Pajamas, or pyjamas as they’re called outside North America, are traditionally forms of nightwear worn by both men and women throughout history and into today’s modern society. While they have certainly changed with the sexual evolution of nightwear, they still are worn to provide protection, improve hygiene and maintain modesty (sometimes).
Of course at Gentleman’s Gazette we’re going to focus on men’s pajamas rather than women’s (sorry guys).
The History of Pajamas
Originally, pajamas were loosely worn, lightweight articles of clothing with a drawstring pants that were tied around the waist and worn throughout much of Asia, especially India. Around 1850, it was adapted by travelers from European who added a jacket. 40 years later men started to wear pajamas al sleepwear in tropical climates. At the turn of the century, a European gentleman would likely not have worn a pajama since it was not proper to do so but over time, it became the prefered sleepwear for men. After WWI, women started wearing pajamas as well, which was often criticized. Originally it was made out of cotton, but women’s pajamas were also made out of silk.
Today, these are still popular, however other variations have come into play. While many men opt to sleep in just underwear or a t-shirt, the two piece pajamas of yesteryear are still quite popular in some parts of North America and of course, in Britain. For the most part, the traditional ones worn today consist of a lightweight jacket with buttons down the front center to close it and a pair of drawstring trousers made of lightweight materials, often cotton, linen or silk. The first introduction to pajamas outside of Asia was back in the beginning of the eighteenth century when there was an ever-growing British colonial presence in Asia. Despite long nightshirts being worn prior to that time by men, come the turn of the century, it was the Asian inspired two piece garment that became popularized throughout much of Britain and the new world. Despite being known as a “Night Suit” in Asia, they became colloquially known as pajamas or, as said before, pyjamas; a Hindustani word derived from the Persian word meaning “leg garment”.
Somehow over the years, pajamas became a sexually dominant piece of apparel. Women seem to be able to wear anything from a g-string to a man’s pajama jacket and pants and somehow be viewed as sexual objects. On the other hand, men’s pajamas have also been geared towards sex as much of the men we currently see in the media are wearing nothing more than a fitted t-shirt and a pair of boxer briefs.
Despite this transformation, many men, including myself, still wear pajamas for warmth, comfort and hygienic purposes. From the nightshirts of the past to decorated onesies, two piece pajamas and loungewear, we as men have a plethora of options available to us as nightwear.
Types of Men’s Pajamas
In most cases, the defined mens pajama is the two piece garment consisting of a jacket and pants. They come in almost every material and fabric imaginable, however there are also some other styles not generally worn, but still popular in certain circles. Make fun of me or not, I prefer to wear a traditional nightshirt in the winter complete with a sleeping cap. And yes, when I smoke my pipe I look like a younger, yet still crotchety version of Scrooge. I also own the traditional two piece pajamas, wear boxers in the summer and have two onesies, one of which is a superman onesie I was given by my kids, and yes, it came with a cape. I’m not ashamed, although I think my wife might be.
I live in pajamas when I’m at home with just my immediate family. Granted, I pretty much put on a bow tie to check the mail, when it comes to relaxing in the confines of my residence, pajamas are by and large the most comfortable item of apparel I own. And, I adore them and wear them in all their glory.
From thick flannel pajamas in the winter to light Irish linen ones in the summer, there is a wide array of pajamas to choose from. Here are some of the most popular styles worn by men:
Two Piece Garment
As discussed, this is the most popular form of men’s sleepwear. It is a jacket that is closed using buttons at the front, often features a lapel and has a matching pair of drawstring trousers, usually made of cotton, linen, silk, satin or polyester. In some cases, men will opt for embroidery with their family crest or monogram.
My favorite choice, this is a long shirt that comes down to the knees or just past them. It is put on the same as a t-shirt over the head and sometimes has a few buttons at the top to loosen and adjust the neck. Typically, these pajamas are also made of lightweight materials like cotton and linen, and often feature a light pinstripe. Just remember if there are other people in the house to wear something under them. As a group, men aren’t exactly conditioned to wearing skirt-like attire.
Usually made of a warm terrycloth or flannel material, they also come in everything from fleece to cotton. These are the infant style pajamas without feet. They usually feature a zipper or buttons that close the pajamas and it’s one piece of apparel consisting of a longsleeve top and long pants sewn together.
Similar to the onesie, these come with feet. Sometimes they are just referred to as the onesie.
The second most popular style of sleepwear for men, it’s nothing more than a loose or snug fit pair of underwear with a light cotton t-shirt. There are many styles available in a wide range of fabrics and materials. From branded pajamas featuring sports team logos to standard colors like black and grey.
While dressing gowns or lounge robes are not necessarily made for sleeping they are great when at home and can be worn on top of pajamas. I myself often wear a robe around the house, especially to and from the bathroom on a cold winter night. Please refer to our dressing gown guide for more details.
Silk vs. Cotton Pajamas
Silk PJs can look very elegant and feel cool on the skin. At the same time, it is not as absorbent as cotton and although it feels cools it can be somewhat insulating. On top of that, silk is much more delicate than cotton, and you should never wash it in your washing machine. Instead have it sent to a drycleaner as they’ll be able to clean it properly and have the insurance that should cover any potential damage.
The other thing to keep in mind with silk is that many people complain of sliding in bed. If you happen to be using an equally delicate sheet, you can often find yourself slipping back and forth without much effort. This isn’t to suggest it’s like a skating rink or that you’ll fall out of bed, it’s simply a matter of comfort and convenience.
Where to Buy Pajamas
Custom shirtmakers often offer Pajamas.
Off the rack, the British brand Derek Rose has made a name for itself, but underwear brands like Hanro or Zimmerli often also offer pajamas and sleepwear. In addition, many haberdashers such as Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren also made a nice selection of mens sleepwear.
One place that’s worthy of looking are local department stores such as Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, among others. Often you can find some exceptional deals at other places such as JC Penney or even Sears. However, at the higher end department stores, you can find quality pajamas that will last you many years of regular wear.
I often find that it’s a good idea to acquire different styles for different purposes. As an example, I typically will wear the standard jacket and trouser pajamas or a nightshirt in the winter and boxers with a tshirt in the summer months. During the day when I’m not in bed, but still want to be able to lounge around I find that a pair of trousers and a tshirt are the most comfortable and appropriate. Obviously it’s about personal taste and preference but these are some tips I find useful.
The fact is that mens pajamas are a fairly loose topic. Really, men can wear anything they choose to bed and call them pajamas. The above noted ones are just examples of the more popular styles chosen in today’s era.