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.