I received my j peterman catalog

J Peterman logo


“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

William H. Gass








Every time I seem to discuss the J. Peterman catalog and clothes with people there is always someone who turns around in their chair and goes “there really is a J. Peterman?I thought that was just a Seinfeld thing …”




Yes. J. Peterman clothes and knick nacks and catolg does exist.




j peterman catalogI mention that because I just received the new J. Peterman catalog and it reminded me that beyond the fact they offer some fabulously high quality, sometimes random, articles of clothing … it may represent the best example of ‘story selling’ writing you will ever see.



On November 18th 2009 I published my 1st post … and it was about good reading <things to read>.



Which, I believe, would actually be about good writing <although … in hindsight … it is a poorly written post about some fabulously written things>.








Hidden in that poorly written post was a point where I highlighted the J. Peterman catalog as a ‘must read.’






Crazy huh?



I am actually suggesting you should take some time and sit down and read the J. Peterman catalog.



Here is what I wrote:




     The J Peterman catalogue

Ah, J Peterman clothes and items, the stuff is pretty nice.

peterman dress

But the descriptions are written so you don’t buy the stuff.


They don’t sell clothes they sell a story.
In reality if you do end up buying something you are buying what you will become if you wear or use the stuff. Wonderfully written catalog. Mini stories about each item.

Hey, it’s not just a striped shirt you just bought. You are Picasso at the moment he is sitting behind an easel.

It is not a dress. It is a quiet moment with Audrey Hepburn at a cocktail event.

Maybe what I like most is that I learn something.
About someone. About a moment in time.

Standing on the quay at Douarnenz, watching the sardine fleet head out into the Atlantic, just as it has done for eons.

A stiff breeze blows in from the southwest. Not a chilly breeze, but you definitely want to be wearing something.

After a few millennia of fishing under these conditions, this is what the fishermen on the Brittany coast have come up with.

Breton Sailor’s Shirt (No. 2499). Found in a marine supply store near the harbormaster’s office.

It’s made from 100% cotton canvas sailcloth, which makes it sturdy enough to stand up to about a 5 on the Beaufort scale, yet soft to the touch.

Pullover style with a sailor’s collar, v-neck and loop and button closure.

There’s also an inside chest pocket for valuables.

Perfect for taking out the E-Scow, raking the leaves, or a walk across the commons.


 j peterman untamed



To be clear.



The J. Peterman catalog may be one of the most well written … well … things in the world.

It is a sales catalog … but it’s not.




I am familiar with marketing, direct marketing, “magalogues” <magazines & catalog combined> and catalog writing and the finest, sharpest catalog writing is J. Peterman. The company provides Hemingwayesque descriptions of clothing only discovered while traveling the world.


The prose is all about selling products through nostalgia of a bygone era highlighting ruggedness, elegance, practicality and style.


Each page is a different adventure, experience, exploration of a time and moment captured in words … and a piece of clothing or an accessory.



While I highly recommend the clothes … very expensive but very worth it … I highly recommend reading the catalog.



Here are some highlights from the newest catalog:





      You’ll Thank Me Later.

peterman cargo shorts

The three most dangerous creatures in Africa are the hippo, the mosquito, and man.

I don’t hunt. I observe. But observation can be ill advised. I realize this as Rosoff chimes in…

“They don’t chase boats.” Then—

“He surely won’t follow us once we hit land.” And—

“I don’t think they eat meat.”

The next thing you know you’re running for your life from a 9,000 pound animal with 10 million years of life experience. You remember the walkie talkie, amazed it actually fit in your front pocket. The giant apple in your gusseted cargo pocket is a solid diversion tactic. Ikeno made fun of all your bulbous pockets. He’s not laughing now.

There’s really nothing more equalizing than running for your life.

The ego crawls into a hole it should hide in more often. Confessions occur. The calls to the God you’ve ignored (or haven’t). The bucket lists. The promises.

You hold the apple up like you’re bearing the Olympic torch and swear to live a better life. Thankfully, you’ve got a pair of light and sturdy shorts with pockets big enough to hold objects of survival.

The Cotton Linen Cargo Short (No. 4656). Comes in a cotton and linen blend so you get the breathability and lightness of linen but the sturdiness of cotton. Safety stitch seams. 11″ inseam.
1 corozo button at center front waistband with 1 1/2” self-fabric waistband. 8 belt loops with 2 additional wider belt loops at center back. Center front fly with antique brass zipper. Adjustable snap tabs at side waist.

Now, the important stuff…

The pockets. The fronts are 10 1/2” deep and angled with snap flap closure. Side cargos are 7” deep and gusseted with flaps and 2 button hidden closure. The 2 back besom pockets are 6 1/2” deep with snap flap closure. Imported.

Good luck.


–     Sleeveless Flirty 1947 Dress.

peterman sleeveless flirty

The most flattering dress of the 20th century.

Full, sweeping skirt and shaped bodice, for artful emphasis on legs, hips, waist, and bust.

Rita wore it. Coeds and secretaries wore it. Your mother wore it. Women looked wonderful in it. Still do. And always will.

Unless the female form undergoes some kind of radical transformation.

Sleeveless Flirty 1947 Dress (No. 2955), for warm weather, deliverance from the boxy, skimpy cut of WWII utility fashions. Pure cotton, with same swinging sweep and sash ties as the long-sleeve version. Same bodice with darts at bust and waist. Upper-calf length. Same notched collar and lapel to stand up pertly, if you wish.

This one definitely belongs in your closet too.


      The Tuscan Gardenista.

peterman gardenista

A Tuscan hill town.

She works tirelessly with her trowel. Then on to pruning. The lavender. The butterfly bush. The valerian. The milk parsley. The fennel.

I look back and she’s gone. Well, not gone. Further down the path.
Skippers and Swallowtails flutter after her as if she’s the main character in some whimsical early Italian novel. She bends down to inspect the mountain flowers.

Her energetic mutt, Renzo Piano (his full name), bounds out, sending petals into the air and the butterflies dancing off to safety.

Yet they all remain. There. Still on her shirt.


The Gardenista’s Tee (No. 4607). Comes in a breathable linen and cotton blend with jersey knit construction. Scoop neck with bias binding. 2 needle coverstitch on sleeve hem and sweep.


       Russian Navy Shirt.

peterman russian

Wait a minute. Does Russia really have a navy?

They do. Of course they do.

Watch the news on TV tonight. If they’re wearing striped shirts like this, it’s the Russian Navy.

Unless you see a dark-eyed girl paddling a green boat and her boyfriend laughs and smokes and laughs and his cigarette is slightly less than 1” long and permanently attached and he is wearing a not-bad-looking striped navy shirt, then it’s France.

Unless it’s New York.

But if the girl and her boyfriend are both blonde, and pale smoky-eyed, and he, you notice, is deeply tanned and wearing a striped navy shirt, then it’s Finland.

Or the island of Sylt.

Or Krk.

Or Sukhumi.

Under a suit jacket, it’s L.A. Or maybe Munich.

But when they’re both wearing striped navy shirts, it’s Zihuatanejo. Or Sochi.

If there are two girls and one boyfriend and all three are wearing striped navy shirts, then it’s definitely Russia. Unless it’s Central Park.


      Life on Stage.

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.”

-Anton Chekhov, 1889

Please don’t put this outfit in your closet unless you use it soon. It has cosmic power but needs earthly female (and male) attention to fulfill its destiny.

Pencil skirt with leather trims and hardware with modish heritage.

With this on, you are no red herring in this plot. No subtle reveal.words j peterman

When you put it on and tiptoe barefoot across the hardwood (pretending to still be getting ready), your husband’s sentence about changing cable providers trails off. He’s now fumbling everything but his attention. “What, what was I…”


Second act complete.

Third act up to you.


That is just fabulous writing. And think about it … it is a frickin’ sales catalog.

I don’t like to talk about branding and how to ‘build a brand’ … but if I were to do so … J. Peterman Catalog. Best ‘brand communications’ I can think of.

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Written by Bruce