The U.S. Senate has officially instituted a dress code, thereby bringing an end to the informal era dubbed “The Fetterman Rule.” Named after Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, whose penchant for casual attire became emblematic, this rule allowed senators to dress down on the Senate floor. The resolution, unanimously approved by the Senate, was presented by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mitt Romney of Utah, bringing a bipartisan touch to the formalization of long-standing expectations.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, acknowledging the need for a dress code in light of recent events, expressed his support for the resolution. The bipartisan effort, known as the “SHORTS Act,” now mandates that male senators must adhere to a dress code consisting of a “coat, tie, and slacks or other long pants” on the Senate floor. The Senate’s sergeant-at-arms has been tasked with enforcing this dress code unless a two-thirds majority votes for a change.
The genesis of this formal dress code stems from a recent revelation that, despite traditions, there were no official written rules governing senators’ attire on the Senate floor. Schumer’s earlier directive to relax the enforcement of informal rules elicited mixed reactions, prompting the bipartisan collaboration between Manchin and Romney to codify a dress code that had been a precedent for 234 years.
Schumer and Manchin expressed gratitude to Senator Fetterman for his cooperation in reaching an understanding. Fetterman, recognized for his casual style, notably wore shorts and a short-sleeve button-down shirt while presiding over the Senate and even during a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The compromise reached involves Fetterman agreeing to wear a suit when entering the Senate chamber but retaining the privilege of voting in casual attire from the cloakroom.
The resolution comes on the heels of Schumer’s decision to cease enforcement of informal dress code rules, a move that drew criticism from both sides of the aisle. The Washington Post editorial board also disapproved of the change, particularly as it affected senators but not staff members.
As the Senate’s dress code matter was brought to a close, Fetterman released a statement in the form of a promotional image featuring actor Kevin James shrugging in a flannel shirt, a nod to the recent internet meme derived from James’ iconic character in the “King of Queens” sitcom. The Senate’s formal dress code represents a return to tradition, putting an end to the era of informality symbolized by “The Fetterman Rule.”