So today I am planning to write an article on the contentious issue of the humble pyjama. I understand that a lot of men may find this subject matter irrelevant, as pyjamas generally have a bit of a stigma attached to them and many probably don’t wear them – or if they do, do not wish to make that fact public knowledge.
These men would scoff at the idea of wearing pyjamas, as it is seen by the majority as the sartorial equivalent of admitting you still take a teddy bear to bed or confessing that you cannot sleep soundly without a warm glass of milk every evening before turning in. Many would also pose the question – when heading off to the land of nod, do you even need to be thinking about fashion? Of course the obvious answer is no – you don’t – however, several recent publications and online articles have focused on the resurgence of the pyjama as the clothing of choice not only for sleep, but also as a great loungewear alternative.
More and more men are choosing to change into loungewear after a long day at the office – particularly as winter sets in, evenings get darker earlier and people are less inclined to go out. So maybe it is time for us men to be thinking a bit more about what we are choosing to don as loungewear and consider the alternatives out there which offer a bit more of a stylish feel.
Loungewear does not need to automatically equal slob. As somebody who always wears some sort of pyjama – both to bed and also to lounge about in (mostly because of a paranoid fear of having to leave the house in the middle of the night in an emergency!) – I think it is great that the pyjama market seems to be picking up and the response by retailers and designers alike is to provide us men with more options.
Historically pyjamas date back to the seventeenth century, during the years of the British Empire when expats in India used to wear them – both to bed and to lounge around in. Traditionally, the patterns on these pyjamas copied the exotic designs of the ‘paijamahs’ worn by native Indians and Persians, with Far Eastern influences very apparent. By the nineteenth century, the concept of pyjamas had been brought back to Britain and became all the rage – particularly amongst the upper and middle classes who saw pyjamas as a much more attractive alternative to the rather plain and unsightly nightshirt.
During the early twentieth century, pyjamas became a surprise smash hit amongst the blue-blooded families – especially the young men and women of the time – and silk pyjamas and dressing gowns proved popular amongst the pyjama cocktail parties that regularly took place. Later in the twentieth century, Hollywood had a huge impact on the popularity of pyjamas with iconic film stars such as Cary Grant, James Stewart and Noel Coward wearing them in films such as Rear Window and The Philadelphia Story.
It is true that since the seventies, pyjamas have lost popularity – particularly amongst men – but it seems that a resurgence is now taking place. Earlier this month an article in the Daily Mail reported a huge increase in sales of men’s pyjamas and claimed that this was fuelled by more frequent evenings spent indoors due to the current economic situation; many people having less disposable income, and many more people are working from home these days. The article even mentioned the notion of many men inadvertently creating a ’3rd wardrobe’ of loungewear to accompany their normal work and leisure outfits.
In the same month, London’s Evening Standard also detailed that high street department store John Lewis had reported a 100% increase in sales of silk dressing gowns and two-piece cotton pyjamas. The article claimed that this increase had been heavily influenced by the popular period drama Downton Abbey, which is a British series set during the early twentieth century and features the trials and tribulations of an aristocratic family who are regularly depicted wearing such items. As John Lewis representative Matthew McCormack says: ‘Costume dramas such as Downton Abbey have inspired British men to adopt some old-fashioned style.’
Following on from this, the most recent issue of Esquire magazine featured an article praising PJs and claim that pyjamas once represented ‘the height of sartorial sophistication.’ The article details that department store Selfridges also recently reported an 80% increase in nightwear sales and also writes that this upturn has also been mirrored by online designer retailer Mr Porter. Incidentally, in the Mr Porter archives there is also a feature on ‘5 Ways to Wear Pyjamas’ [see images below] dated March 2011, so it seems the experts at Mr Porter predicted this resurgence months ago.
High fashion designers such as Dolce and Gabbana [seen in the catwalk images above] and Bottoga Veneta have been inspired by the idea of pyjamas in fashion collections and campaigns over the past couple of years, and Tommy Hilfiger’s current Christmas advert depicts the ‘Hilfiger family’ on Christmas morning, eagerly opening their presents [see below] – with all of the men wearing traditional checked pyjamas. Not a faded band tee or scruffy pair of boxer briefs in sight!
With designers such as Paul Smith, J. Crew and Tommy Hilfiger all producing pyjamas and nightwear exclusively for men, I think it is clear to see that there is a market for these types of garments for the modern man. As Esquire writes: ‘Your nightime wardrobe should be as varied as your daytime one.’
Although I appreciate that many men are more than happy to sleep in their underwear, throw on an old tee shirt, or even slumber au naturel – I think the concept of pyjamas and their crossover from bed-wear to loungewear has meant that more and more men are open to the option of pyjamas. Not only are they practical in terms of warmth for those of us unfortunate enough to reside in locations with less than sunny climes – pyjamas also offer a solution for those situations where walking around in just your underwear isn’t appropriate.
At this time of year with Christmas and the festive holidays approaching, we are all likely to be spending a bit longer in our bed-wear than normal and possibly with members of extended family and friends – so why not show your peers that your sartorial awareness is not restricted to the daylight hours and embrace the resurgence of the pyjama.
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