A lot of iconic catalog brands from the '80s and '90s have survived and even thrived online. Coldwater Creek springs immediately to mind. So do J. Crew, L.L. Bean, and even Williams-Sonoma. These are all distinct brands that smack of quality, unique items, and the stories behind them.

Yet one brand that should sit among their ranks today... doesn't: J. Peterman.

Remember J. Peterman and its colorful, watercolor catalogs? Each item had a distinct story, so carefully and artfully created that it actually spawned a Seinfeld character who spoke in the catalog's unique, film-noir-esque vernacular:

The 1935 Camel Polo Coat
"What are you prepared to do?"
1935.
You ease a new '35 Bugatti Type 57 Grand Roadster to a stop.
Tommy Dorsey spills from the Blaupunkt car speakers.
Orange neon lights from Chicago Theatre light up the night sky like a wild blaze.
You toss keys to an attendant and unbutton your coat. Pausing, taking it all in. The cobblestone street is alive with jazz; it's Syncopation week, seven stories and a half-city block of celebration.

How can you fail with copy like that?

And yet, it did. Somehow, somewhere, between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, the J. Peterman catalog lost its spark.

From the nuanced, carefully penned copy we somehow ended up with Facebook page posts like "Winter Goods Up to 61% Off - Snag Best Dressed at This Year's Hibernation Party."

Really? Shouldn't there be something about searching the far corners of Nepal wearing the "unintentionally flattering" J. Peterman Coat and Shearling Gloves ("hand sewn with warm, natural, curly lamb lining") for those "Winter Goods"?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Dilip  Venkatachari

Dilip Venkatachari is the CEO and co-founder of Compass Labs.