Loaded was launched in Great Britain in 1994 as a general "mens' interest" monthly. It soon developed a notoriety for its rather basic, unreformed, "laddish" approach to life and rose to a peak circulation of 450,000 a month by the late 1990's. Inspired as a live-action version of Viz, its general style and approach was imitated by American competitors Maxim and GQ, who took good care to take their versions a fair way upmarket, so as to avoid the controversy the British Ur-Example was garnering.
Creator James Brown launched his career in publishing this way, using profits from Loaded to acquire not only the inspiration, scatologically funny adult comic Viz but also more "respectable" publications such as Fortean Times.
A typical edition of Loaded depended on a celebration of Bloke culture, including humorously recaptioned photographs (such as the "Pornalikes" section, in which readers were encouraged to send in photographs from porn mags or Internet screenshots showing porn actors with a disconcerting resemblance to otherwise squeaky-clean celebrities.) There would be long articles on lad culture, fast cars, extreme sports and serious drinking. The new tendency towards male grooming and the "metrosexual" look was touched upon, but apart from lucrative advertising tie-ins, was left for the competition, such as Maxim and Men's Health, to explore in detail.
A staple was the photo-feature in which C, B or occasionally A-list female celebrities were persuaded to pose for photo-features in minimal clothing. Whilst these rarely got beyond "cheesecake", there would very occasionally be a bared nipple, sometimes toplessness. The magazine also championed the "nip-slip" photo in which female celebrities were caught accidentally baring something they thought was adequately covered. Any reader providing such content might receive the coveted Good Work, Fella! accolade.
As a product of the 1990's zeitgeist, Loaded has been the subject of both socio-political analysis and strident feminist criticism. Founder James Brown said that for it to work, it had to appeal to 50% Sun readers and 50% Guardian readers - i.e. a logical extension of Page Three for one demographic, and a guilty pleasure for the other.
Loaded was still being published well into the 2010's, by the appropriately named Simian Publishing, but its circulation had in mid-2015 slumped to perhaps 30,000 a month. Therefore, the end of an era arrived near the end of 2015, when due to diminished sales the magazine was closed down.
Tropes Who Should Know Better include:
- Celebrity Resemblance: The "Pornalikes" section encouraged readers to send in stills from porn videos and magazines that resembled actual celebrities.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The career of model, author and general-purpose celebrity Jordan (Katie Price) really began here. At eighteen she was a firm Loaded favourite, appearing in quite a few photoshoots and interviews. This was before she had the first of many cosmetic adjustments to her face and, er, figure, so that the early Jordan looks... so much different.
- Fanservice Model: Being the Ur-Example of lads' magazines, the bread and butter of this magazine are the girls with few clothes.
- I Read It for the Articles: The editorial content was always surprisingly well written, funny, informative and engaging.
- Nipple and Dimed: The raison d'etre of much of its photo content.
- Sleazy Photoshoot: Every so often its features hovered on this line and considered stepping across to the other side. Not telling the model her nipple had slipped and taking photos anyway was a part of the ethos. As well as publishing them afterwards.
- Spear Counterpart: Of women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan, New Woman, etc. Feminist criticism of Loaded involved pointing to its Manchild qualities, objectification of women, use of sex to sell copy, dependence on bloke-culture, etc. Defenders asked how that differed in intent from Cosmopolitan's objectification of men, reliance on Sex Sells, etc.
- The '90s: Very definitely a product of its decade.