Monday, March 9, 2009

But I Don't Wanna Be a Pirate

When I lived out on the East Coast, most of what I wore came from catalogs, L.L. Bean, J.Crew, Land's End, Orvis. Many an afternoon was spent thumbing through somebody's catalogs. It was better than studying, at least. One catalog I never ordered from, (or ever received for that matter)was from J. Peterman. I may have come across one in someone else's dormroom, but not mine. I remember them, though, images that were barely sketches, sometimes maybe watercolors. And copy describing their wares in some Kiplingesque context, with Peterman as the hero. A bit silly for me. But out of a sense of humor and an allegiance to Seinfeld, I ordered the latest J. Peterman catalog, and it arrived recently.

You know the Seinfeld connection, and the arc of the Elaine character. She starts as a copywriter, tutors a psychotic war veteran on how to write the perfect Peterman ad, rockets to the position of president when J. decides to go on a vision quest to Burma, and comes tumbling down when when she spends all the company's money thinking, as president, she can do what she wants. Along the way is the rough and tumble story of the urban sombrero, the Kennedys' wedding cake, and the attempt to buy Kramer's life story to pass it off as Peterman's own. Rip-snorting stuff, really, and I have now inadvertantly confessed to how I spent the Nineties.

Where was I? Yes, rip-snorting. Certainly all fabricated. Impossibly unbelieveable. Well, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, on the contrary. I give you, Exhibit A, The Great American Shirt:
Described as follows: The original Great American Shirt (pre-Revolutionary days to ca. 1875) was cut extra-long, with extra-full sleeves that had lots of gathers. What you see here is a Civil-War Cavalry issue; you may recall Costner wearing it in Dances With Wolves. It gives a man freedom to move. When he catches sight of himself, he just naturally thinks, hmm, looking good, and so do other people.

Oh really, J? I believe, in Seinfeld circles, we know it as The Puffy Shirt.


M.Lane said...

These were some of the great TV moments ever. Thanks for bringing them back.

I have always been an Orvis nut but I have to admit to also being a JP fan. I never want to look like a pirate, but sometimes I like the safari look and their European blazers, etc. They have a great duffle coat. The quality of the items I have from JP is very good.

But I think their best is, alas, in womens wear. A lady wearing the 1947 Dress or the "Kissing in Paris" [I know, I'm a sucker for that one] skirt/blouse [Carnival 2009 Catalog] will look like a movie star.


J. Peterman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Peterman said...


In my daily internet trolling about I stumble across your blog... more specifically your great post, "But I Don't Wanna Be a Pirate" (inject a whinny, nasally Jerry Seinfeld voice).

I am the Director of Marketing for The J. Peterman Company and long time Seinfeld disciple. I thoroughly enjoyed your article and wanted to thank you for your mention of our company. I hope this finds you well.



Jonathan Sexton
Director of Marketing
The J. Peterman Company