I'm no authority on the subject, but I think the history of girly magazines goes something like this: The French were the first to put nudity on the pages of magazines (big shock), but the sensibility of the US wasn't quite so "open". Americans got their titillation from men's adventure magazines and guides for the urban male (i.e. Esquire and GQ).
Then came Hugh Hefner, who simply combined the Esquire format with exposed breasts and butts, and BAM! the true girly mag was born (AKA the girlie mag, skin mag or nudie mag). Hef even borrowed from the Chicago Gaslight club for the trademark bunny outfit and swank dining club. These were the Golden Years of the girly mag.
Then came Penthouse and others in the late 1960s, and things got graphic - pubic hair was no longer off limits. With the arrival of Hustler, all pretensions at being some sort of classy gentleman's guide were flushed down the toilet. The new breed more resembled a gynecology textbook than the quaint girly mags of the 50s and 60s.
Now that the smoke has cleared, people are now starting to look back to those magazines before things got raunchy. They're discovering that these much derided periodicals may, in fact, be worth a second look. Believe it or not, there was actually some quality writing in between the covers (ex. Mario Puzo wrote for Swank and Neil Gaiman wrote for Knave).
So, in my quest for retro omnipotence, I decided to take a look at some of these old magazines. What I discovered was a breathtaking amount of material - I mean, there are hundreds of different titles. For all the talk about rigid and stifled sexuality in the 1950s and 60s, there sure were a ton of girlie mags!
I contemplated compiling a list of all of them, but their numbers were too great. Instead, for the time being, I thought I'd just throw you some mosaics I've put together that I think demonstrate the magnificent volume of vintage skin rags. It nowhere near scratches the surface, but it's a start. Click on them to view full size. Enjoy!
Note: All images should be SFW; I tried not to select any covers that contained clearly visible naughty bits. God forbid you folks get a good look at some skin, there's no telling what would become of you!