How 'The Face' Redefined Youth Culture

Thirty-five years ago, Nick Logan single-handedly invented style magazines, and redefined youth culture, with the launch of The Face. Here, Logan looks back on the birth of the most influential monthly in British publishing – where pop met politics, fashion flirted with fame and where the writers, photographers, stylists and editors who went on to dominate the Eighties and Nineties first got their breaks

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On May 1, 1980 a new magazine launched called The Face.

It married music, street fashion and politics, smart reporting and radical art direction with an unusual idea: that pop culture should be celebrated.

“I didn’t see why Tatler should have good paper and photography and it should be denied to people like me,” its founder, Nick Logan, said at the time.  

Logan already had a storied journalistic career, working on local papers before, as editor, making NME the definitive record of punk.

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One thing Logan always stood up for was photography. Until then, the music press favoured live shots over photoshoots and reportage: the theory being that these offered the most excitement.

“I didn’t want to see Roger Daltrey’s tonsils, his jacket was more interesting to me,” Logan later explained.

In 1978, he'd created Smash Hits. He loved working with its small team and with colour photography and good paper stock, a change from the smudgy music weeklies.

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Still, the bands he really cared about – Blondie, The Clash, The Jam – were barely being covered outside of the inkies so, with £3,500 of his own money, he launched The Face.

A title described as "a new-wave Life magazine for 16-25 year olds’ by the Evening Standard, it used photographers Logan commissioned as Smash Hits and NME, who were delighted as seeing their work in colour and on decent paper. Logan emphasised the fashion side of music, and the relationship between the two.

"It was my escape from struggling to explain myself to publishers,” he recalled. "I followed instinct.”

Of course, nobody believed it would work; the Standard article was headlined "Madman or maverick?"

Yet The Face sold well. Logan paid to print 75,000 of the first issue and sold 56,000. For 60p you got John Lydon "at home," Jerry Dammers of The Specials admitting 2 Tone had become a cliché and Ian Dury reviewing Alfred Wertheimer’s new book on Elvis.

Its legacy is hard to overstate. The mag didn't just create the style press, it launched the careers of dozens of writers, photographers, stylists, designers, pop stars, artists and models – most famously Kate Moss.

Logan stood down as editor in 1990 and he sold The Face in 1999, It published its last issue in 2004. (Full disclosure: I myself was editor of The Face from 1999 to 2002.)

Now, Logan's son Maxwell is marking the magazine's 35th anniversary with Instagram and Twitter accounts (@the__archive), and later this year intends to mount an exhibition, and will sell prints donated by photographers to raise funds for Alzheimer's charities.

Every issue of The Face now sits in the permanent collection of The Design Museum, but its real legacy lives in the people inspired to start typing or photographing or designing or styling or thinking because of it.

As he writes here, The Mail on Sunday once called Nick Logan "the most fashionable man in the world". He laughs at that now like he laughed at it then.

Pop culture was what The Face took seriously; its editor not so much. Logan considered himself "a suburban ex-mod in a Paul Smith suit". Albeit one with terrific instinct.

View the gallery to see never-before-seen images from The Face's archives with commentary from Nick Logan.

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