Last year, Krystal Reynoso sent out a holiday card. Dressed in matching leopard-print cowboy hats, she and her dog posed together, just like Reynoso and her family had done for so many years before. “It was an old tradition that I was really happy to bring into my own family,” she says, recalling the many times her mom rallied the family together to get dressed in matching outfits during their Christmas celebrations for a photo.
This type of scene is one we’ve now all grown accustomed to. Come Christmas morning, our social media feeds become a rotation of matching family outfits. Last year, photos circulated of Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union in winter-themed pajamas; Diana Ross and her family in red onesies, and the Beckhams in white T-shirts.
While many families have been dressing in matching outfits for a long time, over the last few years, this trend has proliferated more widely on social media, with looks ranging from
ugly festive sweaters to Christmas morning pajamas. On TikTok, searches for “Christmas pajamas” have over 44 billion views, while the hashtag #christmaspajamas has grown to 65 million views. Similarly, searches for “couples Christmas matching outfits” have nearly 17 million views.
An analysis of Google Trends data confirms that searches for Christmas pajamas have increased since 2020, with their annual rise beginning around October when families start making their holiday plans. “This is part of our environment now,” says psychotherapist Dr. Akua Boateng. “[We ask] what are other people doing and how can I assimilate and also speak the language and be a part of this social phenomenon.”
The tradition as we know it now dates back to the mid-20th century, when catalogs and department stores would portray families, in particular kids, engaging in holiday cheer in twinning outfits. Over the years, the hate-to-love phenomenon boomed, thanks to the expansion of mass retail and its offering of holiday-themed merchandise. Today, most brands and stores sell some type of holiday-ready outfit in every size option. For proof, see the 2022 holiday campaign from Kim Kardashian's intimates brand Skims, which featured Snoop Dogg’s family wearing matching pajamas.
Dr. Boateng says there’s a wide range of reasons why people feel excited to participate in matching dressing at a time when shoppers are otherwise driven by the idea of having an individual style.
For some parents, it’s about unlearning toxic family dynamics: “That could be a generation of folks where parents worked quite a bit, and they may have not had a lot of ritual and tradition within their family, and so creating that becomes really important for themselves and their own children.” But, for families who have participated in this tradition for a long time, it may be about celebrating “a bond that’s already there,” according to Dr. Boateng. Ultimately, she says it’s a way to present and experience unity during the holidays, especially after the pandemic forced many to celebrate at a distance for the past two years: “Typically these moments are all about how we can do a thing together to show solidarity, to have a unified mission.”
Fashion editor and content creator Bella Gerard remembers the time she and her family bought custom matching pajamas featuring their dog, Poppy, as “a really fun bonding experience.” It started when some family members saw an ad for custom pajamas from Patricia’s Couture. “Typically, my sisters and I don matching pajamas on Christmas Eve, but this was the first time our whole family was included, as we got pairs for our parents as well,” Gerard says. “Our dog is definitely the love of our lives, so we were happy to wear her face instead of Christmas lights or Santa patterns.”
Like Reynoso, Michigan-based Kiana Gonzalez grew up with her mom dressing up her five kids in matching colors or outfits for the annual family holiday card. “It’s a really old family tradition,” she says. Years later, despite all the members being grown up and far away — Gonzalez lives in Michigan, while her mom is in Florida — they keep the twinning moments going. “We’ve made it a point that whenever we’re together we have to be matching at least once,” she says, adding that, in addition to Christmas morning, they often match on their annual fall vacation. “When we find ways to match, it’s all about expressing our love for one another.”
Now that’s a picture worth remembering.