Many people know J. Peterman as a character on the television show Seinfeld who owns the J. Peterman clothing catalog company and is Elaine’s boss. The Mr. Peterman that Seinfeld viewers know was played by John O’Hurley  and he bossed around Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) starting with the last episode of season six.

But there is a real J. Peterman company founded by a real John Peterman. The company is based in Kentucky (not New York City). The real catalog actually does describe the clothing and accessories in an adventure-fiction style that is based on Peterman’s years of traveling the world to find items to sell.

They have “Owners Manual” catalogs with hand-drawn illustrations and stories about their products.

Check out this description of the Gatsby Shirt:

Gatsby was amazing. He even managed to see to it that the book about him was regarded as a novel, fiction, as though he didn’t exist.

Even Fitzgerald, by the time he was through writing it, believed he’d made the whole thing up.

There were those who knew the truth all along, of course; knew everything except where all that money came from. (Even by today’s standards, when millions mean nothing, only billions matter, Gatsby was incomprehensibly rich.)

Gatsby walked into rooms wearing a shirt with no collar. Even a little thing like that made people talk. And probably will still make them talk.

The Gatsby shirt, of course, has no collar. Only a simple collar band. The placket is simpler also: narrower. (Gatsby had them made in France, originally.)

The cotton we have used in our uncompromising replica of Gatsby’s shirt is so luminous, in and of itself, that even a person who notices nothing will notice something.

Gatsby, of course, could afford stacks of these shirts; rooms of them. Never mind. All that matters is that you have one, just one. A piece of how things were.

In addition to their catalog website, they also have Peterman’s Eye which is an “online community of curious minds – an old-fashioned, interactive, daily, community newspaper focused on travel and curiosities.”

The company actually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999, and the brand name was sold. In an interesting twist, John Peterman was able to repurchase the rights to his own name as a brand, with funding help from John O’Hurley, the actor who portrayed J. Peterman on Seinfeld, and the J. Peterman Company was relaunched.

John Peterman wrote about the company, the Seinfeld parodies, and his real life in his book Peterman Rides Again.

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