The magazine's title font is rendered entirely in lower case, and the publication has often been termed a "lads' mag". The magazine is based in London.
Marketed with the tagline "For men who should know better", Loaded was launched in May 1994. It was originally published by IPC Media who committed to its initial development following a discussion between the company's executives and James Brown during a job interview for the editorship of New Musical Express, also part of the IPC group. In development for a year, Loaded was predicted to be a flop, but IPC considered it a low-risk investment because the advertising department of its Music & Sport division already existed and the promotional budget was minimal. IPC itself had little faith in the magazine; according to Brown the staff were initially only contracted for 3 months after the launch. Taking its title from the Primal Scream song of the same name, the magazine was founded by Mick Bunnage, Tim Southwell and Brown,
In its early days, the magazine's readership was once described as "50% Sun readers and 50% Guardian readers". Brown cited the irreverent comic Viz as an inspiration for Loaded, while Holly Baxter has suggested that Playboy was an influence on the title. Brown wrote in the May 1994 launch issue: "Loaded is a new magazine dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of sex, drink, football and less serious matters. Loaded is music, film, relationships, humour, travel, sport, hard news and popular culture. Loaded is clubbing, drinking, eating, playing and eating. Loaded is for the man who believes he can do anything, if only he wasn't hungover"
The original editorial team also included Martin Deeson, Jon Wilde, Rowan Chernin, Pete Stanton and Derek Harbinson. The first issue, according to Brown, "featured stories on Eric Cantona, Paul Weller, a travel story about a man whose 'bird' was possibly eaten by a shark and photos of a young actress called Liz Hurley in see-through lace underwear."
Loaded captured the lad culture of the time. The magazine won the prestigious PPA Magazine of the Year Award two years in succession, in 1995 and 1996.