How Hugh Hefner changed the magazine world with Playboy


It all started with Marilyn Monroe

The launch of Playboy in 1953 included a demure cover of an old photograph of Marilyn Monroe that belied the nude imagery inside. Revolutionary for its time, the magazine has continually pushed boundaries and has been credited with lighting the fire that resulted in the sexual revolution in the US during the 1960s.


New Journalism

While it's something of a joke to say that you read Playboy for the articles, the magazine earned its reputation for editing top-notch long-form articles. Bylines in the magazine have included Hunter S. Thompson (picture) and Truman Capote.


Political 'Playboy'

The world-famous centerfolds, which included both no-name models and celebrities hoping for increased publicity, have appeared alongside heavy-hitting interviews, including one in which historian Alex Haley spoke to Martin Luther King, Jr. and later Malcolm X at the height of the American Civil Rights movement.


Select authors' club

As stories by authors like Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami graced the glossy pages, "Playboy" became a publication every writer wanted in to. Chuck Palahniuk - best known for his dystopian novel, "Fight Club," adapted into a movie with Brad Pitt - also contributes new work occasionally.


Ground-breaking photography

For 62 years, the magazine's major selling point were the images of naked women sprinkled throughout its pages. While Hugh Hefner created a unique lifestyle, dating and living with many of the young women to have posed for Playboy, photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Helmut Newton (above, one of his works) were brought on to shoot for the publication.


Changing image processing

A cropped image of centerfold Lena Söderberg from the November 1972 edition became quite by accident a de facto standard image in electronic imaging. Used in an academic paper on image processing, "Lena" (often spelled the anglicized way, "Lenna") became one of the most used images in computer history.


Influential artistry

Playboy pages have also been directed by a number of influential living artists, including Keith Haring and David LaChappelle. Salvador Dalí (pictured) also directed surrealist erotic artwork for the magazine in 1973.


Guten Tag, Katarina!

With numerous foreign language editions already in print, Playboy finally arrived in Germany in 1972, though due to different mores concerning nudity in Germany, it hasn't gained the traction it held in the US. One of the country's darlings, figure skating world champion Katarina Witt, posed nude for the US version in 1998 at the age of 32. It was the second issue to ever sell out.


The male gaze

The magazine has repeatedly come under fire for objectifying women, most notably criticized by Gloria Steinem. One answer to that criticism came with the creation of the publication's twin, Playgirl, in 1973. The magazine turned the tables by only featuring nude men and marked the start of a new era in erotic nudity, personified by the Chippendales dancers and later, the film "Magic Mike."


Unwrapping an adults-only magazine

Despite all of the written coup d'etats that Hefner was able to achieve before handing over the editorial reigns to his daughter Christie in 1988, the magazine didn't come out of its literal shell (as in the US all adult magazines are required to be packaged, with nude covers hidden from the eyes of those under 18) until 2015.


Phasing out the nudes

As of the October 2015 edition, the magazine stopped running full nudes. The decision was made as new owners shifted their focus to compete with text-heavy New York publications like Vanity Fair instead of internet pornography. Near the same time, Hefner put his famous $200 million Playboy mansion on the market, though he will keep living there. It served as the backdrop to many photo shootings.


Old rabbit ears

Nowadays, the infamous bunny-eared logo earns the Playboy fortune more than the magazine and its associated website does. The risqué logo once associated with swinger's clubs now appears on everything, from T-shirts to phone covers to notebooks.

Playboy magazine founder and Hollywood man-about-town Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91. The man with a hedonist lifestyle changed modern publishing – and the way we look at the human body.

Legend has it that after Esquire magazine denied copy writer Hugh Hefner a $5 raise, he branched out on his own, raising just over $8,000 to create the first issue of Playboy magazine in 1953. Marilyn Monroe graced the cover, fully clothed. The centerfold, however, showed her nude in front of a red drapery - the image shot for a calendar years prior and reprinted alongside lifestyle tips for the modern man. The rest, as they say, is history.

Embodying the Playboy personality, his editorial perspective has heavily influenced both culture and journalism since the magazine's inception.

The gallery above explores the role he's played in the publishing world along with the ways Hefner's empire has shaped photography, art and the way we view the human body.

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