I've had two close encounters with the wearing of pyjamas in public. The first was as an 18-year-old student in Wellington when three or four of us caught a taxi from our university hostel to a takeaway bar in our pyjamas. We thought it was hilarious and that no one else had ever considered doing such an outrageous thing before. The second was at school drop-off one morning when a fellow mother flashed me to reveal that beneath her immaculate trench-coat was a pair of pyjamas.
The subject hit the headlines last year when it was reported that a "heated debate has erupted in Gisborne over whether pyjamas should be banned from being worn in public.". This was in response to a "trend of wearing nightwear to the supermarket, cash machine or around the CBD" which some locals thought showed "a lack of self-respect" and lowered the town's appeal to boot.
It's not a geographically confined phenomenon. Authorities around the world (even in places where pyjamas are called "pajamas") have grappled with the same issue. In 2010 a Tesco supermarket in South Wales "banned people from shopping in their pyjamas after complaints that under-dressed patrons were making other customers feel uncomfortable" following "a spate of people doing their weekly shop in their nightwear".
And a lawmaker in Louisiana "decided to push for an ordinance that would prohibit wearing pajama pants in public" after witnessing young men clad in this manner at Walmart. In 2010 efforts were also made in Shanghai to discourage locals from this practice. "Catchy reds signs reading 'Pajamas don't go out of the door; be a civilized resident for the Expo' are posted throughout the city ... Celebrities and socialites appear on TV to promote the idea that sleepwear in public is 'backward' and 'uncivilized'."
Twitter contains a number of revealing remarks on the subject:
• "I can't decide if people who wear pyjamas in public have given up on life or are living it to the fullest."
• "Don't understand how people can go out in public wearing pyjamas, where is your dignity?"
• "I wear pyjamas out in public cuz I'm following my dreams."
• "It's never acceptable to go out in public in your pyjamas."
• "Wearing my pyjamas in public does not help my self-esteem."
In 2011 the Daily Mail called wearing pyjamas in public "the season's hottest trend" while Join the pyjama party asked us to "imagine slinking around a party, cocktail in hand, in a glamorous pair of silk pyjamas"; a comment on the same article quipped that the "only people around our way who go out and about in pyjamas are inmates at the local psychiatric unit".
So what exactly does wearing pyjamas in public say about us? It's difficult to tell.
We could be unconventional, lazy, slovenly, unwell or simply an independent spirit.
We could have mental health issues. All our other clothes might be in the washing basket. We could be homeless. Or we could simply be taking our cue from designer Marc Jacobs who took "his bow at this season's Louis Vuitton show wearing pajamas".
Have you ever worn pyjamas in public? Is it okay or unacceptable?