The Moment OTC Got Real


J.Peterman Mailbag2

Off the Cuff has been around now for seven years; and in Internet time, that’s forever.  When we started this project, The Sartorialist, Ask Andy, and Style Forum were the only other resources guys had for learning about personal style and educating themselves about fashion, history, and heritage in menswear.

So, when Mount Gay Rum asked us to reflect on a significant moment in OTC’s history, we actually had a fair amount with which to work.  After tossing around ideas, one story kept rising to the top of the list.

In 2008, we wanted to run a series of tests to track down the best real-world “commuter & dad bag.”  While there were several messenger style bags bags that fit the bill – including Timbuk 2, Jack Spade, and Crumpler, the one we really wanted to check out was the Counterfeit Mailbag, from J. Peterman.

The J. Peterman Company, is a remarkable business based in Lexington, Kentucky.  Its founder and namesake, John Peterman, is also something of a cult figure in the premium catalog world. For more than 25 years, his iconic “owner’s manuals” have made their way to one expectant mailbox after another. With impressionistic watercolor images and short, pithy stories instead of bland product specs, each catalog is a treat for the eye.

The company may also sound familiar to fans of the TV show “Seinfeld,” which turned the very real John Peterman into a fictional pompous blowhard played with aplomb by actor John O’Hurley (ironically, now a part owner of the company). O’Hurley did such a wonderful job of creating a larger than life character that most viewers did not even realize it was based on a real person and an actual company.

The Counterfeit Mailbag is an original J. Peterman product and one we had long admired.  Being short on funds, we took a novel, for us, approach and picked up the phone.  What happened next is something of family lore these days.

We knew that at the time, J. Peterman did not use a call center for catalog orders.  When you called that toll-free number, you got a J. Peterman staffer on the other end.  So, we figured, we would ask to talk to a supervisor or someone else who could help; perhaps corporate communications.  After explaining OTC and the bag review idea to a couple of different folks, we were put on hold.

The next voice on the line? John Peterman.

Luckily, he was the absolute last person we expected to speak with, so there was no time to be nervous.  We made the pitch for getting a bag, explained the test idea, and talked about how much we loved his company (shameless but true). After a few minutes during which he actually visited OTC and checked out the site, he said, “well, I guess I’ll send you a bag.”  And he did, the one you see above, from the original review.

And, in that moment, everything changed for us.  John Peterman is a big deal.  He saw something in OTC that he liked, trusted, and on which he was willing to take a chance.  Since then, we have worked with many brands, companies, and entrepreneurs.  That remarkable  moment shifted our goal from simply being accepted as witty subject matter experts, to instead being providers of unique and purposeful content.

John Peterman, by simply taking our call, had elevated OTC to a different plane.  We were legitimate and on some level we now mattered.

Mount Gay Rum, est. 1703Every great story begins with a time and a place.  For Mount Gay Rum, that time is 1703 and that place is Barbados, the birthplace of rum.  Introducing Mount Gay Black Barrel, a double matured rum from the inventors of rum.  First matured in toasted whiskey barrels then finished in deeply charred bourbon barrels, Mount Gay Black Barrel balances full-bodied character with subtle aromas.  Learn more at

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Mount Gay Distilleries via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mount Gay Distilleries.


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