What 200 'Playboy' Covers Tell Us About Beauty in America

Era by era, a sanitized quest for physical perfection

At this point, Playboy is a relic—an outdated self-parody, much like its creator, Hugh Hefner. But historical artifacts are valuable because they give the present some context by illuminating the tastes, aesthetics and obsessions of the past. Consider: The iconic magazine's covers and pictorials, for better or worse, both reflected and shaped cultural ideas about beauty and sexuality for more than half a century.

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