Exactly when we began to lower the standards of what is acceptable to wear in public, including nightclothes, is unclear. Perhaps it was sometime between the 1980s, when Madonna popularized undergarments, and today's prevalent look of oversized trousers belted around the thighs.
The fad of donning pajamas for everyday wear isn't new. Eccentric Howard Hughes, John Lennon and Yoko Ono glamorized the look years ago, and silky haute couture versions by big fashion houses, like Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo, are still coveted by the fashion elite.
Unlike those fabulous designer duds, you aren't likely to find a flannel set on the pages of Italian Vogue. Yet, 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.
I missed the memo on this. But if a quick scan of Wal-Mart shoppers is any barometer, apparently pajama bottoms have become the new track suit!
If it is the "just-rolled-out-of-bed" look people are after, they are missing their mark. The pajama party look reeks of plain laziness, and screams "I don't care -- about you, me or anyone around me."
This latest sad commentary on our society 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 their PJs in 2011. According to Williams, one of the men's private parts was exposed as the result of the lounge wear.
To its credit, Shreveport is on a roll. The city already has a no-saggy pants law. Williams told the Wall Street Journal last year, "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).
Besides, any remaining singed fibers of morality can be found on the set of the MTV show, "Jersey Shore."
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 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. Maybe it is high time the matter is taken up locally.
According to a 1929 New York Times article, under the headline "Court Sanctions Pajamas in Street," pajama-lovers are no strangers to persecution. 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, stating the arrest was "both asinine and stupid."
He admonished the arresting officer: "Neither you nor I are censors of modern fashion here," he said.
We are a long way from New Jersey and the colorful Roaring 20s. But 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.
After all, it really does "manner a lot!"
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