We’re not particularly subtle when it comes to expressing our fondness of Fantastic Man here at It’s Nice That. In fact, we’re anything but. Back in 2015, we sat down with the publication’s founders Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom to celebrate their tenth year of publication and in the resulting years, the duo’s shown no signs of slowing down.
Today, they boast a total of 28 issues and recently published What Men Wear, an anthology of male dressing in the 21st Century, the combination of which has solidified Fantastic Man as the go-to mag for anyone interested in men’s fashion. From where we’re sat, however, the publication offers much more than just great content and style tips – it’s a beautifully designed publication accompanied by slick commissioning which we continue to see influencing and inspiring designers and photographers across the field.
So which books sit atop the shelves of such a talented team, we wondered? Turns out they’re just as interesting as we’d imagined… Below, Gert and Jop alongside assistant editor Eliot Haworth, designer Helios Capdevila and features editor Seb Emina each outline one title which has been particularly influential to their work.
Gert Jonkers, founder and editor in chief – Chris Heath: Pet Shop Boys versus America
Pet Shop Boys versus America is the follow up to Pet Shop Boys, Literally, also by Chris Heath, from 1990. Inside are thrilling accounts of being on the road with the phenomenal pop duo, with a keen ear and eye for their most deadpan moments. These books not only inspired me to become a writer but turned me onto the Pet Shop Boys’ music in the first place. I knew about them, of course, and had heard them on the radio, but Chris Heath’s books made me really love them and, in effect, their music. I can’t think of a better form of music journalism. Also, the images by Pennie Smith are great. A visual treat!
Jop van Bennekom, founder and creative director – J.-K. Huysmans: À rebours (1987 Dutch edition)
Probably one of the most decadent and extravagant books ever written. The novel was first published in 1884 and went on to typify the fin de siѐcle era. It tells the story of a man who completely isolates himself from society and other people in his remote mansion. There, he surrenders to all possible neurosis and perversities. It’s as sickening as it is entertaining in its extremely detailed descriptions of the seemingly superficial. I adore it. It has been quite influential on my work, especially Re-Magazine with its extreme focus on the common and the insignificant.
Eliot Haworth, assistant editor – Constance Nieuwhoff: Klederdrachten
This 1970s survey of regional Dutch dress was found in an Amsterdam flea market some time ago, directly after my interview for a position at Fantastic Man. I’ve ferried the book between London and the Lowlands ever since. For a long time, I saw it as little more than a novelty that I’d come across at a significant time and kept because I’m sentimental. Recently, however, I’ve found that it echoes many of the things that the magazine stands for and holds dear, and perhaps that’s the true reason I’ve grown so attached to it. The imagery is beautiful, all shot by the documentary photographers Willem Diepraam and Cas Oorthuys. The design is thorough and considered but allows itself to be playful. The clothes are gorgeous, and a bit off-kilter: men in huge trousers and clogs and funny little hats; women with ornate hair clips, bonnets and rolls of fabric tied to their backs. Most importantly, there’s a degree of glamour and warmth applied to something that could easily come across as cold or mundane in the wrong hands. All this amounts to an abundance of Dutch fantasticness.
Helios Capdevila, designer – British Rail: Corporate Identity Manual (2016 reprint by Wallace Henning)
A reproduction of the original identity handbook for British Rail. It’s an incredibly thorough piece of work, a document of graphic design in the pre-computer era and of how successful design can be when the designer has a much smaller toolkit to work with. This is a principle I apply to my own practice and one that fits well with the aesthetic of Fantastic Man, where we work with one or two fonts and a simple palette for each issue.
Seb Emina, features editor – David Allen: Getting Things Done
A few years ago in our “Recommendations” section, Frieze Art Fair founder Matthew Slotover recounted how this book had changed his life for the better. Its most compelling promise is to give you a martial-art-like state of clarity in which you will be completely devoted to the thing you’re doing while not even being slightly worried about the things you aren’t. This is helpful when dealing with the relentless onslaught of deadlines, article drafts and logistical hoops that come with putting a magazine together.
As it happens, in my other role over at The Happy Reader [Fantastic Man’s literary magazine with Penguin] I’ve just selected Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations as our next Book of the Season. As I read those 2000-year-old musings I sometimes swear I could be reading self-help guru David Allen instead. “Do externals tend to distract you? Then give yourself the space to learn some further good lesson, and stop your wandering.” Allen or Aurelius? These are timeless problems.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.