Try Wandering the Streets in $400 Pajamas For a New Look

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Photographer: Sperduti-Spade/Bradbury Lewis via Bloomberg

A model wearing Sleepy Jones pajamas. Pajama tops start at $96.

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Photographer: Sperduti-Spade/Bradbury Lewis via Bloomberg

A model wearing Sleepy Jones pajamas. Pajama tops start at $96. Close

A model wearing Sleepy Jones pajamas. Pajama tops start at $96.

Photographer: Sperduti-Spade/Bradbury Lewis via Bloomberg

Pajama bottoms from Sleepy Jones, worn as pants. The line, created by Andy Spade, is meant to be worn to bed as well as around town. Close

Pajama bottoms from Sleepy Jones, worn as pants. The line, created by Andy Spade, is meant to be worn to bed as well as around town.

Source: Lincoln Center via Bloomberg

Louis Langree conducting in a white pajama-style top at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Audience members at Mostly Mozart performances are generally in more formal attire. Close

Louis Langree conducting in a white pajama-style top at the Mostly Mozart Festival. Audience members at Mostly Mozart... Read More

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

German President Christian Wulff, and his wife First Lady Bettina Wulff with conductor Kurt Masur and members of a children's orchestra at the President's annual summer garden party in 2010. Masur, 86, has been seen in this pajama-style shirt at numerous concerts. Close

German President Christian Wulff, and his wife First Lady Bettina Wulff with conductor Kurt Masur and members of a... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Violinist Itzhak Perlman, with wife Toby Perlman, in a silk kimono pajama-style top. Perlman regularly appears in such tops at performances. Close

Violinist Itzhak Perlman, with wife Toby Perlman, in a silk kimono pajama-style top. Perlman regularly appears in... Read More

There’s a wonderful line from Michael Chabon’s novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.”

“The pajamas were patterned with red pinstripes and tiny blue escutcheons. Sammy was wearing a pair that had red escutcheons with blue pinstripes. That was Rosa’s idea of fostering a sense of connection between father and son. As any two people who have ever dressed in matching pajamas will attest, it was surprisingly effective.”

It’s a lovely quote, in part because it so effortlessly conjures a period long-past.

At this point, pajamas are seldom worn, and when they are, almost never as a full top/bottom set, and definitely not to sleep in.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t own PJs -- it just seems they’ve shifted in use: Now they’re basically a distinguished version of a track suit.

Look no further than the classical music world --conductors such as Louis Langree and Kurt Masur perform in long, flowing pajama-like tops on a regular basis. The violinist Itzhak Perlman favors a silk kimono-style top.

Grown Men

These are grown men wearing lounge wear in front of audiences in suits and ties -- if Perlman can wear one to Carnegie Hall, who says you can’t wear something similar to pick up milk at the bodega?

Apparel makers seem to agree. Andy Spade recently introduced a line of men and women’s sleepwear called Sleepy Jones. Their $96 pajama top is designed, its marketing language says, “to be worn in or outside of the bedroom, and won’t put up a fuss if you throw it on under a blazer.”

Similarly, the Comme des Garcons Spring 2013 menswear line was comprised almost exclusively of shirts and pants in pajama material) -- you can still find some of their tops online.

There’s also less trendy options -- Hanro makes a cotton set for around $200, and Barney’s makes a pair of striped cotton pajamas for a hefty $400.

Really, it seems like the shift in use is a matter of utility -- people don’t wear top hats or stoles or spats anymore because they’re too specific and expensive and unnecessary.

Layered Underwear

Similarly, taking off your underwear to put on more expensive underwear in order to fall asleep feels like an affectation of a different era.

It’s worth noting, though, that Chabon does have a point: pajamas have a magic to them -- there’s something exciting about dressing up, even if it is in order to pass out. Just, maybe not every day.

(James Tarmy writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News and for Loot, a blog on Bloomberg.com. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars and Zinta Lundborg’s interview.

To contact the writer on the story: James Tarmy in New York: Jtarmy@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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