The Man Who Loathed Pajamas

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Critical Shopper

Two days before the snowstorm that was supposed to be a blizzard (but wasn’t quite), I decided to get serious. I went to the supermarket to stock up on paper towels and cookies and the caramel-flavored almond-milk-infused concoction that is the only coffee drink I can stomach. I went to the butcher and bought a thick sirloin that I would go on to woefully torture on the stove top.

And I went to Sleepy Jones, to pick out pajamas.

Let’s start with this: I abhor pajamas. I abhor most forms of casual attire, even in the most casual of settings. I didn’t buy sweatpants until about two years ago, not because told me to, but because I thought I might one day see the inside of a gym and hoped to pass for a native. (I have; I don’t.) I wear them around the house, too, but I don’t want to be seen in them. If I wear them to the trash chute, I walk quickly.

As for pajamas, I’ve had a few. Two, actually, in my adult life. One, a pair I bought in London when it seemed culturally appropriate and chic; the other, by Burberry, a gift. I had spells of wearing both, but they passed quickly. Working from home — writing from home — is close enough to subsidized indolence that you don’t need a sartorial reminder of just how little you’re accomplishing.

Besides, being home is a prize all of its own. You get to keep the worst of the world, and most of the rest of it, at bay.

But the house no longer feels like such a safe space. There are CNN and all the other news channels on my TV, alerts from The New York Times and The Washington Post on my phone screen. Anxiety is persistent. Even “Fixer Upper” barely helps.

Pajamas, I recently reasoned, might be the only hope for sanity.

In the store, the two clerks wore full sets, top and bottom, with some accessories atop them so no one got too cozy. They seemed to promise that, yes, you could wear pajamas and get things done — maybe not everything, but some things, and certainly that would be enough.

I didn’t come to Sleepy Jones to be sensible, though. That seemed besides the point. I think I was hoping for neon stripes, a rich paisley, a garish gingham — something that would connote relaxation even from space. Allowing yourself space to relax is a herculean task. Pajamas, I was positing, would make it an irresistible one, too.

The choices here were basic, though. Friendly and nonjudgmental. Ice blue and white, or a nongarish gingham, or one particularly dizzying plaid. (Pants ranged from $128 to $158; tops from $138 to $178.) Sleepy Jones is part of the Andy Spade ecosystem, which is why, in these pajamas, you don’t look like Julian Schnabel so much as a fastidious finance executive who packs thoroughly for a 36-hour pond jumper trip to Brussels.

In the spirit of the place, and also of possible in-home soothing, I tried on several sets. They were fine. It turns out it is hard to exult about pajamas — simple ones, at least — especially in a store where the staff is enthusiastically curious about how your pajamas look. (Buddy, I’m buying pajamas because I don’t want to be seen, not because they unleash my inner conversationalist.)

Pajamas also have limitations, which Sleepy Jones, a jovial place, addresses by offering items that are related in tone: underwear, some pencils, fragrant soaps ($14), almost-funny T-shirts that had the names of other clothing items (loafer, navy blazer) in generic fonts ($48), zines filled with strange things said by the son of a friend of the brand ($10).

I decided to buy a pair of simple blue-and-white gingham pants. It was both an experiment and a symbol of naïve hope. Sweatpants, I’d come to realize, never felt formal. Pajama pants might allow a dash of seriousness to temper my relaxation.

It wasn’t to be. When I got home and pulled the pants out of the bag, the white tissue paper they were wrapped in was sealed with a small circular sticker that read, “Finish nothing today.” I’m certain whoever came up with that felt it would reinforce my decision to tap out, but the longer I looked at it, the more it began to feel nihilistic.

Finish nothing? I had, like, five deadlines. I bought pajamas because I wanted everything around me to telegraph calm so that my brain and fingers could be free to roam. I’m not lazy, I’m overstimulated.

Still, I held out hope that a pajama-clad life could also be a productive one. A day or so later, when the snow came, I gamely put the pants on. An hour later, it was back to the sweatpants. An hour after that, jeans.