The Story of the Face by Paul Gorman review – the style magazine and British pop culture
This huge, rich book is a celebration not only of the style bible but of London, Manchester and Liverpool in the late 20th century
On 1 May 1980 a new magazine with a murky cover but a blaring red-blue logo appeared on London’s most up-to-date newsstand, in Great Marlborough Street, Soho. Contrary to the magazine conventions of the time, the Face had a title which did not tell you what it covered, almost no adverts, and was launched during a deep recession. Once distributed beyond Soho, the first issue sold 56,000 copies.
The early 80s were a feverish time in Britain for new things, from youth cultures to design companies to political ideologies, and the Face – which tried to feature all of them in a fresh way, both glossy and gritty, while operating on a shoestring – remains one of the era’s most mythologised products. It never sold more than 130,000 copies, modest for a magazine distributed internationally, and it was published for 24 years – a good but not outstanding run. Yet it was consumed and is remembered with intensity. I was a Face reader from the mid-80s until near the end, and the feel of its best issues – forbiddingly stylish, but full of exciting information; insidery, but open to the world – was already loitering in my memory before I opened this elaborate history.