GQ Creative Director Jim Moore Spans 40 Years of Style In Fashion Book 'Hunks & Heroes'

Rizzoli - Main Split-H 2019
Courtesy of Rizzoli

Moore collects highlights of more than 500 cover shoots with stars, from Tom Cruise to Channing Tatum, in his Rizzoli book.

Even after spending some 40 years at men’s fashion bible GQ, longtime creative director Jim Moore wasn’t sure the world needed a book about his work, despite encouragement from then-editor-in-chief Jim Nelson.

“I knew I had done all the work and I thought people could just look at the old GQs,” he says while taking a break at a trendy coffee shop in lower Manhattan. “Jim Nelson said, ‘It’s actually your responsibility, I know it’s a lot of images’ — it was 30,000 images to get down to 300 — ‘And you need to do it for the culture, to make a statement about your 40 years and for the GQ superfans.’”

GQ superfans and, indeed, anyone who cares about the progress of men’s style during Moore’s record-breaking, four-decade run now can revel in Hunks & Heroes (Rizzoli, $75), a 375-page feast of clothes, celebrities and heartfelt commentary from the veteran fashion editor.

Moore and his team were also responsible for an astounding number of covers — more than 500 in all — and many of them are gathered in a double gatefold. In the opening pages, a selection of five highlights illustrates the journey of men’s style, and Moore, over the decades.

First is a pensive shot of a very young Richard Gere from 1980, clad in American Gigolo Giorgio Armani and smoking a cigarette. Moore had nothing to do with that cover. He was just starting out at the magazine, a lowly assistant researching fashion captions. But it was the first issue with his name on the masthead. The next cover is Rain Man-era Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman from 1988 in movie-star tuxes, complete with Cruise’s trademark smirk at the height of his fame (and wearing a so-'80s wing collar), photographed by the late Herb Ritts.

“I remember that so well. I don’t get star struck, but I was thinking, ‘You’re tying Tom-fucking-Cruise’s bow tie and you better get this right because he doesn’t have a lot of time,'" Moore says. “Obviously we were playing into the film, but you never want the cover to look like a movie poster. And putting them in tuxedos made them look really sharp.”

Other cover images fly by, such as one featuring an open-shirted Ben Affleck in his ‘90s prime. (Moore: “The publicist didn’t want us to photograph him with his shirt open, but the editor had given me a command. The light was going, and a little little breeze came up and blew the shirt open and we took three or four frames and that was it.”) Cut to Ryan Gosling in 2011, all kitted out in a pearly grey Ralph Lauren suit and tie. (Moore: “It was kind of the epitome of the Mad Men era and harkens back to a time where men didn't have a lot of clothes. If you had a gray suit and a white shirt and a great tie, you were always appropriately dressed.”)

Moore also styled Barack Obama for covers twice, once when he was a junior U.S. Senator and then in his last year in the White House. “I'd have to say he had a little bit more of a swagger when he had been in office for eight years,” Moore remembers. “But, both times, I asked him to change his tie. I think I will always [be] the guy who asked him to change his tie.”

He says his philosophy was to treat every cover subject like a leading man, whether he was an NBA player, musician or actor. And if you catch the person at the right moment, you can make them a star. “That happened a lot. We had a cancellation on a shoot and we took a chance on Channing Tatum. And, a year later, he was on the cover. And he credits GQ for being part of the star-making machine.”

Moore is on a first name basis with "Chan" and "Tom" and others he’s worked with over the years, including Kanye West, who contributed the foreword to Hunks & Heroes. Moore himself has transitioned to the role of creative director at large, taking on projects with the magazine (he supervised the GQ x CB2 furniture collection just debuting at stores) and beyond (as a consultant for fashion designer Todd Snyder, among others.) But the Minnesota-born Moore (truly bicoastal, he divides his time between a home in Brooklyn and a midcentury pad in Palm Springs) says despite all the actors, his favorite shoots were for a section called “Project Upgrade” with men he had taken off the street.

“We did that with hundreds of guys. You knew underneath with all of them there was a diamond in the the rough—even the bad haircut, the suit that didn’t fit, all that stuff,” he says. “And people look at the ‘After’ picture and say he looks like a movie star. And, really, it’s all a suit and a good haircut. Whether it’s Brad Pitt or some limo driver, that’s the GQ look.”