It’s Friday morning: she wakes up late for class, slides right out of bed and decides she won’t be getting dressed today. Swinging on her backpack, she parades down Locust Walk — a flurry of flannel amidst throngs of suited Whartonites, J.Crew-clad collegiates and the like.
While this garb might once have provoked a death stare from Regina George, today pajamas are in — out of the bedroom. On the national scale, pajamas are an emerging fashion trend, but at Penn, wearing pajamas still raises eyebrows.
PJs are making quite a stir in the media. Not convinced? Commissioner Michael Williams of Caddo Parish, LA. proposed an ordinance last month to ban public pajama-wearing. “The moral fiber in America is dwindling away,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s pajamas today; what is it going to be tomorrow? Walking around in your underwear?” In the case of some fraternity babies, Williams may be on to something.
At Penn, what Williams views as the erosion of America’s “moral fiber,” is really just plain old apathy. As College sophomore Allison Brodsky — who frequents class in the comfort of sweatpants and pajamas — explained, “I do it because I wake up and I don’t feel like getting ready.”
While most mothers forbade us from leaving our homes in pajamas during our tweenage years, in college there is no fashion police. We’ve loosened our perception of what’s appropriate. As Marketing professor Christophe Van den Bulte explained, “since World War II formality has become less and less important.”
But in the world of high fashion, pajamas have escaped the bedroom and entered the runway. In Louis Vuitton’s and Dolce & Gabanna’s latest collections, models displayed pajama-inspired looks. This August, designer Rachel Roy paired a striped pajama set with stilettos on the red carpet at the “One Day” movie premiere. Looks like she knew it would be a snooze-fest.
Considering what a Pajama Day connotes at Penn, it’s becoming increasingly confusing as to when a public “pajama-ing” is warranted or not.
Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” But, is that true? Does a preference for flannel represent a preference for sub-standard lifestyle options?
Hard to tell, but author Maureen O’Connor disagrees. In a Gawker article entitled “Is This Public Ban of Pajamas a Triumph or Travesty,” she pleas, “Give me saggy-butt comfy pants or give me death.”
But is this viewpoint shared at Penn? “I don’t have a problem when people do it,” College sophomore and Style Director of The Walk Magazine Erica Sasche said. “I love any trend that puts comfort and functionality over high fashion, but I find it a little bit disrespectful to professors.”
Some professors, however, don’t seem to mind. “All I care about is that they are in class,” Political Science professor Robert Vitalis wrote in an email. “If they want to do it in pajamas or anything else, great.” Economics professor Rebecca Stein echoed this, “I am sometimes amused by how my students dress … they will have years and years of having to dress professionally. I hope they enjoy this time of less formality and more collegiality.”
Yet, not all professors are quite as liberal. Van den Bulte reminds us that a classroom demands certain “rules of decorum” and if “it looks like you just rolled out of bed, I might infer that you don’t take the class seriously.”
“I don’t shave every day, but I shave on days that I am teaching,” he added.
Wharton junior PJ Hobson would never wear PJ’s to class but sometimes dresses in sweats. He acknowledges that “students make judgements about you in class based on how you dress … I wouldn’t want to send the message that I’m a slob.” It’s ironic, but a guy named PJ actually strikes the core of the issue: that selecting pajamas means a greater disregard for professional culture.
So in a milieu that is meant to prepare us for the professional world, do public-pajamas have a place?
While we’ll grant you a pass on a bad day once or twice a semester, we feel that students should uphold a certain standard of preparedness, reflected in their style of dress. Today’s classroom environment thrives upon a reciprocated respect between student and professor.
Would we revere our professors if they lectured in their pajamas? This conjures horrifying imagery, so we’ll stop you there.
Hayley Brooks and Ali Kokot are College sophomores from Ft. Lauderdale, F.L. and New York, N.Y. respectively. Their email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Think Twice appears every Tuesday.