Whatever happened to the nine to five grind? UK workers are increasingly swapping brogues for slippers, and a lunchtime stroll into town for an afternoon nap. It’s estimated that five and a half million British households now contain at least one home worker.
Technologies that enable us to work from any location have freed us to lounge in ladies pajamas or men’s leather slippers as we work. But in truth, home working is nothing new – and neither is the afternoon nap that goes with it.
The Tudor bedchamber
Henry the VIII held court from his bedchamber. The members of his privy council were a household within a household. Those in closest literal proximity to the monarch had his ear and wielded great political power.
This hadn’t always been the case – servants whose tasks were to see to the King’s intimate arrangements used to be just that – servants. But Henry politicised the role by staffing his bedchamber with his own friends and allies. The Privy Council still exists in the UK – but only meets in full when a monarch dies or marries.
Treasure Island is arguably the greatest pirate story ever written – and its author Robert Louis Stevenson penned it in bed. Like a great many people of his time, he suffered from tuberculosis and only survived into his early forties.
The disease kept him in bed for long periods of time, but physical confinement cannot cage the mind. Stephenson said that the inspiration for one of his other great works; Jekyll and Hyde, came to him in a dream.
No mention of habitual men’s slipper wearers would be complete without mention of Hugh Hefner. The silk pyjama clad, regally slippered octogenarian rarely puts the comfort of his nightclothes aside.
Whether or not you approve of his lifestyle, Hefner is certainly a character and a gifted entrepreneur. At it’s peak in the 1970s, Playboy magazine was selling over 7 million copies per issue. Hefner ran his empire from his super sized, circular, rotating bed.
Some of the greatest minds of recent times had a penchant for a comfy pair of slippers and a daytime nap.
Our greatest wartime leader, Winston Churchill was a great believer in staying in bed to read the papers, and dictate letters. Once he’d got up though, it wasn’t long until he was back in bed. From two in the afternoon, Churchill enjoyed a long nap, claiming that it was essential to health and wellbeing.
It’s hard to imagine a modern prime minister getting away with a similar daily routine. But as well as being a top politician, Churchill was a prodigious writer and winner of the 1953 Nobel Prize for fiction. For a slipper wearer he was no slouch.
Several US presidents have swapped their shirt and tie for PJs and slippers – at least for part of their day. JFK, slept for two hours every afternoon, Lyndon Johnson was a napper and so too was Ronald Reagan.
Perhaps the last of the great slipper wearing nappers, much fun was made of Reagan’s habit of daytime snoozing. But the veteran film star had an excellent sense of humour. On leaving office, he’s said to have remarked that his cabinet chair should be inscribed with the words, ‘President Reagan slept here.’
It’s no wonder that Salvador Dali’s greatest works were dreamscapes. He practised a technique known as ‘hypnogogic napping’, or ‘slumber with a key’. So how does it work? Simply sit on a chair holding in one hand, between thumb and forefinger, a key. Place on the floor directly below your hand, an upside down metal plate. Now close your eyes and allow yourself to drift.
In the instant that you nod off, you’ll drop the key. The loud clang as it hits the plate will wake you. Dali used the hallucinatory visions experienced during this moment of pre-sleep, to inspire his strange, other worldly compositions. A slipper wearer not to be caught napping.