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Napoleon’s Favorite Pajamas

There is No Number Two.


Most scholars agree the Medicis were the first to suggest that board members wear their pajamas to their live meetings.  And, as perhaps the most influential family during the Renaissance, there was nothing more important than getting it right. Starting in 1501, at each quarterly board meeting, the Medicis unveiled their favorite PJs. 

Designs from the side streets of Rome to the greatest fashion houses in Milan.  Fabrics from Morocco and China.  The greatest tailors from Seville Row.  No amount of preparation was too great.

  • The sleeveless giraffe onesie
  • The famous apple juice’ jays
  • Giant turtleneck pajamas with the four Pluto dots
  • Invisible undies
  • The padded backless and frontless Elizabethan
  • Pajamas for baby ghosts
  • The moustached bankers pajamas 

The list goes on and on.

As one of the great historical catalysts, for centuries to follow, all the great meetings were held in pajamas. 

In 1873, to the dismay of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin showed up in his pressed khaki pj’s to negotiate the Treaty of Paris. Adams believed firmly that ironing your pajamas would create an overly formal atmosphere that could ultimately cost the colonies Florida and Georgia.  Adams was fond of his own look, a yellow tank top and plaid shorts.  Really a sign of the times when comfortable pj’s dominated the meeting landscape.

Seeing Adams’ clear frustration, in one of the most interesting moments of international diplomacy, David Hartley, who represented King George, removed his striped midriff top and gave it to Franklin to wear.  Hartley did the rest of the meeting topless but it didn’t matter…no one could take their eyes off Hartley’s magnificent puffy slippers.  

Once everyone was aligned and comfortably in their pj’s the meeting could proceed and, on September 3rd, the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Perhaps no event captured the importance of working in your pajamas more than the PJ Fiasco at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.  Although Napoleon didn’t actually attend the meeting, his impact was profound.  

While Napoleon certainly wasn’t in a position to make any demands, everyone still respected his style.  So, when Napoleon requested that everyone wear pajamas adorned in tiny, almost microscopic images of his bicorn hat, everyone had to take a pause to consider the ramifications.  

The British despised Napoleon but couldn’t help their love of hats.  Top Hats, Bowlers, Fedoras, Berets…it didn’t matter, they loved hats.  So, when given the excuse or, dare I say the opportunity, to get a hat on their pj’s, they were all in. 

More controversial was the stance of the Spanish and Austrians.  Both delegations had worked on their custom pajamas for weeks and they weren’t going to make any changes based on the whims of Napoleon. 

The Spainiards showed up in flowing robes with luxurious tiny hoods that made ‘em look like toddlers when they had ‘em on.  Really cool.  

Not to be outdone, the Austrians arrived in classic superhero pajamas. Black Widow, Aquaman, Superman and Ironman. A contingent from Salzburg even showed up in Wonder Twins pajamas…with that monkey, Gleek. Classic pajama wearing.

After weeks of talks and hundreds of pajamas, finally on June 9, 1815 the treaty was signed. 

Lastly, we really can’t consider the great pajama meetings without briefly discussing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which nearly cost Woodrow Wilson his presidency.

President Wilson’s first wife, Ellen Axon Wilson, was one of the few Pajama Masters outside of France and Japan. Her pajamas were so extraordinary that we’re barely allowed to talk about ‘em.  Let’s just say she launched the world of formal pajama wear that would last for years. 

Needless to say Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, was embarrassed to even try to compete and swore off pj’s entirely.  She famously thought pajamas ‘were suited solely for cloudy days in Texas.’  Still today, no one knows what that means.  

When Wilson left for Versaille, he didn’t bring any pajamas with him…not a single pair.  Let’s just say, the other participants were appalled.

The French: Nous ne pouvons absolument pas avoir de réunion si Wilson n'est pas en pyjama.

The British: Each person in our contingent is wearing pajamas representing a different noble gas.  It took us weeks to put this together and Wilson is in a suit.  It’s embarrassing.

The Italians: Prima volta che indosso questo pigiama da quando il Senato Romano si è riunito al Tempio di Giove. Pensavamo che l'occasione garantisse qualcosa di così speciale.

Fortunately for President Wilson, he was in France.  Home of more Pajama Masters than any other country.  William Jennings Bryant, Wilson’s Secretary of State, wasted no time finding so many pj’s for President Wilson and his entire cabinet to review. 

Prior to walking into the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, Wilson spent hours sorting through some of the greats by French Pajama Masters. But, ironically, Wilson was drawn to a different set of pj’s altogether.  Yes…you guessed it…Franklin's pressed khaki pajamas which had been stored in Marie Antoinette's Chamber for decades.  Not only were Franklin’s pj’s awesome, they were shockingly stylish 46 years after Franklin was forced to set ‘em aside.  

Wilson entered the negotiations triumphantly and on June 28, 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. 

Let’s take a breath to consider the impact of this story on our own board meetings and the way we’ll negotiate our own international treaties.  What have we learned?  

  1. Probably nothing.
  2. There is no number two.

I think that covers it. 

Thank you.

Decent Humans of Zeck

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