After the war men stopped reading Esquire magazine because they didn't want pinups on their coffee table, Esquire's new editor, Clay Felker, said yesterday.

He was talking about World War II and the last time Esquire magazine had to be remodeled, but he might just as well have been discussing the war of the sexes and the newest remake of Esquire, which goes on sale Feb. 14.

The new, improved Esquire, Felker told the Advertising Club of Metropolitan Washington, "will appeal to the interests of sophisticated men."

Although Esquire invented the pinup, sophisticated men aren't interested in gynocology. He said their main concern is the male role. "Esquire will examine that on a continuous and we hope intelligent basis."

There's been a lot of writing about how hard it is to be a woman these days, but not enough about how tough it is to be a man said Felker. "Men still have to go out and make it in the world."

Felker's Esquire will make life better for men, he promised, but will use a lot of the "service pieces" that have proven successful for women's magazines. There are columns and features on investing, job compensation, job finding, fashion, travel and interior decorating in the prototype of the first issue.

Meant to show potential advertisers what the new version will look like, the prototype issue is the first mock up or practice version that Felker has produced in a career in the magazine business. Usually its direct from the idea to the newstand, he said, admitting "I have never yet put out a good first issue of a magazine I started.

Esquire was redesigned by Milton Glaser, design director, and the graphics genious of Felker's previous publications, New York Magazine and New West.

When New York Magazine company, publisher of those two and the (Greenwich) Village Voice was sold to Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch last year, Felker Glazer and other investors bought Esquire.

Esquire Inc., which sold the magazine, reported yesterday its net income increased from $1.6 to $2.6 million for the nine months just ended, and earnings would have gone higher without the drain from the unprofitable magazine.

Losses during the four months before the magazine was sold to Felker trimmed Esquire Inc. earnings per share from about $1.15, the company said. Esquire Inc. still publishes Gentlement's Quarterly, makes lighting fixtures and produces educational materials.

Although the magazine was not profitable, it has a circulation of about 1 million and its advertising sales were up 32 per cent in the past year, Felker noted.

His efforts to make it profitable will combine a new design and new content with major changes in advertising and circulation and a switch to twice a month publishing.

The first fortnightly Esquire will be dated March 1, and will go on sale the second Tuesday of February, and every other Tuesday after that.

Esquire plans to reduce its circulation from about 1 million to about 85,000. Subscribers are not being cut off; the reduction is expected to come by attrition as buyers who got bargain subscriptions fail to renew at considerably higher rates.

Annual subscription prices have been raised from $9 a year to $16. The cover price has not yet been set, but will probably be $1.25 or $1.50, depending on the results of test marketings.

Circulation is expected to average 850,000 a month during 1978, a spokesman said, but advertising sales are being based on a 650,000 total. vertising rates from $15,000 for a color page to $13,400.

If the circulation drifts downward as planned, Esquire's cost per thousand readers will increase, reflecting the higher quality readship, said an Esquire adman.

"We'll probably lose some blue collar brands" from the advertisers, he added, hoping to replace them with advertisers geared to what the prototype calls the "new, searching pacesetting man. . . who makes over $20,000 a year."

The switch to fortnightly publication will cut the lead time for advertisers from three months to three weeks and will move the editorial deadline up to a week before the magazine goes on sale.

This is the second time Felker has been involved in remaking Esquire. He worked for the magazine's founder, Arnold Gingrich in the early 1950's when the magazine abandoned the pinups that made it popular during the war.

Originally the magazine's strength was its writers -- Hemingway, Steinbeck. Then in the days before soft core porn, its appeal grew more macho, finally switching to what Felker called a "cynical, wise guy approach."

"It got away from being a men's magazine" he said, but will go back to being a different one, for different men, adopting to new male roles, said Felker. "It isn't true that a magazine has to die just because times change."