold statement which might divide audiences but I found it to be charming and it is certainly well-executed.
The vintage vibe does come with its drawbacks though. Like so many other upper-end style and lifestyle publications there is a heavy focus on extravagances that are rapidly feeling more and more dated. Once upon a time indulgences like leather, cigars and muscle cars were standard fare in this type of periodical but in a world becoming ever more health-conscious, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly, certain sections of the magazine will have less appeal for some. The Idaho duck hunt will sit particularly uneasily for them in a journal that presents itself as a style mag.
Nevertheless, there is sufficient eye candy for lovers of watches, sartoria (new and vintage) and stunning scenery and the general experience is a lot of fun. The curation has clearly taken love and careful thought and it’s an enjoyable twist on other affluent style papers.