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I do hate attributing my tastes to the tastes of men but sometimes it is difficult not to, because men are occasionally cute and they often like things. Case in point Roth IRAs, case in point Girlpool, case in point broadcloth.
Five or six years ago I acquired my then-boyfriend’s Polo Ralph Lauren broadcloth boxers, the same color as the blue button-downs of banker boys and frat guys, already lightly faded from a year or two of wear. I wore them to shreds for years after we ended things. They were softer than the softest vintage T-shirts I owned, and soft in a different way: less silky, more natural-feeling, more sturdy, too. Eventually there were so many holes you couldn’t really call them boxers anymore, unless you wanted me to use them like boys do, by which I mean pee while wearing them, which I could have, but didn’t. I threw them out.
A few years later I stayed the night with another young gentleman who offered me pajamas. (It was chilly and he was polite.) I accepted, and the next morning refused to remove said jammies, so well-worn and still-sturdy they were. I felt like a jaunty young boy whose mother was preparing his daily porridge while he played with his model train set. The pajama-owner told me he’d had them about 15 years, since high school or so, and I marveled at how well they’d held up. As I folded them on his bed, I checked the labels, their size and make, and stored the words and numbers in my head for future reference. Land’s End, men’s section, color blue.
Broadcloth gets its name not because it’s broad but because it used to be: it’s woven on a horizontal loom to be wider than its desired width, then shrunken down for a denser, sturdier weave. It was, apparently, very popular in 15th-century England. Now, it mostly appears as a crisp men’s shirt, or a crisp men’s boxer, or a crisp men’s pajama. (Women’s shirts exist, too, but mostly from Ralph Lauren or happychefuniforms.com.)
When you first purchase your broadcloth item, like I finally did recently after remembering I was unsatisfied by my current selection of jammies, it’s stiff and begging for a toss in the wash. Slowly but surely, it begins to soften and wear. It gets rumpled but not unattractively so. And the men’s cut is loose but not baggy; I feel attractive and comfortable and not at all slovenly.
Since they arrived, I’ve made an effort to wear the jammies to bed almost every night, partially as ritual, partially to wear them in. It feels like making your bed every day: a small thing that signifies a bigger thing, reminding you that bed is the place for sleep and night is the time for it. Nights have gotten scarier recently, thoughts swarming and feeds scrolling, and as escapist as it might be, it is nice to feel like a jaunty little boy once a day, tucked safely under the covers.