The Real J. Peterman

5 12 2011


Seinfeld is, for me at least, one of the classic sitcoms of the modern era. I think that the show will be comparable to I Love Lucy, in that it will have a long life in syndication and will continue to draw in younger fans over time.

Now I can’t remember exactly how I came across this tidbit of information; I think I was trying to get an exact quote from an episode of Seinfeld (“I find pastrami to be the most sensual of the smoked, cured meats” – don’t ask why I was looking this up).

Fans of Seinfeld may recall one of Elaine’s more memorable bosses, J. Peterman. J. Peterman owned a clothing catalog business, and he was given to describing the clothes in grandiose, narrative style.

It turns out that there is a real J. Peterman, who really has a catalog clothing business! And in a truely amazing case of art imitating life imitating art, there is a great backstory where the real J. Peterman received financial assistance from the actor who portrayed him in the show:

Later, when the Paul Harris Company went out of business, Peterman was able to purchase the rights to his own name as a brand, with funding help from John O’Hurley, the actor who portrayed J. Peterman on Seinfeld.

[2] With the help of a core group from the original company (creative director, William McCullam, marketing director Jonathan Dunavant, merchant Paula Collins and director of manufacturing Kyle Foster), The J. Peterman Company was relaunched.

He even wrote a book about it all, called Peterman Rides Again. I have ordered it and will provide additional anecdotes as they become available.

Read about the real J. Peterman:

And how about this actual example of a description from their catalog:

Out of the corner of your eye, you notice that the man thatching the roof of that sensational thick-walled cottage in Dorset isn’t merely wearing corduroy pants, but extra-wide-wale corduroy pants.

Aha! The Broadway director driving to work from Snedens Landing in his Aston Martin is wearing, naturally, very-wide-wale pants.

The abstract-expressionist artist roughing it in his $2 million loft in Soho is wearing, what else, enormously-wide-wale pants.

What is at work here is evidence of a worldwide, but unspoken, preference: Wider is better.

(Wales are the soft, velvety ribs of corduroy. The fewer the wales per inch, the wider they are; the wider they are, the more handsome. Why? God works in mysterious ways.)



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