Throughout his tenure at the helm of the American edition of GQ, former editor-in-chief Jim Nelson secured the magazine’s position as one of the leading men’s titles within the industry, boasting over 46 National Magazine Awards for the publication. Honoured in areas such as photography and feature writing, in 2008 the publication was also awarded with the "General Excellence" accolade, recognised as the most prestigious award within the industry.
Since his appointment to the role in 2003, Nelson has been credited with asserting the magazine's tone as a respected men’s publication, steering away from traditional men’s magazine formulae and featuring instead on-topic political stories and fashion-forward editorials shot by the likes of David Bailey and Richard Avedon. In September 2018, it was announced Nelson would step down from his post. He was succeeded by Will Welch, the creative director and editor of GQ Style under Nelson's leadership.
An alumnus of Notre Dame University, where he pursued a degree in American Studies, Nelson first foray into journalism began at the D.C. bureau of CNN, researching current affairs and news. Later moving to Los Angeles, the writer began working as an assistant on scripts for low-grade comedy sit-coms, before being offered a chance to scout stories for the ‘Readings’ section of Harper’s magazine. Nelson secured an internship position in the New York office of Harper’s and worked his way up to editor of the ‘Readings’ section. The journalist first joined GQ in 1997 as senior editor and became executive editor in 2002.
Nelson’s own writing has appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Gourmet and Food & Wine. He also featured in "The Best American Sports Writing 2001" book written by Bud Collins.