Exactly when we began to lower the standards of what to wear out in public is unclear, perhaps sometime between the 1980's when Madonna popularized undergarment outerwear, and the gangsta oversized trousers of the new millenium. This month's issue of Town & Country magazine features a fabulous spread devoted to the current fad of donning pajamas for everyday wear. Eccentric Howard Hughes and John Lennon and Yoko Ono glamourized the look years ago, and today silky haute couture versions by Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo are coveted by the fashion elite. While you won't find a flannel set on either page of the T&C feature, these days one can't grab a quart of milk, gas up the car, or drop kids off at school without encountering someone in flannel pajama bottoms, often accessorized with dirty and worn fuzzy bedroom slippers. Seriously, pjs have become the new track suit! I missed the memo on this. When did we sink so low as to think wearing nightclothes out in public was acceptable? If it is the 'just rolled out of bed' look people are after, they are missing their mark. The pajama party look wreaks of plain laziness and screams 'I don't care'.
It is a sad commentary on our society that it has reached the point in some parts of the country where, as in Louisiana, there is a movement to enact an anti-pajama ordinance. Shreveport Caddo Parish commissioner Michael Williams has suggested enforcing such a code after encountering a group of young men at a Wal-Mart wearing pjs. According to Williams, one of the men's private parts were exposed as the result of the lounge wear. Shreveport's on a roll. The city already has a no-saggy pants law. Williams told the Wall Street Journal "the moral fiber in America is dwindling away. What is it going to be tomorrow? Walking around in your underwear?" (Memo to Williams: Madonna already took care of that). Several years ago, the principal of St. Matthew's Primary School in Belfast, Ireland, scolded parents in a scathing letter for picking up their children in sleepwear and slippers, calling it "slovenly and rude". It came on the heels of a decision by a supermarket in Wales to prevent customers from shopping in their nightwear. According to London's the Daily Mail, the reasoning behind the ban as noted on signs posted at the store's entrance was "to avoid causing embarrassment to others."
If only those signs had been posted at the Shreveport Wal-Mart. Recently, theslate.com joined the pajama party discussion, and according to the site's Farhad Manjoo, apparently pajama-lovers have suffered persecution for some time. According to a 1929 article in the New York Times under the headline "Court Sanctions Pajamas in Street", a New Jersey barber named Samuel Nelson had made a bet that he could walk from Newark to Irvington in pajamas without being arrested. Of course, he was wrong. He was arrested and jailed, before a judge freed Nelson, saying the arrest was "both asinine and stupid.” He admonished the arresting officer, "Neither you nor I are censors of modern fashion here.” We are a long way from New Jersey and the colorful, roaring 20's. Whether fashion censorship is around the corner remains to be seen. I, for one, will be keeping a keen eye on commissioner Williams' idea. Making a U-turn on the Freedom of Expression highway to drive down the road of censorship of any kind is a bad move. But I say it's time to turn the lights out on this ridiculous pajama party that has young and old parading around in public in their sleepwear. Afterall, it really DOES 'Manner Alot'!