Ask most of us chaps to name a supermodel and the usual suspects will be sent sauntering down the runways of our minds: Kate, Naomi, Cindy, Linda, Gisele… or perhaps the younger and more social-media savvy Esquire reader will name one of the new breed of fashion plate: Cara, Karlie, Gigi. What do all those have in common? That's right: not a single one of them has had a major movie made about her life. Neither has any one of them endowed a Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Wanna Learn to do Other Stuff Good Too. Or — so far as I know — been brainwashed to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia. (Mossy may have been approached at one point, though doubtless she was already fully booked that season.) Oh, yes. And they're all girls.
Start again. Ask most of us chaps to name a male supermodel and you'll hear the same name trotted out over and over again, murmured like a mantra: David. David Gandy. Push a bit harder, though, ask your favourite fashion stylist (what do you mean you don't know any?) to nominate the male supermodel whose influence most potently defines men's style in the 21st century and one name looms large and longer than any other. Still not sure? I'll tell you. It's Derek. Derek Zoolander.
When it came time to cast the cover of Esquire's spring style special issue his name was first on my list, as it always is. Who better, after all, to showcase the best in the new season's collections from Paris, London, New York and Milan than a figure who bestrides the world of menswear like a Cuban-heeled colossus?
"Get me Zoolander," I told Tom Macklin, Esquire's celebrity wrangler. (I can be surprisingly masterful when I'm in the mood.) "Put him in Gucci, in Prada, in Burberry, in Vuitton, in Dior, in Dolce & Gabbana," I yelled at our fashion director, Catherine Hayward. "Make him work up a sweat," I commanded Nick Millington, our creative director. "Show me Blue Steel, show me Magnum, show me Le Tigre," I implored Simon Emmett, cover photographer extraordinaire.
If only we could persuade Derek into a studio for a day, I knew our crack team could create men's fashion history, a shoot for the ages, a series of heartbreakingly beautiful spreads that fashion-forward boys around the world would rip from these pages and pin to the inside of their cupboard doors, to provide inspiration each night as they carefully planned their outfit for the following day.
Of course, I didn't think it could actually happen. In the past, Tom has orchestrated cover shoots with some of the world's greatest icons of contemporary men's style: Beckham. Clooney. Gary Barlow. The Harry Potter lad. But Zoolander? Surely even the mighty Macklin couldn't scoop the world with the only cover shoot the greatest male supermodel of all time would do to promote his new, eponymous blockbuster sequel? (OK, it's his only cover shoot with the exception of a certain famous American women's magazine, but this is fashion, so we gloss over that.)
Not for the first time, I underestimated the power of Esquire and the talents of our people. Derek features on no less than three separate newsstand covers of this month's issue, plus a special cover just for subscribers; he is the star of our 26-page fashion shoot, debuting more looks than I'd dreamed possible (Jaguar, Sanskrit, Mr Jazz…); and he even submitted to an interview for our regular What I've Learned slot. When a figure as substantial as Derek Zoolander consents to share with the world the wit and wisdom hard-earned in his years at the pinnacle of his profession, the canny Esquire reader pays attention.
The fashion coverage doesn't stop there. Not wishing to be outdone, our style director Teo van den Broeke made a very rare foray outside a fashion capital (and not even to go to a spa!) to find out if it is possible to find stylish menswear in rural Britain. Where would he be least likely to find a men's outfitter that meets the requirements of such a cultivated, urbane shopper? Teo decided on Pembrokeshire, the least populated county in the Union. He took intrepid photojournalist Chris Floyd with him, for protection as much as anything, and you can see the results of their derring-do beginning on page 190. (A tip of the hat here to our cousin at American Esquire, Nick Sullivan, who pioneered this idea — and pioneered is the word — with a similar trip to Kansas for that magazine last year.)
Now I know there are men out there — perhaps you are one of them — for whom fashion is not the only important concern in life. And you — you sad, sloppy, out of shape, badly dressed, aesthetically challenged people — will be pleased to know this issue is not devoted entirely to clothes. We also have the concluding part of Giles Coren's trilogy of terrifying dispatches from his country mansion; the usual unwholesome truth-telling from our agony uncle, AA Gill; a guide covering the best ways to enjoy spring when it arrives; a great recipe from Russell Norman…
Oh, and Tim Lewis went on-set in Rome and into an editing suite in New York to report on the making of a new film from an American actor-writer-producer-director called Ben Stiller (nope, me neither), who I'm told is quite the leading light in Hollywood. Though I must say I was disappointed to hear that this new movie pokes fun at the fashion establishment, which frankly I find a little rude. I don't know who this Stiller fella thinks he is, but he should probably learn to show a bit more respect. As Derek Zoolander would say, for serious.
The March issue of Esquire is out now.