’Tis the season for . . . matching pajamas. And not just for the kids. Mom, dad, even the dog get a pair.
The trend has filled retail catalogs and social media in recent weeks with beaming families decked out in snowflake and reindeer motifs, striped onesies, footie get ups, and carefully coordinated elf-themed jammies complete with pointy slippers.
Matching pajamas for children have long been a holiday staple, but adding parents and pets to the mix is another story.
Sabrina Garibian, 33, found a matching gnome-themed set for her family, including her lawyer husband, to wear later this month on The Polar Express train ride in Woonsocket, R.I.
“My husband is very serious,” Garibian explained. “But he doesn’t mind being the cheesy dad every once in a while.”
The tradition that first revealed itself on social media several years ago has now become a full-blown consumer event, with young families spending as much as $500 for the photo-ready sets.
Target expects to sell 500,000 family pairs of holiday pajamas this season and PajamaGram, a Vermont industry veteran, said family sales are expected to increase by double-digits this year. Look no further than Instagram, where the hashtag #familypajamas appears more than 3,500 times.
Behind the trend is a simple impulse to bring people together and project a happy, well-coiffed family image, said Jonah A. Berger, the author of the best-seller “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school.
“The Instagram-ization of life has made people want to present their families as perfectly organized,” Berger said. “Wearing matching clothes is one way to do that.”
Sleepwear is a $7 billion a year business in the United States, with pajamas accounting for about half of all sales, according to NPD Group Inc.’s consumer tracking service in New York. NPD did not track sales of matching family sets, but it’s hard to flip through a holiday catalog and not find a wide selection.
Some say the craze can be traced to a “#Xmas Jammies” rap video that appeared on YouTube several years ago. In it, the Holderness family raps a cheeky holiday greeting of sorts, telling viewers about their year, and their love for matching pajamas, all while dressed in — you guessed it — matching greens and reds.
To date the routine has racked up more than 16.8 million views on YouTube.
The video also landed the couple a paid marketing arrangement with Target as brand “influencers.” Target said the Holdernesses are not currently working for the company, but helped popularize the pj fad.
Hanna Andersson LLC, the Oregon-based children’s retailer, takes a bit of credit for starting the family sleepwear trend, if not the social-media sensation piece of it. Director of marketing Louanne Wach said the company has been offering family pajama sets for about 30 years, long before they became a mass-market darling.
“Now everyone is looking for it,” Wach said.
Closer to home in Shelburne, Vt., PajamaGram CEO William Shouldice IV said that company, too, has sold “matchy matchy” sets for at least a decade, but added that only recently has the trend exploded. He believes it has primarily been led by women shoppers, much like his wife, who like bringing family together in a playful yet curated way in anticipation of Christmas card photo shoots and the holiday-season social media blitz.
Shouldice said he will be sporting tartan plaid jammies this year.
“My wife is trying to get me into the pajamas with Snoopy,” he said. “But green is not my color.”
This year, the holiday pajama party may have the added draw that families want to feel “warm and cuddly” after an election season that was anything but, said Roger Beahm, executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
“When retailers start merchandising something aggressively en masse,” he added, “it really does become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Of course, not everyone has chosen to match the crowd.
Retail behemoth Walmart does not sell matching family pajamas in sets. And Maine-based pajama purveyor L.L. Bean said it doesn’t offer pajamas specifically aimed at the family unit.
Its one-piece “union suit” is available in all sizes. And it comes in bright red, although that has nothing to do with the holidays.
“We sell it for ice fishing,” said spokesman Eric C. Smith, “but it’s also great for loungewear.”