Complex magazine is published 6x/year in New York City. This title debuted in 2002 as a men’s magazine focused on hi-hop culture, music, the arts, games and gaming, and fashion. The editor, Marc Ecko (born Marc Louis Milecofsky), in his 10th anniversary edition, said his
“aim was to fill a void in the publishing world, which was still clinging to antiquated notions of youth culture as figuratively, and literally, black and white. What we saw was a new cultural landscape in which the biggest rapper was white, the best golfer was black, and skaters of every ethnic background listened to rap. We wanted to give a voice to those not-so-easily classified people in music, visual arts, fashion, technology, sports, video games, movies, and television who were taking part in this revolution.”
And so Complex was born. Given Ecko’s background in street fashion*, it is no surprise that his magazine emphasizes fashion culture pretty heavily. The first evidence of this on the www.complex.com site is that the banner directory, which includes “Pop Culture”, “Complex x Fuse” (a TV venture launched in 2013), “Feel the Real”, “Style”, and “Sports”, also includes a quick link to “Sneakers”.
Ecko identified Vice Media, (which we wrote about here) as his chief competition. I would add possibly The Fader, which also aims at global hip hop/pop culture. It’s worth noting that while Complex appears less politically focused than Vice Media**, it also engages with cultural conversations on race, intersectionality, and creativity, demonstrated by the YouTube channels Complex News, Everyday Struggle, and their YouTube “Jobs Unlisted” and “Blueprint” interview series. It remains very much a men’s magazine, however, seen in its gimicky two-cover system: the back half of the magazine flipped upside down from the front. The main cover usually highlights a talented creative male star, wearing street clothes. The secondary cover usually flaunts a heavily sexualized woman, even when she is also a major star.
Complex Media and its competition articulate the wider differences between Official Mainstream America, as reported in magazines by Conde Nast (GQ the most relevant comparable title), vs. pop culture America, which is much more diverse, integrated, and complicated.
*Marc Ecko is the design mind behind the street-style empire of Ecko Unltd.
**but also to have less of a culture of sexual harassment than the troubled Vice Media: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/business/media/vice-media-sexual-harassment.html