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September 19, 2023

John Fetterman's casual attire prompts U.S. Senate to drop its dress code

Members no longer must wear formal clothing when conducting business on the chamber's floor

The U.S. Senate will stop enforcing the dress code that requires legislators to wear business attire on the chamber's floor. The change comes after some senators, most notably Pennsylvania's John Fetterman, started wearing more casual attire and voting at the edge of the Senate floor, sidestepping the policy.

Historically, lawmakers have been expected to wear suits or other formal attire while conducting legislative business. The new policy drops that requirement, which was enforced by the Senate's Sergeant at Arms.

The new dress code takes effect this week. 

"Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Axios, which initially reported the policy change. "I will continue to wear a suit." 

Without explicitly saying so, the shift appears inspired by Fetterman, a first-term Democrat known for wearing hoodies and baggy shorts in the U.S. Capitol. It's the same attire he often wore as Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor and as mayor of Braddock.

Fetterman wore suits early in his term, but his attire has become notably more informal after he returned to the Senate following his hospitalization for clinical depression earlier this year. 

The dress code change created a stir among conservatives and on social media. In characteristic fashion, Fetterman fired back at critics, mocking the outrage expressed by some Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators. 

"I feel it's a little more freedom, which should be bipartisanship," Fetterman told FOX News. "I don't know why the right side seems to be losing their minds over it.

"I think it's a good thing, but I'm going to use it sparingly. I hope other colleagues take advantage of it too."