A female medical doctor, as reported in the New Zealand press, has described pyjamas as 'the most uncomfortable garments ever devised'. This report was published when most New Zealand males were in mourning over their poor performance in the 1999 Rugby World Cup and as a result, this additional threat to their peace of mind was widely ignored. The doctor was definite - far better than pyjamas, she believed, would be pure silk nightgowns, for men as well as women. They should trail at least eight inches on the floor when the wearer is standing up. 'This is draughtproof, and the train can be tucked around the feet to keep them warm.'
Pyjama Colour Therapy
Although pyjamas are primarily sleeping garments, they have a rather special place in the male wardrobe. Most men are conservative in dress when they go about their business. But they are not without repressed yearnings for colour, and manufacturers have shown that they understand this by allowing their customers a brighter plumage at night than would be thought fitting for public display during the day.
A citizen who goes off soberly to work in his suit and raincoat can cut quite a figure when he puts on his striped pyjamas in the evening. Single colours are available, in a range wide enough to suit every mood, from the chaste to the flamboyant. But stripes are the traditional, and often more spectacular, option.
Pyjamas and Privacy
Pyjamas are generally not flaunted in public1. In general, they are enjoyed privately, and with beneficial results. The 'pyjama outlook' descends pleasantly upon a man as he slips into his nightly attire. A sense of separation from the marketplace, where problems lurk, is gradually replaced by self-approval. He is free for a moment, and sees himself as rather an interesting fellow, not always understood by friends and colleagues. And as he feels more strongly the power of pyjama colour therapy he may entertain adventurous thoughts2.
These aesthetic responses could not be expected from a man in a nightdress. True, our ancestors wore nightgowns and sometimes caps to match; but that was in sterner days. Men no longer have the moral ascendancy over wives and families, which could allow them to wear such garments without loss of dignity.
Pyjamas are by no means perfect: the trouser cord, for instance, may move imperceptibly in its band until suddenly one end has disappeared, and a delicate operation with a safety pin is needed to draw it back to its proper function.
Yet the worst that a man might suffer from pyjamas is not to be compared with the indignities that would be thrust upon him by a nightdress with an eight-inch train. He could not lounge in it; he could make no sudden exit without stumbling; and if he wanted to stalk indignantly from a room he would be obliged to hoist the garment to his knees, so that instead of a frozen silence he might leave behind him the disconcerting sound of giggling.
These are small things, perhaps, but they mean something to men, who nowadays must cling to what is left of masculine privilege. And of course even pyjamas are not quite what they used to be since women started wearing them.