Dress Codes

Today’s Saturday Q&A over at E-V.com is especially interesting. There were questions followed by very good answers on subjects such as seating Diane Feinstein’s replacement on the Judiciary Committee, converting gold to cash, why Republicans oppose net neutrality, the merits of a civil trial versus a criminal one, and many others.

I particularly liked their answer to the question about the Senate septugenarian men going all 19th century over dress codes:

Fetterman wore more formal dress when it was necessary, but also tried to avoid that as much as possible, most obviously by casting votes from the Senate cloakroom or hallway as opposed to the Senate floor. It was actually that habit that caused Chuck Schumer to relax the rules—if Fetterman is going to work around the dress code anyway (which, by the way, he still could do), then what’s the difference if he stands 6 feet closer to the Senate dais while doing it?

The new rules were primarily the work of septugenarian men who have some very strong ideas about proper behavior and proper attire, and who do not seem to believe that someone who has managed to get themselves elected a U.S. Senator probably knows what’s best for themselves. And before you decide our disdain is misguided, recall that it was this same type of Senator who was behind rules that forbade women members from wearing slacks on the floor of the Senate (until 1993), or from wearing clothes that showed their shoulders (until 2019).

As to Fetterman, we know one reason he made the choices he did, and we have a pretty good guess as to at least two more. The one that is certain is that he had some serious depressive issues, got treatment, and the more informal clothes make him feel more comfortable around people. There is little disputing this; numerous colleagues have noted the change in personality since he returned to work and started attending meetings in casual wear.

As to our guesses, Fetterman is very tall (6’8″) and has a big frame. It is very difficult for big and tall men to get suits that fit well and comfortably, particularly if their weight changes somewhat regularly. Lyndon Johnson, for example, was 4 inches shorter than Fetterman and probably 40 pounds lighter, and he was always on the lookout for comfortable work attire.

In addition, “man of the people” and “rebelling against the rules” are kind of Fetterman’s brand. His colleagues might not like to see him thumbing his nose at the status quo, but we bet it sit pretty well with many of the Senator’s constituents.

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