I Believe in Pajamas

Apr 17, 2015

Joshua Riley
Credit Erin Cassidy Hendrick / WPSU

Anywhere I go on Penn State’s campus, I get second glances and sometimes even a few comments from strangers. They say things like:

“Nice pants.”

“Did you just get out of bed?”

“Cool pajamas, dude.”

If you pass by me, I’m the one wearing pajama pants in fuzzy flannel, checkered and plaid or covered with Smurfs. My pajamas might create an odd first impression, but why is being comfortable considered “odd?”

I wasn’t able to dress this way in high school. My small private high school had a dress code. White oxford shirt, school logo tie, grey slacks, and dark dress shoes.  Even so, I never minded these rules. They made it easy to decide what to wear.

But for a few days during the school year, we had “dress down” days. On these special occasions, students could wear almost anything they wanted. Most guys wore jeans or khakis, paired with hoodies or button down shirts. Others went with a cool, relaxed t-shirt and sweatpants look.

When I was 13, I wanted to fit in and be popular. So, it seemed simple to emulate the other guys.  But boy, I dreaded dress down days. I battled with myself on those mornings: What do I wear? What are my friends wearing? Will people like what I’m wearing? Will people like me?

So I’d wear jeans, khakis, sweatpants, or whatever my new friends said they were going wear. When they started wearing corduroys, I begged my mom to get me a pair too.

The pressure of these dress down days, and acting like someone I wasn’t, built and built and built.

Then, one of them arrived and when I woke up… I didn’t care anymore. I showered, and put back on what I had worn to bed, my red and black striped pajamas.

I walked downstairs to a funny look on my mom’s face. “Are you going to change?” But I said, “Nah, I’m good.”

When I walked into school, the comments continued. A couple of friends asked,  “Ummm Josh, what are you wearing?” And I just replied, “I’m being comfortable.”

And I was. Sitting in class, walking the hallways, laughing with my friends, all of it more comfortable than ever before. Thanks to those red and black pajamas.

Now, my pajamas are an everyday uniform of my own choosing. My college friends sometimes ask, “Do you ever wear real pants?”

Yeah, there are times I need to wear “real” pants. I wouldn’t go to a job interview in my PJ’s, or wear them to give a TED Talk.

But I no longer lose my sense of self when I change into something other than pajamas. I am not defined by my clothing, or what other people think about me. Silliness aside, my pajamas have helped me realize something: I’m perfect the way I am. I surround myself with people who agree and things that make me comfortable. That’s why I believe in pajamas.

Joshua Riley is a freshman at Penn State University Park. He is majoring in biomedical engineering.