China: real-life fashion police crack down on public pajama-wearers

Shanghai will host the World Expo next year, and city officials are preparing for the influx of foreigners with a campaign to ban citizens from wearing their pajamas out in the streets. An article in the Chengdu Business Daily expresses outrage over the campaign as a civil rights abuse. Snip:
shanghai.pajamas.jpg Many Shanghai residents are used to loitering around the streets in their pajamas. But now the municipal government is making every effort to stop them from doing so, because it would be a "loss of face" for city authorities if a foreigner sees people walking the streets in pajamas during the 2010 World Expo. (...)

As a modern international metropolis, Shanghai has been playing host to foreigners for decades. So why have pajamas become embarrassing only now? And will it be okay for people to walk the streets in pajamas after the World Expo? Why should we change our habits and customs to suit foreigners' taste when we travel abroad as well as when we play host to them? Do we suffer from a sense of inferiority?

What's wrong with a person in pajamas? [via Rebecca MacKinnon]

A quick Google of "shanghai" + "pajamas" reveals many articles in Western media over the past decade about Shanghai's pajama-wearing citizenry, and their government's fruitless attempts to mandate their fashion choices. Apparently, walking around in the street in your jammies is a familiar part of local culture in old neighborhoods there, in part because the realms of public and private space are so blurred in daily life.


  1. In the name of modern, international metropolitanism, Shanghai should be celebrating public pajama-wearing as the future. Don’t they get ST:NG in China?

  2. More power to the pyjama-wearers, I say! I will now proceed to boycott the World Expo!
    (Well, I wasn’t going to go anyway, but now it’s OFFICIAL!)
    People can wear wtf they want – and I reserve the right to mercilessly mock them for it.

  3. I usually go to buy my morning orange juice wearing my pajamas,it is only two blocks away… I use a rob anyway…

  4. Note to Shanghai: Modern, international metropolitan adults recognise that allowing one’s citizenry the /freedom/ to wear their pyjamas in public is much more /honourable/ than instituting a fashion police. You only “lose face” for doing this silly, censorious and petty thuggery.

  5. Pajamas? The Dude abides.

    I just find it hilarious that the citizens of Shanghai are laid back enough to abide flagrant pajama abuse.

    Right on…

  6. Pajamas are just loose clothing, usually in a soft fabric. It’s a Hindustani word: Indian street clothing often looks like this anyway. Now if they were footy-pajamas, or had the single button on the fly with no underwear, that would be totally different. However, I never wear my indoor clothes outdoors and vice versa: I find it unsettling to sit on my couch in the same pants I sat on a bus in.

    1. Really?

      That strikes me as a tad weird. Not in the “get away from me freak” kind of sense, just in the “I can’t imagine being irked by wearing jeans anywhere” sense.

      Each to their own however!

  7. “An article in the Chengdu Business Daily expresses outrage over the campaign as a civil rights abuse.”

    You… you do realize you’re in China… right?

    1. You do realize that that your comment makes you sound like all you know about China are stereotypes?

  8. They obviously have never walked around Greenwich Village in the springtime…

    (Fucking NYU students. Get off my lawn!)

    1. Personally? No. I don’t like wearing clothes to bed.

      But I don’t understand why people would get upset when I wear them out. They’re warm, soft and comfy; thereby fulfilling all my clothing needs. If all my parts are covered, what’s the problem?

  9. I was told when I was in China that wearing your pajamas publicly was a sign of status and wealth – someone who can afford pajamas and the leisure time

  10. By tolerating pajamas in daily public activities, we destroy the need for ‘pajama day’ as a fun team building exercise for use in schools and workplaces. In fact, if pajamas are worn like everyday clothes, they will eventually become everyday clothes and cease to be pajamas. Then we will no longer even need the word Pajamas which is really fun to say.

    So please, save pajamas by refusing to wear them in public.


  11. I embrace jammy wearing in public. I live in Brooklyn. My Deli is my “kitchen”, my Laundromat is my “laundromat”, The one block radius in my neighborhood is an extension of my apartment and I travel freely in my pajamas, my sleep/bath robe to if its chilly. I would feel more at home if I traveled into another hood/Country where people were wearing Jammys. Also its hard to conceal a weapon in pajamas.

  12. @12 – I believe you are on the right track – as things have loosened (politically, socially, and economically) in China, many took to wearing pajamas in public as they were until relatively recently a luxury not easily attainable for the vast majority of the population. They were a symbol of wealth and status but now most anyone can afford them.

  13. I started wearing surgical scrubs, top and bottoms, when I had prostate surgery and found them to be the ultimate comfort clothes. I felt a little self conscious the first couple of times to outside events but then because of the positive response from others on how comfy they looked, I just kept on wearing them. This is in the Los Angeles area. Pajamas actually are colored and patterned up loose fitting soft scrubs it seems like to me. Wear ’em if you got ’em….. The Chinese and me are maybe a little ahead of the times, eh? And they are inexpensive for casual wear to boot.

  14. A few years back, just about every tenth person you crossed paths with was wearing surgical scrub tops because it had become such a huge fad.

  15. f y’r t stpd t gt drssd bfr gng t, y shld prbbly b rndd p nd strlzd. dn’t cr wht y thnk bt th cmfrt f t r whtvr ls. Y lv n scty, nd ths y hld crtn blgtns, n f whch s gttng drssd bfr gng t.

    Frthrmr, pjms? Rlly? slp rw s hll. Wh ctlly wrs jmms t bd nymr? r y dts tht mtnlly stntd? Why r y stll lv? N, srsly, ths sn’t snrk. Why hvn’t y stck frk n n tlt by nw? Dn’t y knw thr r smrt ppl n th wrld wh r hngry nd cld s th rsrcs y’r wstng?

    1. Have you eve thought that some people live in colder climates than you, and an extra layer whilst sleeping really improves the experience, without driving up heating costs?

      I’d say it’s a green alternative, and yes, I wear jammies in winter. Not because I’m prudish or emotionally stunted, but because they are cozy as hell.

    2. But I am dressed. As in, all of my parts are covered. What more do you want? A pony? I really don’t think running errands and shopping has the same kind of dress requirements that, say, a white collar job has.

      You’re not one of those people who long for the days when people would get dressed up to take trips are you? ‘Cuz the last thing I want to do in down time in put on stiff, cold, uncomfortable clothes that I’m afraid to move in least they be damaged to go grocery shopping or be miserably sick on a plane.

  16. I slip into pajamas the moment I get home, and pretty much stay in them until I get up. During the cooler months especially, since I seldom run my heater above a certain point. They’re comfortable. I guess I’m just an emotionally stunted idiot, eh Pinehead? Let me go get that fork…

  17. Do you think that these pj wearers actually get into bed and wallow around in bed with the same pj’s that they’ve worn outside? Doesn’t seem very sanitary to me. Yuk! I wonder what kind of work they do.

  18. There needs to be a place for everything. It is decorum and by definition that is propriety in manners and conduct

  19. I had forgotten all about that wearing surgical scrubs fad. My boyfriend in college wore a blue shirt like that a lot! What a goof ball he was. I think Rick Springfield started that whole thing.

    Lots of college kids around here wear ‘pajama pants’ out in public. I see it at the grocery store all the time. I once wore a pair to a Publix in Boca Raton, Florida. I guess I felt bold and reckless being in away from home, and I was half lit…we were going back for more wine!

    1. Lots of college kids around here wear ‘pajama pants’ out in public.

      It’s also possibly the long leg gym pants that have become very popular in the last 10 years or “lounge pants”.

  20. I’ve been living just outside of Shanghai for two months now and let me tell you, there is nothing exaggerated, hyperbolic or facetious in this article. For realz…

Comments are closed.