In mainland Europe during the 60's and 70's vinyl 7" singles were very often housed in picture sleeves, but in the UK they were much less popular until the late 70's when the arrival of punk and new wave initiated an explosion of picture sleeves which continued apace into the 80's.
Most of the singles up to that point were sold in what are referred to as "company sleeves" which, as well as promoting the label and brand awareness, they sometimes had advertisements for make-up, hair dryers and other ephemera that appealed to the spotty youths who were the target demographic.
For many older collectors (like myself) these company bags have a nostalgic appeal beyond their often basic design. Some have perfunctory almost utilitarian designs, but even the simpler ones have become iconic over time.
For example, my favourite company bag design, amongst all the gaudy and artistically superior designs, is the humble 60's Decca bag. Each time I look at the simple orange and white pinstripe pattern my mind goes back to one of the first record I bought, "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones.
A while ago I put together a little video that shows many of these company sleeves, some instantly recognisable, some quite hard to find. You can view it here: