Ode to J. Peterman


A few months ago, my sister ordered an old J. Peterman catalog for me off eBay after she found out that I only knew J. Peterman as Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld and believing that it would be useful reference material for an upcoming project.

How right she was. I recently retrieved the catalog for a bit of writing inspiration, and I got completely sucked in and read the thing cover to cover. A catalog. So I decided I had to write an ode to the copywriters of J. Pete of old (J. Peterman still exists, I learned today, as an e-store, but the quality of writing seems to have gone downhill). I LOVE the characters and stories they created to give their products life.


What catalog have you read, not just looked at, cover to cover? I don’t think I’ve ever read more winning product descriptions. They sell you through a combination of a narrative details that ignite either nostalgia or imagination (or both) and the description of details and features you never knew you cared about.

There aren’t even photos of the products, you can’t see them in person, and yet, you end up wanting them (ok well not the Judy Tomkins, because those colors sound awful, but I still love the character). That is brilliant marketing.

Do yourself a favor and take a minute to read these. If you have to do any sort of writing, selling, or marketing in your daily life, I’m betting they’ll inspire you.

2 Responses to “Ode to J. Peterman”
  1. dinah says:

    That is some awesome copy! I can’t think of a single catalog that is as interesting as that, but the descriptions for Rescue Beauty Lounge’s nail polishes sort of remind me of this… “As the curtain rises on Swan Lake, a very soignée woman peers through her opera glasses and realizes the satiny slippers on the prima ballerina are the exact shade of her own satiny nails. “

    • Eliza Coleman says:

      That’s awesome!! I hadn’t heard of Rescue Beauty Lounge nail polish… any product that gets a color name (crayons, nail polish) is ripe for some good copy….

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