Why Southerners Always Have a Pair of "The Good Pajamas"

If you don’t have them, it’s time to get ‘em.

The Good Pajamas
Photo: Getty Images/Sydney Bourne

I remember when I first learned the difference between regular pajamas and "the good pajamas." My grandmother was preparing to go to the hospital overnight for surgery. In her bag, she had packed her favorite red lipstick—which she swiped on her lips right when she woke up in her hospital room, I can attest—and brand-new fancy pajamas. Until then, I had never seen her in a matching pajama set. Not once. When I complimented her outfit during recovery afterwards, she told me that the occasion had called for "the good pajamas." Here's what she meant.

Have you ever been watching a movie and find yourself thinking, "People actually sleep in pajamas like that?" At the time, you're sitting in a ratty, oversized t-shirt, while the woman on-screen is donning the perfect pair of baby-pink pajamas. Well, those are "the good pajamas." Except in the South, it's more like classic and crisp Lake Pajamas out of Charleston, South Carolina, or a silky and detailed Lenora set from Columbus, Georgia.

Much like "the good silver," this special loungewear might not be used every day. In fact, there should be a whole set dedicated to the unplanned and unknown. For emergencies, hospital visits, holidays out-of-town with the whole family, or perhaps a weekend stay at a friend's house when you want to dress politely. Basically, per my grandmother's explanation, a pair of pajamas you wouldn't mind being caught dead in. It might sound morbid, but it's actually just practical. A Southerner knows to always be prepared and to have good manners. "The good pajamas" do both.

Ask others, and you might be surprised at the prevalent phenomenon. At best, this is the pajamas your mother would have told you to pack to sleep at a friend's house growing up. When you're older, think of it as the set you'd wear when staying with your significant other's family for the first time. Furthermore, it's not unheard of for a Southerner to pack a pair of pajamas in a baggie (whereabouts shared with a loved one) in the case of an untimely death or bedrest. In reality, you can pull them out whenever you're having a bad day and need something extra cozy and cute to go along with a Hallmark Channel movie night.

Presentable, pretty, and prepared to take on any challenge, "the good pajamas" are a tradition I'll be keeping around.

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