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July 22, 2015

Covering the ’60s: 15 Incredible Esquire Covers Designed by George Lois

George Lois was the genius graphic designer responsible for the legendary series of covers of Esquire magazine that were an icon-shattering and icon-defining commentary on the ’60s. This collection of the best of those covers includes short anecdotes by Lois, but the chief interest is in the pictures he created.

1. Andy Warhol Drowns in His Own Soup - May 1969

A celebration of the Pop art movement, the cover featured Warhol ironically in a Campbell’s soup can. According to Lois, “When this article came up, I decided to show him drowning in his own soup. He knew it was just a friendly spoof on his original claim to fame.”

2. Showing Muhammad Ali As a Martyr for Refusing to Fight in a Bad War - April 1968

Muhammad Ali poses as a martyr for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war and the cover becomes a protest poster hung in college dorms all over America

3. Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man? - March 1965

The slowly growing feminist movement served as an inspiration for the cover. Lois said he wondered, “Was there a point where sexual equality would end and confusion begin?” Many people mistake the actress on this cover with Marilyn Monroe; she’s actually Italian actress Virna Lisi. Marilyn had died almost three years before this picture was taken.

4. A Nation’s Tears - June 1964

Lois's trompe l'oeil cover of Kennedy in tears was published seven months after the assassination. According to Lois, “...showed the opposite symbolism-of Kennedy himself, crying for his lost destiny.”

5. Bizarre Harper’s Cover - October 1963

According to Lois, the cover was a swipe at magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. His focus was on showing real versus imagined glamour.

6. A Premature Indictment of The Vietnam War - October 1966

In 1966, as the war continued escalate in Vietnam, Americans were still largely unaware of its horrors. The words on the cover were from an article written by John Sack, who reported on a U.S. soldier’s reaction upon discovering they had killed a Vietnamese child during a search-and-destroy mission.

7. My Battered Beauty - July 1967

Bond girl Ursula Andress posed as a symbol of domestic violence. At the time it was still a taboo topic.

8. How I Taught Nixon to Use Make-Up and Become President - May 1968

A classic composite cover satirising Nixon in his run up to the 1968 election.

9. February 1964

Lois's refusal to deliver a typical cover girl for an issue that led with a travel feature ended up with a beauty pageant of forty stewardesses from fifteen international airlines. It became one of Esquire's biggest selling issues on the newsstands

10. Sonny Liston, “The First Black Santa” - December 1963

In December 1963 Sonny Liston becomes the first black Santa and “All hell broke loose when the cover came out.”

11. Apotheosis! - October 1968

Esquire’s 35th anniversary issue cover featured JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. watching over Arlington National Cemetery. Lois said of the cover, “We pay homage to an idealized, saint-like John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this dream-like epitaph on the murder of American goodness.”

12. December 1966

This is what George Lois calls his second “cheesecake cover”

13. December 1967

A reference to Truman Capote's infamous 1966 masked ball when he invited 540 of his closest friends!

14. The Face of a Hero - September 1965

Lois created a composite image of the leading four heroes to American college students at the time: Bob Dylan, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, and Fidel Castro. Their faces were all joined together by the crosshairs of a rifle sight.

15. Tamest Event on Kids TV That Day: Ruby Kills Oswald - May 1967

For Lois, the cover represented “the moment [Nov. 24, 1963] when an all-American kid started to grow up with live violence in his carpeted den, complete with an all-American hamburger and Coke.”

George Lois)


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