In a major development, the U.S. Senate has abolished a dress code that was previously enforced by the upper house of Congress.
The announcement was made by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-New York, in a confidential communication to the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms. The news was first reported by Axios.
The revised code condones casual attire for members of the Senate, for which Senator John Fetterman, D.-Penn., had needed an earlier workaround. Fetterman, who suffers from “clinical depression” and “hearing loss”, was previously praised for “turning heads” and “redefining fashion in the stuffy Senate” for his trademark “hoodies and gym shorts” while working for Americans.
Senate officials have confirmed that the new rule will come into effect this week. However, others such as journalists and other visitors to the chamber are still required to comply with the previously established dress code — coats/ties for men and business attire for women.
In a statement to Axios, Sen. Schumer shared that “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit.”
The move has been welcomed by Sen. Fetterman’s supporters, who had previously been “struggling” to convince him to always wear suits. “He’s setting a new dress code,” Vermont Sen. Peter Welch had joked to the AP back in May.
Speaking to the outlet, Fetterman had shared an anecdote from his recovery following a six-week stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was also fitted for hearing aids.
“To stay in the chamber during votes, he has to duck in and out to avoid violating the rules. He votes from the doorway of the Democratic cloakroom or the side entrance, making sure his ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ is recorded before ducking back out.”
The U.S. Senate’s new dress code stands in contrast to those enforced in the House of Representatives, Britain’s House of Lords, and the Canadian Senate, which prescribes a far more formal style of dress for its members.
However, the spirit of the new rule can be best captured in the words spoken by Acting Sergeant at Arms, Kevin Oxley: “We’re an inclusive and diverse organization and it’s important that our members are able to represent their constituents, and dress accordingly.”