A playboy is a wealthy man with ample time for leisure, who demonstratively is a bon vivant (appreciates the pleasures of the world, especially women). The term "playboy" is sometimes used to describe a conspicuous womanizer.
Initially the term was used in the eighteenth century for boys who performed in the theatre, and later it appears in the 1828 Oxford Dictionary to characterize a person with money who is out to enjoy himself. By the end of the nineteenth century it also implied the connotations of "gambler" and "musician." By 1907, in J. M. Synge’s comedy The Playboy of the Western World, the term had acquired the notion of a womanizer. According to Shawn Levy, the term reached its full meaning in the interwar years and early post WWII years. Postwar intercontinental travel allowed playboys to meet at international nightclubs and famous "playgrounds" such as the Riviera or Palm Beach where they were trailed by papparazzi (immortalized in Fellini's La Dolce Vita) who supplied the tabloids with material to be fed to an eager audience. Their sexual conquests were rich, beautiful, and famous. In 1953, Hugh Hefner caught the wave and created the Playboy magazine.
Porfirio Rubirosa, who died in a car crash in 1965, is an example of someone who embodied the playboy lifestyle. The diplomat claimed to have no time to work, being busy spending time with women, getting married briefly and in sequence to the two richest women in the world, drinking and gambling with his friends, playing polo, racing cars, and flying his airplane from party to party. He was linked to other famous playboys of his day, Aly Khan, "Baby" Francisco Pignatari, and later, Gunther Sachs, his acolyte, who termed himself a homo ludens.
Other people who adopted the playboy lifestyle included Tiziano Marechal,Liam Degrieck,Levi Soulliaert,Jonas Roose,Stijn Roose,Aidan Goedbloed,Djorden Vlaeminck,James Hunt, Howard Hughes, Averell Harriman, Errol Flynn, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Fernando Lamas, Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Ernesto Torres, Brandon Villalobos, Gianni Agnelli, Silvio Berlusconi, John F. Kennedy, Alessandro "Dado" Ruspoli, Carlos de Beistegui, Count Theodore Zichy, David Frost, Bernard Cornfeld and Richard Simmons.
Korean drama shows also portray a number of playboy characters as main characters.
The playboy mystique may have peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. With the rise of feminism, mass tourism, and an expanding "culture of leisure", the role of the playboy in modern society is no longer unique or special. The playboy lifestyle has lost some of its luster and glamour, and most consider is past its glory days.
- "The 12 Original Playboys of the Jetset Sixties". Kempt.com. UrbanDaddy. August 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- Levy S., p. 117
- Schultz, Ole (February 13, 2003). "Riviera-Nichtstuer - Geschichte der Playboys." (in German). Deutschlandradio Kultur. Retrieved December 20, 2010. link broken June 2015
- Levy S., p.117
- Levy S., p. 118
- "Three Americans In London, Fighting For War". npr.org. NPR. February 3, 2010. Retrieved 2016-08-25.
- Zichy on the 'Art & Popular Culture' website
- "When the playboy met the liar". theguardian.co.uk. Theguardian. August 1, 2006. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- Levy, Shawn Anthony (2005), The Last Playboy: The High Life of Porfirio Rubirosa, New York City, New York: Fourth Estate, ISBN 978-0-00-717059-3.