×

The GREAT Sears Catalog Controversy of 1975

Culture | November 26, 2018

The fall/winter Sears catalog from 1957. (Photo by Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In the late 1800s, the Sears, Roebuck And Company retailer began selling its wares to consumers. Richard Warren Sears, along with his partner, Alvah Curtis Roebuck, founded this historic retail business. Being savvy businessmen already, they decided to step up their game and form a mail order business together. Consumers were just delighted and look forward to receiving their catalogs in the mail twice each year. The catalogs were filled with anything and everything needed to run a household, clothing and work uniforms and much, more! If you couldn’t find it in the Sears, Roebuck And Company catalog, chances are you probably didn’t need it.  

Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck; Founders of Sears, Roebuck And Company

Year after year the catalog was faithfully delivered and was well received by all. Housewives perused it for clothing for the family and household items for the family home; men flipped right to the automotive and sporting goods section, and children went right in for the kill... straight to the toy section.

 After everyone in the family had finished with the catalog, the entire publication was dog-eared, for later reference, and placed in the hall closet on top of the phone book to be used as a booster seat at the dinner table, if needed.

Fast forward to 1975… With all of the success that the retailer had enjoyed over the years, this particular catalog, Fall/Winter, was probably one of its most popular! There was, what was thought to be by some, a very racy picture on page 602 of the 1975 catalog.

Page 602 of the infamous Fall/Winter 1975 Sears Catalog

The subject picture of page 602 was controversial in 1975, and depending on who you ask, it still is today. Many remember it well and claimed to have seen something inappropriate in a picture on this infamous page of the catalog, which was in the men’s underwear section. If you don’t know first-hand, you may have some idea of what that might be. That’s right, one of the male models was to have been modeling something that was not for sale.

Others chose to see a small round “blemish” or “watermark” on the page that surely must have happened during the printing process. The fact remains, however, that there really was something there! If you ask someone who was over the age of 12 in 1975, they just may have their own opinion. No matter which school of thought people bought into, you can bet that this catalog made its way around the neighborhood if not to school and work. Phones were ringing off the hook… it was all people were talking about for a while.

As you can imagine, Sears received many poison pen letters from outraged consumers. The company maintained that there was nothing inappropriate in the picture…What else could they do? The catalogs were permanently out there!

The 1975 Sears Fall/Winter catalog controversy became a pop culture icon of the groovy era.  

This scandalous, catalog controversy was a hot topic for months, if not years, following its release; so much so that it was “immortalized” by composer, Zoot Fenster, who wrote a song entitled, The Man on Page 602, which was released as a single. Check it out!

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.