In a move symbolic of American politics’s shifting norms and values, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has given the green light for senators to dress however they please on the Senate floor. The policy change allows Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) to wander around the chamber in gym shorts and hoodies, with traditional business attire requirements now brushed aside.
“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit,” Schumer declared, signaling the new status quo. But isn’t that the issue? Schumer’s willingness to alter a longstanding practice displays the Democrats’ priorities — social statements over Senate decorum.
Fox confirms that the Senate will no longer enforce a dress code for senators. Senators can now what ever they want. However, others entering the chamber must comply with the dress code. Coats/ties for men. Business attire for women
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) September 17, 2023
Now, let’s be clear: this is America; the freedom to dress as one pleases is cherished. However, in a professional setting, especially one as significant as the United States Senate, attire isn’t merely a matter of personal expression and collective respect for the institution and the constituents senators serve. The lax dress code mainly benefits Fetterman, a man whose choice of wearing hoodies and gym shorts on the Senate floor was met with valid criticism from conservatives as “disrespectful.”
Sure, the dress code, or the lack of a formal one, has been pushed around. Senators, at times, have been seen in unconventional attire, from golf clothes to shoes without socks. But these exceptions are different; they were not endorsed as acceptable by the Senate Majority Leader.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer ditches dress code following criticism of Fetterman's hoodies. pic.twitter.com/KfGeeyi7XS
— Tom Stiglich (@TStig822) September 18, 2023
For centuries, the Senate has been revered as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” A certain level of decorum and solemnity comes with such a title. After all, these are people making decisions that impact millions of Americans. By quietly directing the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms to stop enforcing an informal yet historically observed dress code, Schumer underscores the Democrats’ growing detachment from tradition and institutional respect.
Schumer’s move to relax the dress code follows a series of changes in other state legislatures, which have recently eased their dress requirements, citing them as “oppressive.” But since when has showing respect through attire become oppressive? The same Democrats who call the rules restrictive would surely find it inappropriate for a judge to preside over court cases in a tank top and flip-flops, wouldn’t they?
As the Roman Empire was falling, no one dared say what they were all thinking:
“We shouldn’t have let our senators wear hoodies.” pic.twitter.com/FmDUtsYX5N
— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) September 18, 2023
Perhaps most revealing is that while senators can now dress down, the same liberties have not been extended to their staff. If business attire is too “oppressive” for lawmakers, why maintain the standard for the people who do much of the groundwork?
So, what’s the message here? For Schumer and Democrats, tradition and etiquette can take a backseat if it allows them to make a “statement of resistance.” As for Fetterman, who, according to Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT), is “setting a new dress code,” the matter isn’t about comfort or self-expression but the diminishment of the institution he swore to serve.
Yes, times are changing, but the importance of respecting our national institutions should not waver. Schumer’s new directive isn’t just about clothing; it’s a glaring symbol of a party willing to cast aside long-held norms for momentary gains or social statements.