‘Passengers In Pyjamas’: The Debate Over What To Wear In The Air

"I believe in the old school etiquette."

‘Passengers In Pyjamas’: The Debate Over What To Wear In The Air

Image: HBO

In the early days of air travel, its exclusivity bred glamour. Rarely would you see travellers climbing aboard the early passenger jets decked out in anything but a suit with shirt and tie or a dinner dress befitting of the occasion. A lot has changed, with casual comfort being the priority for flyers today. But should there be a return to tradition? One angry traveller certainly thinks so…

Since the earliest days of the internet, it has provided a safe haven and open forum for people to air their grievances about pretty much anything. This week, one passionate flyer took to LinkedIn to keep this tradition alive, taking aim at what he calls PIPs – or “passengers In pyjamas”.

James Demmert, CIO of personalized wealth management firm Main Street Research, has gone viral on social media after sharing a rant about his approach to air travel:

“Whenever I fly, my family and friends laugh at me for being dressed well. In a world of passengers in pyjamas (PIPs) I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s so bad I was once mistaken for a flight attendant! Biz or pleasure I believe in the old school etiquette. I won’t let them wear me down!”

James Demmert
Image: screenshot

It’s certainly true that in times gone by, sartorial standards for air travellers were vastly different from what we see today. Taking a flight was considered an exclusive luxury in the 1960s and 70s. Food was served on silver platters, open bars served dry martinis out of Bond-style glasses and – most importantly – there wasn’t a piece of plastic cutlery in sight. All of this encouraged passengers to dress for the occasion, which they deemed a rare luxury.

However, as air travel has become more accessible and affordable (and flights have become longer), many people have opted for comfort and practicality over style when dressing for a flight. In recent years, some airlines have even relaxed their dress codes, allowing passengers to wear much more casual attire on board… You might even be surprised to hear that some airlines even have dress codes.

RELATED: What To Wear On A Flight If You’re A Guy

Comfortable, breathable fabrics like cotton, linen, and activewear are popular choices for air travel, helping reduce discomfort during long flights. Layers are also commonplace, as temperatures on planes can vary widely and be difficult to divine.

Predictably, Demmert’s rant has inspired both support and scorn in equal measure, with his original LinkedIn post making its rounds on the provocatively named /r/LinkedInLunatics subreddit and copping more than a bit of criticism in the process.

“Is his tie too tight or why does he look like a tomato?” one brutal commenter quipped. “Nothing like being uncomfortable and sweaty pinned to your seat in a cramped cabin for six hours,” another weighed in with, while another joked “Mom, Dad’s booked a flight again for LinkedIn and he’s mumbling about pyjamas…”

A crowded flight.
The democratisation of air travel has also seen a democratisation of air travel attire. Image: Getty

Funny as they may be, the post and its responses represent a microcosm of a much wider debate that has been going on in the travel industry for a number of years.

While some rue the supposedly falling standards of dress in air travel, deeming them a matter of respect for oneself, the airline, and fellow passengers, others find this attitude to be overbearing.

In 2017, The Sun’s Karren Brady proudly declared that she had flown to France in her trackies, saying that “air travel attire should be about comfort not just looks.” Shortly afterwards, The New York Times’ Randa Jarrar took this a step further, arguing that “the airline dress code is an example of patriarchy and misogyny in society.”

On the other side of the aisle is Victoria Beckham, who you might be unsurprised to hear is a keen advocate of dressing up for the occasion: “people really need to stop dressing like they are going to the gym”, she told The Telegraph in 2016. USA Today’s Jacqueline Whitmore is in agreement: “an aeroplane isn’t a yoga studio, nor is it a nightclub.”

All in all, it’s a surprisingly complex debate. Whichever side you fall on, we make no judgement and hope that you travel comfortably, stylishly, and speedily. All we ask is that you keep your LinkedIn posts limited to job updates and sombre networking – save the raging for Xbox Live.