If Pajamas Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Wear Pajamas

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I guess that slogan does work better for guns, probably because that's something people might conceivably care about.

At least, until recently it honestly hadn't occurred to me that the wearing of pajamas, even in public, could cause any controversy. Maybe it should have, given the number of words I have directed at the nation's War on Sagging. See, e.g., "Georgia Town Enters Fight Against Sagging Pants," Lowering the Bar (Sept. 14, 2010) (noting that, at the time, at least a dozen state and local legislatures had taken up this critical issue). At least three Louisiana towns banned sagging, including Shreveport (a state ban failed in the Senate). As we can now see, failing to stand up for saggy pants has put our pajama bottoms at risk.

Michael Williams, a commissioner for Caddo Parish (which includes Shreveport), says he was horrified when he visited a local Walmart and espied a group of young miscreants "wearing pajama pants and house shoes." He was extra-horrified when he glanced at one of the young men and noticed that "at the part where there should have been underwear" – you know the part – one of his parts in particular was allegedly "showing through the fabric." Seems like existing law on indecent exposure should cover that, if it was really that bad, but Williams concluded further legislation was necessary.

"Pajamas are designed to be worn in the bedroom at night," said Williams, likely after extensive research on the history and design of pajamas. "If you can't [wear them to the] courthouse, why are you going to do it in a restaurant or in public?" (Um, because those aren't courthouses?) Williams also invoked the "slippery-slope" argument, of course. "Today it's pajamas," he said, "tomorrow it's underwear. Where does it stop?" Seems to me there's only one further step once you get to underwear. This guy is really not that imaginative. 

Which raises the question of what such an ordinance might look like. It would have to define "pajamas," for one thing, which could be tricky. Williams has suggested the term could be defined as "a garment sold in the sleepwear section of department stores." But that puts our pajama rights in the hands of department-store managers, though it could also provide an easy way around the ban by just shelving pajamas differently. Maybe partly for this reason, the parish sheriff does not seem sold on the idea. "It's going to be very difficult to enforce the way it's described," he said. Doesn't mean they won't try; Shreveport has been enforcing its saggy-pants ban, reporting 31 "incidents" during 2010, one every 12 days or so, involving the "wearing of pants below the waist in public." Presumably no other crimes were committed in the city that year.

The Shreveport Times was able to locate two citizens who could be affected by the ban. Neither seemed too happy about it. "We all wear our pajamas out," said Tracy Carter. By "we," she meant herself and her three children, one of whom was wearing dinosaur pajamas at the time in flagrant violation of community standards. "They're covering everything," she said of her PJs. (Thankfully, they were.) Another pajama bandit was more outspoken. "I'm an American," said Khiry Tisdem, "and I can wear my [pajamas] anywhere I want." There is a First Amendment issue here, it's true, although some will ask what the Founders thought about this. "I'm a grown man," Tisdem continued, wearing pants with pictures of Stewie from Family Guy on them. "I can wear my clothes the way I want." We'll see about that.

Williams said he plans to "poll his fellow commissioners" on the topic in February, and presumably will then draft an ordinance to address the pajama crisis if a majority of them don't think this is stupid.