Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has quietly made a significant change in the Senate's dress code policy. The traditional informal dress code, which has long been upheld in the Senate chamber, will no longer be enforced by the Senate's Sergeant at Arms.
This change comes as good news for Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who is known for his preference for casual clothing such as gym shorts and hoodies, in contrast to the more typical suit and pants attire seen on the Senate floor.
According to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Fetterman, a Democrat, initially assumed office in a suit and tie but has since developed a preference for his signature shorts and Carhartt hoodies.
The new rule, scheduled to take effect this week as confirmed by a Senate official, will only apply to senators. Staff members will still be required to adhere to the previous dress code.
In response to the change, Schumer stated in a statement to Axios, "Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit."
Interestingly, The Inquirer noted that since his break from office to seek treatment for clinical depression, Fetterman has occasionally dressed up in a suit and tie while inside the Senate chamber. However, he often dons casual clothing when present in the Capitol. Moreover, Fetterman has been observed participating in votes from the edge of the Senate floor, leaving one foot in the cloakroom. This behavior suggests that he may have already been dressing casually on the Senate floor.
Following the news, Joe Calvello, Fetterman's director of communications, remarked, "Great day for John Fetterman's body double, we don't have to buy them suits anymore."
Although the change has received criticism for allowing senators to forego suits and ties while still requiring it of their staff, there have been light-hearted comments as well. Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT) reportedly joked with the Associated Press in May, suggesting Fetterman was "setting a new dress code."
As the new policy takes effect, it remains to be seen how the relaxed dress code in the Senate chamber will influence the overall atmosphere and perception of senators' professionalism.