Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Innocence and Mayhem at Once: The J. Peterman Catalogue

This is my second entry here at Gone Fashion'. I first wrote about Elaine Benes as a style icon, which then inspired me to research the J. Peterman Company. (Yes, it's real.)

Awhile back I was tempted to request a catalogue, but I felt guilty because of the bank's past bankruptcy. This blog was excuse enough. Already I have received not one, but two catalogues in the mail!

Most catalogues use slender, decently attractive models to make you think, "That piece of clothing would look nice on me." The J. Peterman Company goes rogue by not having pictures of models, only illustrations! Without seeing real pictures, it's hard to get a feel for the clothes. But then again, with models and safety pins and airbrushing, do we ever know?

I thought the catalogue would make for good reading material on the bus, but this thing demands your full attention. It reads more like a literary magazine with its titled entries and its usage of the English language. Oh, the horror. You'll feel like you need a highlighter and pen to mark it up.

What's funny is that the writers of Seinfeld didn't have to use much imagination in creating their portrayal of J. Peterman. The real J. Peterman is the real-life version of John O'Hurley's character. He's eccentric, he's elitist, and I do mean that in the nicest way. I mean, if the (rich brushed-leather wingtips with fine cotton canvas that looks like linen) shoe fits.

The elitism of the catalogue is alienating at first. It's stuffy and fancy and gah, so white. But then you have a change of heart. He spends his life chasing down one-of-a-kind items, and he wants to share his weird stuff with you. In the "Philosophy" section of the catalogue, he writes that "giant American corporations should start asking themselves if the things they make are really, I mean really, better than the ordinary."

Alright, the guy is a little out there. He adds that "people want things that make their lives the way they wish they were." Huh? I just simply want this ridiculous(ly awesome) dress.

1 comment:

Winnie said...

I wonder about this all the time: does anybody you know actually own something from J. Peterman? My mom claims to, but I've never seen it. I think seeing that tag in her closet would be like spotting a celebrity.

AND, I wonder what kind of packaging it comes in. Really fancy? Brass-cornered leather box? Brown paper bag? Burlap sack?