One of the few men’s lifestyle magazines still going strong, Proper Mag is fast becoming one of Greater Manchester’s finest exports. Featuring a heady mix of big coats and underground cultural tit-bits, all doled out in a razor-sharp Northern patter, the mag's built a cult reputation for getting the scoops on your next favourite brands and generally being a properly good read.
We’re lucky enough to count both Proper founding editors, Neil and Mark, as customers here at Seen. So, as Mark had already scoped out Seen HQ for a feature in the mag early last year, we thought it time we collared Neil for a chat, to learn a little more about their mag, and to find out why he might be silently judging you if you’re eyewear isn’t quite up to scratch...
"...I still can’t help forming an instant opinion on someone based purely on their footwear, their clothing and, yes, their choice of glasses." - NS
First up, give us the lowdown on Proper Mag. Tell us a bit more about it and how you and Mark ended up starting a magazine together.
It came about when we were working together in a dead end job in a call centre in Stockport. It was for an IT company and when it went a bit quiet we decided to set up a website called Propertop that reviewed nights out in Manchester and made up spoof celebrity gossip.
The rest of our time was spent sourcing rare adidas trainers and vintage Stone Island jackets on ebay until eventually these elements all combined forces and became a fanzine called ‘Proper’ which we did as and when we found the time. Though instantly popular with a loyal readership it took about 10 years before our ‘cult publication’ became a full time, professional affair that now pays our wages.
I thought print magazines were supposed to be dead. What do you think’s the secret to Proper’s success?
It hasn’t died, it’s just a more niche concept now that you can pretty much buy a house using your phone. The key to our success is writing something you won’t find online and remaining true to our original ethos of creating a magazine that we ourselves still want to read.
The success of Proper has also led us into doing lots of creative content for some of our favourite brands and retailers. We recently did a photo-shoot in Iceland for a client which felt like a long way from that Stockport call centre in every sense.
The mag’s featured interviews from some pretty big names, drum and bass legend, Goldie, and Stockport’s very own, Blossoms to name just a couple. Do have a favourite ever interviewee?
Off the top of my head I think my favourite has to be the interview with DJ/Producer Andrew Weatherall for issue 13 (I think). He’s a bit of a hero of mine and was as interesting as he was charming. If I lived in London I’d definitely insist on him letting me hang around with him.
Neil picked the Garrett Leight Kinney in Champagne. Check out the full Kinney range here
What do you reckon’s the most surprising shift you’ve seen menswear-wise since you started the mag? Is there anything that’s caught you off guard?
I suppose Gosha Rubinsky going down the 1990s UK sportswear route was pretty mad but other than that the world of men's fashion is a fairly predictable beast and has always had a fairly retrospective attitude. It’s like muisc I suppose, all the best new music takes the essence of the old guard to make something new and exciting.
You feature a pretty wide range of brands, from the likes of Nike and Stone Island, to smaller, local brands like Good Measure. Is there anything they all have in common? What do you think it is that makes clothes ‘good clothes’?
I think what makes good clothes is when they’re made with a genuine desire to make something worthwhile rather than as a soul-less and cynical attempt to make a fast buck. Even the huge global brands of today such as Nike or Stone Island started off with an individual who was seeking to make something really, really good regardless of budgets or hype.
"...our heads have been turned by people wearing incredible technical jackets as much in a cafe in Hathersage as in a queue for a warehouse party." - NS
You guys actually have your own brand too. Tell us a little bit about Hikerdelic, what it is, and why you started it.
Growing up in Stockport we’ve developed an equal amount of love for the Peak District and the city of Manchester. And the one thing that these two opposite sides of our town share is outdoor clothing, our heads have been turned by people wearing incredible technical jackets as much in a cafe in Hathersage as in a queue for a warehouse party.
Having been writing about amazing brands for 15 years we thought it was probably time that we made our own and it’s proved very popular, again probably because like the mag we’re making something that we ourselves want to wear.
We should probably move onto glasses round about now… what glasses are you wearing at the minute and why did you pick them?
I’m wearing Garrett Leight Kinney in Champagne, and choosing them was a fairly momentous moment as they’re my first ever pair of glasses so obviously they had to be perfect. I choose them with the help of an incredibly helpful/perky person at Seen called Lisa who took me through loads of options until we settled on these and I’m really happy with them.
Do you have a favourite specs-wearing icon?
I choose the Kinneys because they’re of a similar vibe to (Factory Band manager) Rob Gretton and Andy Warhol who I would say are my top two spec-wearing icons.
Glasses can sometimes slip to the bottom of people’s priorities. Why do you think it’s important to have a solid pair?
They help you to see and they’re attached to your face, so in terms of priorities it doesn’t really get more important than that both on a practical level and in terms of vanity. Though I like to think I’m an open minded and non-judgemental person I still can’t help forming an instant opinion on someone based purely on their footwear, their clothing and, yes, their choice of glasses.
What’s in store for Proper in the future? Anything exciting?
The empire is ever-expanding, more exciting projects, more photo-shoots, more exhibitions, more Hikerdelic, more interviews with international pop stars and generally more fun.
Awesome, pretty busy then? That's all we've got time for, thanks for dropping by Neil! We're looking forward to getting stuck into the latest issue.