Accidentally Ivy Part Two – J. Peterman

This is J. Peterman.  I am not at all sure how Ivy this is.


He does pull off the moustache. That’s Ivy.


The company was founded in 1987.   The company did not appear on Seinfeld until 1995, and if you ask USA Today it wasn’t until then that fame came.

I would argue that fame happened long before or else why make a J. Peterman character, but I don’t argue with, or read, USA Today.   I know I was way into the company pre-Seinfeld.  My counterfeit mailbag has been featured here, and in a fit of dying to be unique in my 20’s I bought the duster, another bag that you had to Rubik’s Cube to get open and closed (I just made Rubik’s Cube a verb, when the proofreader sees it I will let you know of his reaction).  I bought the collarless shirt, and even now I have a linen Peterman shirt in my summer pool club rotation.

It wasn’t but 4 minutes into dating the senator’s daughter (I told you that story, right?) that I walked right into All Ivy All The Time and shunned my Peterman collection like Kim Kardashian and Kanye.  I should have stuck around.  I did ghostwrite a book about divorce styled after the Peterman catalog (I am not kidding), but other than that, steered clear.

The company has a turbulent history.  Initially, there was steady growth.  The catalog became a thing, and they stayed on point and on brand.  Then came the Titanic.  Literally.  The company sold replica costumes and jewelry from the movie and steady growth became windfall.  You know what happens when you get too much money.  You need more money.  So they departed from the catalog business exclusively and went into retail.  And debt.  This will not be the last time you see those two words linked together.  From making a million off of a copy of the necklace she wears in Titanic…


This is the Heart Of The Ocean necklace from Titanic which they wanted you to wear to bed. Well, half of you.


… in 1997 to a bankruptcy filing in 1999 to a sale and then a buyback WITH the guy who played Peterman on Seinfeld to making furniture in ’04 to a Kickstarter campaign in ’16.  That is an admirable ride – long time to stay on the horse.

The other day, I got an email.  From the company.  I don’t get catalogs, and even if I could, I wouldn’t ask for them (trees).  But online… I always liked the writing.  And the pictures.  So I took a look.

First thing I go to is the sales, because Peterman is romantic, but not cheap.  Reminds me of someone…

I digress.  From the Spring Sidewalk Sale…

In case you can’t read the Oscar Wilde quote: Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the center of the city.


If only 10 people viewed the Chukkas today I am pulling WWWWAAAAYYYY bigger numbers than Peterman.


I am a Jay Butler DIEHARD, but for the purposes of illustration.


That, my friends, is a club collar. The shirt looks a little fitted… but still, a club collar.


I am not well versed enough in Women’s Ivy (but I am getting people who are) to say, but I am betting Peterman is replete as well.  It was bothering me, though, the idea that all of the Ivy was in the sale bin.  That is literally the reason I didn’t cut an album in the 80’s.  Fear of seeing that $1 red sticker on my CD in the record store a year later.  Not saying I would have ever gotten into a record store but one has to at least envision.   So I checked the main Men’s page.  A few other exhibits:


I mean, I could do without the generalizations of Cambridge, but you see what I am getting at.


They actually wrote, “… new fashioned old fashion.” Guys. If you are looking for someone who can write Ivy…


And I mean… it goes on and on and on. Three button seersucker???


I cannot speak to quality, fit, anything other than genre.  But it walks like an Ivy duck, quacks like an Ivy duck…

They are clearly no J. Press.  Other stores have a few Ivy items, that doesn’t make them a source, but it does make them a REsource.



22 Comments on "Accidentally Ivy Part Two – J. Peterman"

  1. Peterman has some great items now and then, but I have always found them somewhat overpriced. That said, I have and enjoy wearing a 6′ long University College-Dublin school scarf from Peterman, given to me one Christmas about 25 years ago by my late mother. Getting a bit threadbare in places, but still a nice item to toss on over one or another heavy wool overcoat during our Michigan winters, which typically last from November through April.

    On a completely different note, the preordered Mountain & Sackett Black Watch necktie is one the way.

    Kind Regards,


  2. Craig Sevde | May 25, 2022 at 10:27 am |

    I like Peterman’s presentation.
    Have never purchased anything.

  3. The J. Peterman catalog is more of a literary journal than a commercial catalog.

    It is to style what the London Review of Books is to bibliophiles.

  4. A book on divorce styled after a Peterman catalogue? That. Is. Brilliant.

    J. Peterman’s evocative literary vignettes have certainly compelled a sale from me from time to time. I’ll agree with Heinz-Ulrich that sometimes their wares are a bit overpriced, but at the same time, they’ve never disappointed. There certainly are some Ivy and Ivy-ish items on offer, as well as some stuff that in times past you’d find at Banana Republic. (BR has partially returned to form recently.)

  5. whiskeydent | May 25, 2022 at 3:42 pm |

    Because they don’t make Duesenbergs anymore.

    • Haha — exactly.

      • whiskeydent | May 25, 2022 at 5:08 pm |

        JP’s website currently has him dodging a lion in the Kalahari, negotiating a big movie deal beside a pool, and getting himself and his horse lost in the Hill Country near Austin. I can tell you the third is damn near impossible because there are mansions, art galleries, breweries, wineries, restaurants, and B&B’s all over the damn place now. Even Elon is lurking somewhere out there. It would be easier to get lost in a phone booth (could somebody explain to the youngsters what a phone booth is?).

        • John Burton | May 25, 2022 at 6:19 pm |

          A phone booth is a room outside your house where there is a phone, so that is kinda mobile, but you can’t move it, so it isn’t mobile, and there was ALWAYS signal so definitely not mobile.

          • whiskeydent | May 25, 2022 at 10:50 pm |

            Oh come now. You are not helping the young people — the future of our great country for chrissakes — understand that a phone booth is a place where one can call Dad to ask for more money or change one’s J. Press suit into a proper superhero costume. Leave these poor kids alone.

            Well yes I just returned from my local. And?

        • John Burton | May 25, 2022 at 6:20 pm |

          I so wish JP was a deeper shade of Ivy than he is, he would make a great interview.

  6. elder prep | May 25, 2022 at 7:16 pm |

    Back in the 80s I once read that the Peterman clothing line was described as ‘adventure clothing’ Whatever that meant.

    • John Burton | May 25, 2022 at 7:50 pm |

      Thank you! I remember that too. I think adventure clothing is what you wear instead of having an actual adventure.

    • Banana Republic was adventure clothing in the 80s. Most of their tee shirts depicted safari themes and geographic locations that their wearers had never actually visited.

  7. AndrewK247 | May 26, 2022 at 12:27 am |

    I was today old when I learned that J Peterman is not a fictional company from Seinfeld.
    I always thought it was an over-the-top caricature of J Crew

  8. Trevor Jones | May 26, 2022 at 12:17 pm |

    J. Peterman is – and always has been – one of my favorite labels. Being on the cusp of Millennials and Gen Z, I was not old enough to watch Seinfeld when it aired, but I watched reruns with my dad growing up starting at age 3 (Please see an article I wrote for this site in 2018 called “A Post About Nothing: George Costanza, Style Icon”, or my 2021 piece for Put This On: which is where I first learned about J. Peterman as a character. I learned from my dad that it was also a brand, so I’ve always known about the brand and the character alternately existing in reality and fiction. As a literary buff, I LOVE their catalogues and collect them the same way some people collect J. Press catalogues. The evocative copy is amazing, but so are the great paintings of the clothes (what a cool idea to have paintings instead of photos). But despite the Seinfeld connection, despite the great catalogues, what keeps me coming back is the great clothes. To me, their clothes walk the line between elegant and rugged. In a word: cultured. Or, perhaps a word with less elitist baggage: wordly. The ideal J. Peterman customer is one who roughs it through the African bush during the morning, flys his own plane to Italy in the afternoon, and dons black tie for cocktails by night. I’m thinking Hunter Thompson, but less vitriolic; Clark Gable, but more adventurous; Peter Beard, but less of a brute. And Peterman makes clothes that suit all of them. My latest purchase is a recreation of the legendary Abercrombie patchwork safari jacket made famous by Thompson himself. These are insanely rare, and when you do find one on eBay, they start for about $3,500 and get scooped out in an instant (likely it won’t be in your size, anyway). There have been some decent recreations in the past, but usually they’re either a) good design and quality but very expensive, or b) cheaper but poorly designed so that it doesn’t actually look all that similar. Coming in at under $200, Peterman’s is a near dead-on copy at a great price. I have been a customer for a long time, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

    • Those were a couple of great articles — I recall reading them when they were first posted on both sites. I also first heard of J. Peterman on Seinfeld. I was a kid/teenager when that show was on and just thought Peterman was Elaine’s eccentric boss who talked like an over-the-top Cary Grant impersonation, frequently traveled, and had the occasional bout of malarial fever. So same here: Ever since I realized it was a real company, I’ve been as much a fan as you have. Over the past 20 or so years, I’ve bought a number of things, inspired by the perfect little literary vignettes in the catalogues. Some have stayed with me, others I’ve parted with. Some things I wish I’d have kept: The Nantucket Sweater; the 4-wale cords; and a great jacket they once made in a radiant, Solaro-esque twill with a curved hem. (I recall that one had a story about horseback riding and the dropped rear hem being advantageous while sitting on a saddle.)
      I’ve noticed they’ve started lowering the rise of their trousers a bit lately, which is totally unnecessary. But as you say, the current safari jacket they have in stock looks absolutely perfect.

  9. whiskeydent | May 26, 2022 at 1:30 pm |

    I had Google take me down memory lane and found that the rise of Banana Republic and J Peterman coincided with the first two Indiana Jones movies and Out of Africa. Epaulets abound. Didn’t one of them even sell a whip like Indy’s?

  10. “deeper shade of Ivy”– that’s a coining of a (great) phrase.

    Have been wishing/hoping for years that Peterman would offer a few homages to yesteryear trad, including but not limited to a slightly ‘updated’ (ugh, I used the dreaded phrase–vomited in my mouth a bit) version of Oxford Bags and a tribute to the BLB.*

    * Bold Serge Blazer, which Press resuscitated as Reefer Twill

  11. Almost certainly made by Hertling — these are a steal at this price:

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