If there’s anything we’ve learned from both history and Hollywood, it’s that imminent misfortune has a tendency to prompt humans to blow all social expectations and go after what they really want before it’s too late. Most recently, the prospect of near-total social collapse thanks to the pandemic has forced a reckoning with most people and their wardrobes. With no real social gatherings and a consensus that everyone needs comfort in any form they can get right now, over the space of a year we’ve thrown off centuries of ingrained dress codes to dress more honestly than we ever have before. As a freelance writer, throwing the rules of traditional menswear and dressing in a more honest and authentic manner has led me to an unusual place: pyjamas have become my go-to weekday uniform.
I sit here typing this article in a striped, collared New & Lingwood nightshirt – an item that both fulfils my deep desire to be comfortable all day at my laptop, but also indulges my craving for a little wardrobe variety and excitement. Since the pandemic hit, I have only really added nightwear to my armoury: cotton PJs (with interchangeable shorts and trousers) from Les Girls Les Boys, a silky-feeling pair of claret PJs from CDLP (what they ingeniously call their “house suit”), said nightshirt above, and a pair of suede slip-on house shoes from Inabo. All of them are investments that have brought me more joy and comfort than anything else I own over the past year – leading me to the conclusion that, if you’re going to invest in anything right now, make sure it’s your pyjamas.
And it turns out, I’m not alone in this line of thinking. More men than ever are taking more time with their downtime wardrobe and investing in loungewear since the dawn of our newly mandated work-from-home world.
“In terms of increased sales, nightwear has been our biggest seller for the last year, outselling shirts,” says James MacAuslen, one of three cutters at the historic Budd shirt makers in Mayfair’s Piccadilly Arcade. “More time spent in loungewear means that people are paying more attention to it.”
It’s a similar story a few doors down the Piccadilly Arcade at renowned gentlemen’s outfitter New & Lingwood, which launched a made-to-measure nightgown service through their website at the tail-end of 2020.
“We have seen sleepwear and all things relaxed really pick up over the last year. We had already been noticing a distinct shift in that direction, but the lockdowns definitely pushed things forward,” says Freddie Briance, CEO of New & Lingwood who tells me that their sales of dressing gowns have increased 153% year on year. “We know people have been spending much more time at home, and recognise their desire to elevate that experience through their clothes.”
Whether you’re spending all day in PJs or simply need something to slip into after hours for another night at home, what might have traditionally been considered nightwear is now something that provides a dividing line between on-the-clock and off-the-clock in an era where the two have no physical division. Even if they’re not being worn in bed, their connection to the act of sleeping imbibes them with a feeling of relaxation and calmness.
“I think it’s important to carry that bedtime relaxed feeling with us everywhere,” says Tom Adam Vitolins, founder of TomÁdam, a father-and-son pyjama brand based between Berlin and Paris. “Creating the 24/7 unisex pyjamas seemed like the best way to bring those feelings to the every day life.
Since setting up the company in 2017, TomÁdam’s stripey sets of matching shirts and shorts – created with contemporary boxy cuts and workwear-style detailing – have attracted attention not just for their style, but for their adaptability to situations beyond just bedtime. This utility has only served to increase their popularity since the global pandemic.
“Personally, I find it really important that clothes are as versatile as possible,” says Vitolins. “That’s why I designed our pyjama shirt to be easily worn outside – on a weekend stroll to the beach or a last minute espresso meeting with a friend, right after you roll out of bed and can’t be bothered to change your clothes. Same goes with the pyjama shorts. I was pleasantly surprised when my customers started sending photos of them wearing them out and about! I think that people should be able to create their own story with our clothes whenever, wherever.”
And, sure, that story might currently be a bottle episode of relatively limited scope until restrictions lift, but there’s still plenty of scope to play around with your PJs until we can all travel a bit further afield. The key is to get a variety of pieces in your wardrobe that not only work for different situations: buy shirts that have interchangeable trousers and shorts so that you can mix and match, invest in a variety of materials so you’ll feel cosy or cool whatever the thermostat’s set to, and get a pair of smart house shoes so you don’t end up slipping around the house in your socks.
Most importantly, stop thinking of all of it as nightwear: liberate your pyjamas from bedtime by slipping a merino wool roll neck underneath, wear a silk PJ shirt to Zoom cocktails with your friends, wear a bold-patterned dressing gown over your jeans. Embrace our current situation, throw all the dress code rules out the window, get comfy and, damn it, just have some fun – because god knows we all need it right now.