Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pyjama people

In Cambodia, your pyjamas are the ultimate height of fashion. You can wear them everywhere and anywhere. Orange ones with penguins, yellow ones with Mickey Mouse, blue ones with polar bears, cherries or teddies... the brighter and more patterned the better. I used to wonder whether the women who rode elegantly around on the back of moto taxis or strutted their stuff in the market place knew what they were wearing. I wondered for a while if I should mention that they were not putting on a co-ordinating two piece trouser/blouse but actually something we consider only suitable for cold nights (alone).

After a while though I did discover that yes, they did know... but what did it matter? In Cambodia wearing pyjamas out is the done thing. They are a stylish outfit saved only for going out. Why would you wear them in bed? They are smart... its too hot... etc etc For them to be a practical purchase, the only place you can wear them is out. Besides how will people in general admire your latest PJ set if you are just wearing them to bed. What a WASTE!....

It seems the women of Cardiff (being the capital of Wales in the UK for international readers) have now caught on to the concept of bed wear in the outside world.... Today it has been reported that the supermarket giant, Tesco, has banned women entering its store in Cardiff who are wearing their PJs. So many young women they say are shopping in their PJs it has become too much for some people. The women say they are a perfect solution when they don't have time to sort themselves out in the morning before taking the kids to school etc.

“I’ve got lovely pairs of pyjamas, with bears and penguins on them. I’ve worn my best ones today, just so I look tidy,” said Ms Carmody of Cardiff, who had chosen PJs when trying to to “pop in for a pack of fags”. She also commented that if she was doing her "big shop" she would have got fully dressed (obviously).

It seems these cultures are not miles apart.... or are they? In Cardiff, the women are, it seems, not generally trying to make an appearance (or be a style guru) when giving their PJs an outing - it's more a case of not being bothered after they have rolled out of bed. In contrast, in Cambodia PJs are for a special trip and, despite laughing at the fact that women there are parading around in the baking heat covered in polar bears, somehow it works far better for these women than those pushing their trolleys around Tesco in Wales. There is an element of pride in the Cambodians' outfit. It is nothing to do with being too "busy" or "lazy" to find some clothes. For some, wearing PJs may have to do with cost, cheaper than traditional Cambodian silk wear. However, in the market, western jimjams do seem to be a substantial investment at around $10-16 a go... (they are multi-function use after all).

Perhaps it is because the women of Cardiff are not wearing the right footwear with their PJs (furry slippers vs plastic high heels and matching earrings) or perhaps it is because their tops are not matching their bottoms the Tesco managers have got so distressed?!