The Independent, 25 May 2011

The thing is that you shouldn’t have to tell people not to pick their kids up from school while wearing pyjamas. Yet that is what Chris Wain, headteacher of Pallister Park primary school in Middlesbrough, has had to do this week. Dropping kids off in the morning while still emotionally in bed is one thing: we’ve all had days when the alarm is not our friend, when we find its ill-will too hard to bear, and so punish it by getting up resentfully, maintaining the appearance of the bed-bound as if we might sneak back there at any moment.

But arriving at the end of the school day, still jammed up to the nines, that is the sign of a person who’s given up on the world. And even if that’s true, you should fake it. We don’t wear proper clothes because we have to (at least I don’t – I work from home), we wear them because otherwise the distinction between day and night disappears, and that crushes a person’s spirit. Yes, pyjamas are comfy and reassuring, but so is a teddy bear, and you don’t carry one of those along the street, unless you are either eight, or in an Evelyn Waugh novel.

The BBC managed to track down one pyjama-clad parent at the school who was wearing leggings over her pyjamas, the better to disguise her jams from the teachers. That is surely a borderline pathological need to wear night-clothes, when you are covering them in daywear so no one can see them. I’m no expert, but I would imagine it is actually harder to put leggings on over pyjamas than to put them on over bare legs, what with friction and all.

I think I blame the pyjama-as-daywear fad on Jennifer Lopez. Loungewear was once rightly deemed repulsive, only to be worn by those in institutions. Until a decade ago, no-one in their right mind would have worn a fuzzy tracksuit by choice. Yet suddenly, there were endless pictures of JLo wearing brown velour, a fabric previously reserved for sofas made in the years up to and including 1978. She may have looked like an adorable caramel kitten but, as so often with ugly outfits worn by beautiful people, no-one else did.

If pyjamas were meant to be worn outdoors, they would go with shoes. And they don’t. They go with slippers, which are also not designed to be worn outdoors, unless you are escaping from a hospital. The compromise pyjama-shoe is, of course, the Ugg boot. But then you resemble a lovelorn Womble, marauding the streets, searching lucklessly for its own kind. So wear pyjamas tucked into Uggs if you must, but bear in mind that it isn’t clothing, it’s fancy dress.