Mayfair is Britain’s longest surviving men’s soft porn magazine (if we disregard Penthouse, which launched in London the same year but soon shifted to the US). It launched in 1965, and is still going today, although of course unrecognisable from it’s glory days.
Published by Fisk Publishing, the first issue was edited by Graham Masterton – author of The Manitou and other horror novels – but from issue two was in the hands of Kenneth Bound, who remained the editor until 1990. Quite the editorial run. Mayfair emulated Playboy and Penthouse by pitching itself as a sophisticated, middle class gentlemen’s magazine, mixing not-especially explicit nude spreads (even by 1981, it was featuring fully nude women with partially opened legs, but with genitals airbrushed out of sight into a dark, pubic hair-heavy forbidden zone) with non-sexual male interests (cars, sport, tech), humour, fiction and general interest articles. The magazine had a fascination with William Burroughs, curiously. For many years, it attracted a great deal of mainstream advertising, and was one of the few adult magazines carried by WH Smiths.
One of the Mayfair traits was to feature minor celebrities (in an age before celebrity culture was rampant) – game show hostesses, Page 3 Girls, beauty queens, wives and girlfiends of the famous, publicity seeker and the like – and women who had done ‘something’ that could be hyped on the cover. If a girl had once cut the Queen’s hair, she was ‘the Queen’s hairdresser’, and so on. How true these minor claims to fame were is open to question.
After a management buy-out in 1982, Bound sold the magazine to Paul Raymond Publications. It’s still published by PRP today, and is more explicit, more laddish and less self-consciously sophisticated than in the past, something reflected on modern covers. It has, therefore, moved with the times, and can hardly be criticised for that. For many of us though, the heyday of Mayfair remains the 1970s, when it could be found in many a city gent’s briefcase and had a circulation of over 300,000.
Here’s a hefty gallery of Mayfair covers from the classic era of the 1960s – 1980s.