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Piercing, sad yellow eyes and a woman’s lipstick-covered mouth. Set adrift in a deep blue sky, the shimmering light of a carnival glowing underneath. It’s one of the most famous book covers in history. So perfect that it became part of the novel’s plot. “For Christ’s sake, don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book,” said F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was late in submitting the manuscript for The Great Gatsby to his editor, Max Perkins, and he’d fallen in love with this cover illustration, by a man named Francis Cugat. It got at the heart of everything he was describing in his novel: a representation of the beauty, sorrow, love, and excess that defined the 1920s.

Book covers like Cugat’s do so much more than simply protect the pages within. They enrich a book’s narrative—shaping the images readers concoct in their minds. Ask someone if they’ve read Charlotte’s Web. That scene of a girl, her pig, and a spider will immediately spring to mind. Same with Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and the dark, eerie forest scene that graces its exterior. Cover art has an indelible influence on the reading experience it introduces.


This phenomenon proved inspirational for two entrepreneurs named Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc, the founders of Out of Print Clothing. When they first met—in second grade, over 20 years ago—Kindles didn’t exist. Neither did iPhones or online articles. Books helped fuel their young imaginations. “We loved adventure and mystery titles, like Treasure Island or the Hardy Boys,” says Todd. “The library was also a big part of our community.” Perusing shelves of books, getting a library card stamped—these are childhood pleasures that Todd and Jeff remember fondly.

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