“How do you appear up with them?” It’s the catechism we are asked best generally aback T&C editors are out in the wild. Invariably followed by some adaptation of, “Do you all fasten the baptize cooler?” “Do you focus-group them at Sant Ambroeus?” “Could I accelerate into your DMs with my ideas?”
The accountable at duke is our coverlines. Scan this month’s cover, and ask yourself the catechism already airish by the Cut: “What Town & Country Banderole Are You?” Chances are you’ll acquisition one that speaks anon to you. In the affair in question, February 2019, with Anne Hathaway on the cover, I was an “Etiquette for the New Pot Elite” with “Is Exercise Making You Fat?” rising.
Photo credit: Town and Country
“Coverlines are the aboriginal clickbait,” says T&C editor in arch Stellene Volandes, who writes abounding of the best meme-able lines, including that issue’s “Mommy, Are We Rich?” “It’s about absorbing the clairvoyant into affairs the annual and the subscriber into demography off the plastic, sitting bottomward with it, and account it awning to cover.”
Fans of T&C’s coverlines apperceive that these turns of phrase, usually amid four and seven words, are amuse-bouches signaling the barbecue ahead. “I like to anticipate of coverlines as abundant accessories that accomplish the outfit,” says Stella Bugbee, the editor of the Cut aback in 2019 and now of the New York Times Styles section. (She was fractional to “Let’s All Move to New Zealand,” by the way.) “They set the mood. They are the lighting that tells you what affectionate of allowance you are about to enter.”
These bons mots are, increasingly, a rarity. While you’re examination this month’s cover, appraise the blow of the newsstand. You’ll see adored few curve of text, and if you do see any they’re acceptable to be abandoned platitudes, celebrity name-checks, or solicitations to Buy! These! 14! Life-Changing Lipsticks! Where’s the fun? To adduce ourselves, “Remember fun?”
The history of the coverline is as affluent as that of magazines. The acclaimed affiche of Uncle Sam wagging his feel can be traced aback to an angel that appeared on the awning of Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper in 1917, according to the periodicals beneficiary Steven Lomazow. The accompanying exclamation, “I Want You,” was a proto-coverline.
Photo credit: Town and Country
As with abounding magazines a aeon ago, T&C put a exceptional on awning delineation rather than text—a 1900 archetype featured Mark Twain in profile, “drawn from life.” The appearance that we apperceive today creeped in during the 1950s (“Parties! Parties! Parties!” trilled our December 1959 issue, aloft a account of Dina Merrill and Cary Grant), and by the mid-’60s it had hit its stride (“Beauty and the Beach” winked the January 1965 issue, featuring the Duke of Windsor). By the 1980s the abstruse booze able by the late, abundant T&C editor Frank Zachary—striking photography and art administration topped with a soupçon of wit and arsenic—was actuality apish by competitors beyond the publishing landscape, including one advancing Brit.
“Coverlines are a analytical weapon, about added important than the image,” says Tina Brown, the above editor in arch of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She developed her acknowledgment for banderole autograph by account the British tabloids, and she has a bendable atom for the abandoned 1970s bright Nova, which already declared, “Self-Indulgence Is Never Actuality Able to Say I Can’t Afford It.” “You accept to use a band that pricks actual concern or alike altercation or outrage.”
T&C’s coverlines now usually alpha with a concern dissected by the Sopranos of Wordplay: Volandes, agent editor Danielle Stein Chizzik, arts editor Adam Rathe, and castigation truly. While parsing a adventure about aristocratic pet schools in our Satriale’s (the 27th-floor appointment allowance at the Hearst Tower), I asked, “What’s the toughest conditioning now?” “A bootcamp?” said Stein Chizzik. “Bootcamp for Bichons!” barked Rathe. “OMG. That’s it!” Volandes said. Bada-bing! A September 2021 coverline was born.
Photo credit: Town and Country
“The action actuality is added collaborative than at added magazines. The bouncing about of account is how coverlines get to be absolutely good,” says adamantine archetype arch and consigliere James Lochart, who apprenticed for the role at Brown’s Talk. “He assesses if a band absolutely translates to a citizenry beyond than four geniuses in a room,” Stein Chizzik adds. If Lochart laughs, we’re usually off to a acceptable start. “I brainstorm it’s like the Iowa Writers Workshop but with added common use of the chat vendetta,” says Rathe. Secrets, snob, gossip, and altercation additionally amount prominently, as does accessible admonition to amend all the snark: “Foie Gras Outlaws: What the Affluent Love to Hide” (March 2020).
The accomplished two years accept presented a claiming in agreement of accent as able-bodied as production. Email, texting, Slack, and Zoom angry into a active affair band area we came back, admitting remotely, to T&C’s countdown mission statement, which has served us able-bodied through civic triumphs and crises: We are at the account of readers, to “instruct, refine, and amuse” them with apple chic storytelling. Ultimately, coverlines are aloof window bathrobe for the appurtenances inside; they wouldn’t authority up to analysis if the autograph in our pages didn’t absolve them. Consider the alternative. “Bad coverlines baptize bottomward the artefact as abundant as bad content,” Stein Chizzik says. “It’s anemic sauce.”
There’s an band assignment here, and that is that beating coverlines account the audience. They accept bodies will apprehend amid the lines, get the shorthand, acknowledge the central joke—just analysis out the back of every issue. We allocution to readers the way we allocution to our friends. It’s conceivably that assurance that’s the abstruse to a band now abutting two centuries old. Here’s to addition 175 years!
This adventure appears in the October 2021 affair of Town & Country.
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