Fetterman will wear a suit in the Senate. Can we all move on now? Please?

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over

September 27, 2023 10:33 pm

U.S. John Fetterman talked about his support of reproductive rights to his admiration for Pennsylvania’s senior Sen. Bob Casey, during an interview from his home on Friday, July 21, 2023 in Braddock, Pa. (Jared Wickerham/for Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

For anyone who thought the furor over U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) wearing shorts and a hoodie on the Senate floor was eventually going to die down, well, you and I were both sorely mistaken. 

I steered away from writing about it here or covering it as “news” because it seemed like there were other, much more important things that the (small) staff of the Capital-Star should focus on. 

But larger news outlets with seemingly limitless resources and deep rosters of talent – not even just the usual, suspects, mind you–  decided to write agonizingly judgmental and elitist and just plain bad opinion pieces about Fetterman’s wardrobe and why we must have decorum in Congress, yes, the same Congress where the representative from Georgia recently showed pornographic images during a hearing, that august body of respectable people who are about to run the government budget off a cliff because one wants to keep his pretend job and can’t stand up to the bullies who are taunting him to test their resolve to follow through on their very plainly stated objectives. Decorum!

Fetterman, as he is wont to do, leaned right the hell in to the maelstrom

On Wednesday, things came to head when the senior senator from West Virginia who purports to be a Democrat, introduced a resolution on the Senate floor to establish a formal dress code. “Blah blah 234 years, blah blah distinguished body,” I could barely get through it, it was so unimportant.

Here’s the text of Sen. Manchin’s resolution. See if you can spot who’s missing: 

the term ‘‘Senate floor dress code’’ means a requirement that business attire be worn on the floor of the Senate, which for men shall include a coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants and 


… then some procedural phrasing. Does this mean that the women in the Senate – there are now 25 of them — should also wear slacks (which side note, no one has called them “slacks” since the Nixon administration) and ties, or that Manchin just forgot about them entirely because he’s so deeply offended by Fetterman’s hoodies? I’m betting it’s the second one. 

See this is just the first time the *men* have had to talk about a dress code; the women in the Senate have been fighting this battle for years. Women have only been allowed to wear pants in the Senate since 1993. And until 2019, women couldn’t bare their shoulders in the Senate. Definitely not at all about control  and just about decorum and respectability, for sure.

At this point the entire conversation has grown ridiculous. Pennsylvanians knew who they were electing when they sent Fetterman to the Senate in 2022; he’s been sporting the gym shorts and Carhartt shirts for a while now (and we’re putting aside the fact that he’s 6 foot 8 and can’t exactly buy suits off the rack at Macy’s, so are we OK with taxpayers footing the bill for custom suits? Seems only fair if we’re requiring them, right?). 

It’s silly to suggest that wearing formal attire somehow makes a person more respectable. Is a doctor in scrubs, or a construction worker in work pants not respectable? What about Senate work requires a tie? Absolutely nothing. The proof: in the time that he was flouting the dress code, Fetterman introduced meaningful pieces of legislation that would actually help his constituents if Congress wasn’t so completely deadlocked and could get anything meaningful accomplished. 

In other words, he was doing his job just fine despite the lack of formal wear. 

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that Fetterman had worked with him and the other senators to come to an agreement on the dress code issue. Manchin’s resolution passed unanimously. But Fetterman got in one last jab, sending to the press a “statement” that was just a meme that has been making the rounds on social media. He’ll wear a suit on the Senate floor moving forward. 

Who wins here? I think we all do, because we can finally put this story to bed and never speak of it again. Congress will be so much better now that hoodies and shorts are forbidden. This will definitely fix everything. Great talk, everyone. 

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly