Men's Pajama Guide

Men’s Pajama Primer

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.

Night Shirt

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.

Footed Pajamas

Similar to the onesie, these come with feet. Sometimes they are just referred to as the onesie.

Modern Pajamas

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.

Dressing Gown

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.

What are your favorite pajamas?

The Men's Pajama Primer
Article Name
The Men's Pajama Primer
Pajamas have long been the chosen sleepwear for men and women. Here, we focus on the men's pajama trend and its history and influences.
22 replies
  1. David Louden says:

    Really something for thoughtful folk to consider. Pajamas offer a casual means of conservation and style. Fabric availability is considerable and designed to fit the season and, ah yeas, latitude. Add a housecoat or bed jacket with pockets that will accept a note pad and pen, and you are off on an adventure to authorship or chronicler of hopes and dreams. One might build an entire scenario of culture, adventure, or just simple reflection around the pajama, not to mention the tease turned towards that special one you share life with. The dog, the slippers, and the sherry included if one wishes. A sight different than the sleeping under the stars I’ve done in my life. Cheers.

  2. Angelo A. Sedacca says:

    I am of the school that a true gentleman will not sleep in his underwear. A clean undershirt is OK but never underpants. I feel that doing so is gauche.

    In the summer, one could wear what I call “shorty pajamas” : a two (2) piece cotton outfit featuring a short-sleeve pajama shirt and short-legged pajama pants (akin to boxers).

    In the winter, one would wear long-sleeve and long-leg pajamas of cotton or flannel.

  3. Angelo A. Sedacca says:

    To go even one step further: I feel that whether one wears a nightshirt or two-piece pajamas or a “onesie,” one does not walk or lounge around the house in such with wearing a robe or dressing gown over them.

    This demonstrates modesty and respect for any females — or guests of either gender — thatay be present in the residence.

  4. Keith says:

    Great article, sir. Derek Rose remains my favourite manufacturer of pajamas. However, Brooks Brothers come a close second. I lounge around the house in them and have them on before bed. But I rarely sleep in them.

  5. Vikram Nanjappa says:

    The traditional Indian Kurta Pajama was adopted as the dress of choice by the early British factors in India as it was best suited for the climate . However over time , especially after the arrival of Victorian morals in India ( and Englishwoman in large numbers ) wearing traditional Indian clothing began to be looked down upon and could be detrimental to ones career . They were then worn only around the privacy of ones home and eventually relegated to just night wear.

  6. Sibari says:

    Great Article.

    I always loved Derek Rose but Apparently they do not longer produce in England. I am refering about the boxer where the cotton is not the best as it used to be. I do not know about their pajamas now, really.
    Anyway due to my bespoke preference in everything, I am using now Anna Matuozzo’s bespoke pajamas and gowns: they are mainly linen( spring summer) cotton( autumn) and warm cotton( winter).

    Linen pajamas are really a great thing and they are really not easy to be found, unfortunately.

    Saluti from the South of Italy.

  7. Edwin says:

    I usually wear sweat pants to bed but recently bought a pair of lounge bottoms and they are of cotton flannel and really comfortable….

  8. Ty Atwater says:

    I’m fortunate to have been raised by parents who instilled in me the great tradition of wearing proper pajamas. My favorite pair are a simple pinstripe from Ralph Lauren.

  9. Andrew Darling says:

    I have always loved pyjamas and used to get quite good pull ons from Boden, but a couple of years ago I discovered who manufacture fantastic pyjamas in the UK but distribute to the states. The quality seems even better than some of the big brands, but I quite fancy a pair from Ralph Lauren too.

  10. David S. says:

    I wonder if the popularity of period dramas with meticulous costuming like Mad Men, Downton Abbey are driving a new interest in “old fashioned” sleepwear…. Regardless, it’s a traditional style that I don’t think really went out of style.

    I was bold and bought some Derek Rose sets a couple of years ago off Sierra Trading Post with some reward points and windfall cash. Very, very nice clothing, very fine material. I’ve also scored well finding good American brand “lounge wear” (the nouveau term in big box stores now, I gather): CK, Tommy Hilfiger, et al. You have to be wary, I think these items are seen as “gravy” product lines, overpriced and under-manufactured, not expected to last. To ensure good value, careful attention has to be paid to material, seams, stitching even. And then … cold water gentle washing and drip dry seems to be de rigueur if you want them to a) last and b) maintain some presentability.

    I agree with you, Sven, that they have a place outside the bed if one’s in intimate company. Just spend some time with the screwball comedies of the Golden Era of Hollywood, and you’ll find William Powell, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, et al, in the home wearing stylish sleepwear and dressing robes. Hugh Hefner famously made silk pajamas and robe his standard wear in his mansion, but there’s more overt message there than decorum, I think. If anything, Hefner made it a sort of joke.

    If in the company of intimates or close companions, I’ll probably have some kind of undergarment beneath my sleepwear to prevent any untoward outline or appearance visible to guests who aren’t my romantic partners. I have one or two sets that really are more comfortable about the house than in bed, per se. It lends an air of trust and intimacy, but only if everyone can be so casual. Wearing sleepwear with friends who are in outside casual clothes sets an unfair iniquity.

    I concur with the comment above, wearing the day’s undergarments to bed is a no-no. But clean ones, perhaps those appreciated by your companion — a resounding yes. I find in warmer weather some of the Egyptian cotton undergarments from Sunspel are perfect (a favorite of the recent Bond films’ costumer). (N.B. In the Ian Fleming books, Bond preferred long nightshirts, a habit acquired in Asia IIRC.) If you’re in good shape, close-fitting, lightweight tee shirts (even of nylon) can be quite flattering and sensually pleasing.

    • David S. says:

      Oh, for a classic example of a man who spends just about all his time in pajamas … get the Hitchcock classic, REAR WINDOW, on Blu-Ray. The pattern of his clean, blue pajamas stands out on BD. (He’s also got a very stylish Tissot watch IIRC.) Crisp clean pjs and Grace Kelly bringing her own in a compact Mark Cross overnight bag, what more could a man want?

  11. thomasjones says:

    Thank you for promoting, fortifing, marketing Gentlemenship to be part of the mans’ lifestyle and culture.wonderful work. You helped create dr. mandandi the haberdasher.A world class company-in my head. Have a wonderful dandy of a day..all of us. thomasjonesjr.,dr.mandnadi

  12. Larry P. Burton says:

    I wear pajamas, nightshirts, robes, and slippers. The nightshirts are only worn only in the summer months. These items are all from Brook’s Brothers. I add a finishing touch, by having them monogramed.

  13. John Woodruff says:

    Personally, I believe every gentleman should have and wear proper pajamas. Many men don’t know the wonderful comfort of a well made pair. Nightshirts as well are extremely comfortable, especially in the summer months. Once you start wearing proper nightwear to sleep in you won’t want to go back. Also, looks so much better lounging in pajamas then boxers or sweatpants, in my opinion. My pajamas are my favorite item of clothing and I live in them when I get home from work.

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