The J. Peterman Company catalog arrived yesterday. Wedged between Time Out New York and the electric bill, I could see the “Owner’s Manual No. 64” and my heart skipped a beat. Like an old friend that I’ve lost touch with over the years, the meeting was spent catching up on memories. That Classic Aviator Scarf that still holds a special place in my wardrobe, although somewhat yellowed with age on page 27, positioned on the same page as the Flight Jacket, just where I remember it. I spent the day reading it, the descriptions of times past mixed with the romance of faraway lands still evoke the same emotions. The line drawings, simple and elegant. A simple turtleneck dress becomes “The Conquest of Cortina d’Ampezzo” and by the end of the story I believe that by wearing it myself I too could feign playing backgammon in the lobby of the Cristallo Palace Hotel with Counts Fico and Obomovski.
The clothes are as elegant and timeless as when they were first designed. If Marie-Antoinette wore it to bed, than walking along the beach with it over my bathing suit while fantasizing about living at Versailles will work for me. There is no chance that this will ever go out of style.
Somewhere John O’Hurley, who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld pops into my head. This makes me smile, although it does not ruin that romantic notion that I have. I find out that Mr. O’Hurley is actually a co-owner of the company now. It seems a bit ironic, but I understand how he caught the bug. The company had gone bankrupt back in 1999 and it left a hole in a lot of us.
I was shopping in Wrentham, MA at the outlets years ago and actually walked into the J. Peterman outlet store. It was beautifully decorated and the clothes were just as I had expected them to be (high quality, with impeccable construction), but the descriptions that the catalog brought to them were not there. I walked out and never went back again. I’d much rather sit with my cup of tea and imagine myself in those Denim Wide-Leg jeans looking like Kathryn Hepburn.