top of page
  • Robert Farago

The Senate Dress Code Enigma

Do clothes maketh the politician?

The United States Senate doesn’t have a formal dress code. To be clear, we’re not talking about formal wear: a tuxedo or tailcoat or a full-length evening gown or cocktail dress. The Senate doesn’t have a written dress code. And yet… reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “quietly directed the Senate's Sergeant at Arms to no longer enforce the chamber's informal dress code for its members.”

The Senate’s “informal dress code” required “business attire” – a suit jacket and tie or a dress or pantsuit.

Hang on. If the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms was enforcing a dress code before Senator Schumer had a quiet word in his ear, under what definition does it classify as “informal”? Is there such a thing as a mandatory informal dress code?

OK, we are talking about politicians, for whom the expression “I don’t think that word means what you want it to mean” was coined.

Fearless leader Schumer told the chamber’s fashion police to holster their weapons to accommodate Senator Fetterman’s distinctly downmarket style (the man loves him some gym shorts and hoodies).

Apparently, the fact that Fetterman suffers from stroke-related mental health issues and cognitive impairment makes the suit-and-tie thing beyond his mental, physical and emotional capabilities.

Accommodations must be made!

The more important question: who gives a shit about the senatorial dress code and why?

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, the September question before this august body: should the United States Senate have a dress code?

Senate Dress Code - Against!

Those who oppose the Senate’s “informal” dress code have two main objections:

  1. A dress code is restrictive and uncomfortable

  2. A dress code is elitist, out-of-touch with the tastes of lower-income Americans

If a suit and tie feel restrictive and uncomfortable, the wearer should hire a better tailor.

In other words, yes, a “business attire” dress code is elitist. Out-of-touch with a street culture that lionizes $1350 track pants.

Voting nay: Senators Schumer (for now), Fetterman, Sanders and Warren.

Senate Dress Code - For!

Those who support the restoration/continuation of the dress code – the get suited-and-booted bitches brigade – use the following rationale:

  1. A dress code shows respect for the institution of the Senate

  2. It creates a professional/serious vibe

  3. It levels the playing field, creating a more “inclusive” environment between Senators of different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels

Voting yay: Forty-six Senate Republicans and Democratic Senators Durbin, Kelly, Manchin. Senator Scott wrote a protest letter signed by the 46 GOP traditionalists.

And the winner is…

If we go by weight of numbers, the yay’s have it walking away – despite the “help the handicapped” motivation behind the change. I fully expect the code to be “informally” restored.

Final thoughts

A dress code is a uniform. Wearing a uniform does indeed show respect for a work environment. It says we’re all professionals here, playing by the same rules.

Dress code supporters in schools have long argued that it’s a great leveler, especially for students who can’t afford the latest fashion.

Those against the dress code say lighten the fuck up. Individual self-expression trumps conformity.

For my part, I’m against a Senatorial dress code. America’s most exclusive club is dull and stuffy enough as it is. Your thoughts?


bottom of page