The Untold Stories Behind GQ's Most Iconic Fashion Shoots

01 September 2019
Culture, Jim Moore, Kanye West, Stylish, Fashion
Image: Mario Testino

In his new book, Hunks & Heroes: Four Decades of Fashion at GQ, Jim Moore takes a deep dive into four decades of his most wild, stylish and definitive GQ fashion shoots

Legendary creative director Jim Moore didn’t just exist in the world of GQ for four decades – he was instrumental in creating it. Here, in exclusive extracts from his new book, Hunks & Heroes: Four Decades of Fashion at GQ, we look back at Moore’s most iconic menswear moments, and listen-in on a conversation between he and Kanye West...

Big Yeezy Energy (Kanye West, New York, 2007, by Nathaniel Goldberg)

KANYE WEST: Jim, I feel like it’s the perfect time for you to be releasing this book and for us to be having this conversation. I feel that there is a moment, a resurgence in fashion. There are no tricks in fashion anymore.

JIM MOORE: I completely agree, Kanye, and I couldn’t be more excited to share this book with you.

WEST: There’s a depth in these photos. There are photos in this book that I haven’t seen before that have now deepened the direction that I’m going into, just by seeing these photos.

MOORE: You know, there were some surprising challenges in pulling it together. At times it was hard, not painful exactly, but I’m such a forward-looking person that looking to the past can be tricky. I think you and I are kind of cut from the same cloth in that way.

WEST: Yeah. Nostalgia hurts sometimes. It’s like the joy of the journey and seeing an image that can transport you right back into that room, into that place when you took that photo. What images in the book made you feel most transported?

MOORE:  Wow. That’s a really good question. When I set out to create this book, I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. I went through every issue of GQ and looked at every single picture I worked on. I was responsible for over 30,000 images over 40 years, and I chose about 1700 that I wanted to include, that were my favourites. I said, “This book is going to need to be 500 to 600 pages.” But actually, the more you edit, the more pictures you leave behind, the better the book is.

WEST: I wouldn’t mind seeing those 1700.

MOORE: I’ve got them all on a disk. When I was making choices, I wanted it to be that kind of book that you would look at and put down, pick up, and return to again and again. I also wanted to tell some stories and pull back the curtain a bit on what we do.

WEST: Looking at these photos, this is so good. I love the happy, smiley, commercial vibe.

MOORE: I was never afraid to be commercial. That’s never bothered me. I was happy with how a lot of the pictures held up.

WEST:  To have all of this history under your belt and to maintain grace in an environment like this, where anyone with any less grace would flip the table over and just scream at everyone, it’s amazing.

You were able to embrace me, embrace all of the people that you’ve captured and to give room for people to have their own creativity while bringing your touch and experience into every one of the photos seen here. You’ve created something iconic. You see it in that moment in American Psycho where the two letters GQ are used to express if a man had taste or not. The way people would say, “That’s very GQ.” That’s iconography!

MOORE: That means a lot. You know, when I think about my career – about the truly memorable moments – one was the nine-hour fitting we did together before your cover shoot in 2014.

WEST: That nine-hour fitting was pretty epic. I remember it like it was yesterday – standing in front of you and just being really creative with apparel. The conversations got so wide. There were ups and downs and frustrations and pushes and pulls. I think we had the opportunity to build a lot of energy there because it was really contained.

MOORE: We were locked into this room; it was amazing. I honestly learned so much from that fitting.

WEST: I also remember that GQ party in New York – at that time I was a more prideful person – but you saw that I wasn’t wearing a tie with that white suit, and it felt so modern. There would always be these moments. We connect on the carpet, we connect at my Louis Vuitton birthday party, my 30th birthday party.

This is the best one: sitting on a plane together and discussing suits. You were the first person who said, “This is a suit.” People think of a suit in the traditional way, and if you hadn’t had that conversation with me, explaining that suits could be other things, I’m not sure if I would have come to the epiphany of wearing Dickies as a suit [at the Met Ball]. You’re planting seeds. It’s very important that we plant seeds, share energy with fellow aliens, with people who feel alien, which is basically most of the world.

MOORE: I’ve always loved that aspect of the work that we do.

WEST: GQ planted seeds. I can feel the chills I had as I was walking to show you the journey I’d been on. What I’m anointed to do with 85 musicians, you do visually to create a transportive vortex through space and image. There’s a lot of people working on extended reality and augmented realities, but I’m not hopping on that spaceship without Jim Moore.

You know, there’s a difference between fun and joy. When someone knows they need to get married but won’t get married, they just having fun. What you do is about joy, pure joy. It’s an anointing ability that you have. Someone with a photo, with a song, these people can deepen our joy. Fun is fleeting. Joy is deep and adds to your life.

Tweed Creed (Rye, New York, 1996, by Michael Thompson)

Looking Ahead (André Benjamin, New York, 2009, by Peggy Sirota)

All Buttoned Up (“Mad Men inspired us all to bring the suit back to its original state. It was a moment when tie bars and pocket squares were the norm. Our drawers in the GQ fashion closet were filled with them.” Michael Fassbender, London, 2001, by Mario Testino)

Sleep It Off (“By the early 2000s, every page of GQ was filled with celebrity... We offered readers a glimpse of recognisable people, but the trick oftentimes was to put them in a surprising or visually arresting new context.” Above: Jimmie Johnson, Indianapolis, 2008. Below: Ashton Kutcher, Los Angeles, 2003. Both by Peggy Sirota)

Luxe Layers (Fetty Wap, New York, 2016, by Steven Pan)

Centre Stage (Bruno Mars, Los Angeles, 2013, by Peggy Sirota)

Colour Burst (Russell Westbook, Oklahoma, 2019, by Jasper Soloff)

The Great Leap (Sebastian Stan, Los Angeles, 2018, by Steven Pan)

The Big Island (“There’s an interesting balancing act when you’re working with celebrities. You want to make them feel supported in front of the camera, but you also need them to venture out of their comfort zone.” Bradley Cooper, Oahu, Hawaii, 2014, by Peggy Sirota. Previous spread: Stephen Colbert, New York, 2015, by Sebastian Kim)

Winning Shot (Roger Federer, St. Moritz, Switzerland, 2017, by Craig McDean)

Hunks & Heroes: Four Decades of Fashion at GQ by Jim Moore is out now