Patterico's Pontifications

9/19/2023

The Ongoing Obliteration of Our Social Standards

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:47 am



[guest post by JVW]

You don’t have to be as crotchety, quarrelsome, dyspeptic, and intolerant as I am to have noticed that these days Americans dress like slobs. Casual Friday in the workplace has morphed into come-as-you-are, with hoodies replacing suit jackets, polo shirts replacing blouses, blue jeans replacing grey flannel pants, leggings replacing skirts, and tennis shoes everywhere you look (don’t get me started on those who wear flip-flops in the office). I know, I know: O tempora! O mores! to you too old man, and I certainly deserve that. But it is really too much to ask that a professional dress, uh, professionally?

Apparently it is for the United States Senate. The most august worldwide body of gasbags (average age: 80.4) has surrendered to the zeitgeist and is doing away with its sartorial requirements for the Senate floor. And guess which United States Senator is the impetus for this change? OK, that was an easy one. Rich Lowry has some thoughts about it:

John Fetterman’s Senate legacy is now set — he’s the guy who made it possible to dress like a slob.

What the Missouri Compromise was to Henry Clay, what the Second Reply to Hayne was to Daniel Webster, what the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was to Lyndon Johnson, Carhartt sweatshirts and baggy shorts will be to John Fetterman.

The Pennsylvania senator is the poster boy — if self-indulgent sloppiness is your thing — for the Senate dropping a dress code that required senators to dress in business attire when appearing on the Senate floor.

Fetterman briefly complied with the rule by making the sacrifice of putting on a suit and tie after he was first elected. Then, he reverted to his standard uniform that makes it look like he just arrived after sitting on his couch, surrounded by empty pizza boxes, watching football games all weekend.

And you know the best part of this new rule? Like virtually everything else in Washington, it only applies to the elect (quite literally so) and certainly not to the lowly help. From the Axios article linked above:

The updated rule will go into effect this week, according to a Senate official. The change applies only to senators — staff members will still be required to follow the old dress code.

It’s not as if the John Fettermans of the Senate had been disenfranchised before the rule change. Axios points out that tradition allowed for slovenly-dressed (and to me, slovenly dressed is stepping out without your diamond stickpin in your lapel) to stand with one foot in the Senate Cloakroom and one on the Senate floor and cast a vote from there, or to even briefly step onto the floor in order to cast a thumbs-up/thumbs-down vote. But now of course we’ll likely be treated to the spectacle of Senator Fetterman — whom I will acknowledge for the record is facing some issues with both his physical and mental health — standing in the Senate well where once stood giants such as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Robert Taft, and Carol Mosley Braun, speaking to the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body™ while dressed as a skater punk.

We’ve done this to ourselves. Gentlemen, put those neckties back on before you head to work. Ladies, no more sleeveless tops in the office. Let’s restore some dignity to our increasingly-dreary lives.

[Edit: Post-publication I changed the title of this post from “The Ongoing Lowering of Our Social Standards” (which you will still see in the URL) to “The Ongoing Obliteration of Our Social Standards” which I frankly feel is more accurate in this matter.]

– JVW

54 Responses to “The Ongoing Obliteration of Our Social Standards”

  1. The most august worldwide body of gasbags (average age: 80.4). . .

    I made up that fact, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I came remarkably close to the true number (which is probably about ten years younger).

    Do read the entire Rich Lowry piece, by the way, if it’s not behind the NRO paywall. He makes a more serious (but no more genuine) argument than I do.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  2. Edit: I changed the title of this post from “The Ongoing Lowering of Our Social Standards” (which you will still see in the URL) to “The Ongoing Obliteration of Our Social Standards” which I frankly feel is more accurate in this matter.

    JVW (1ad43e)

  3. I guess Democrats were more than annoyed by Fetterman’s staff “shouting” at the Senate door his vote.

    This is on Pennsylvanian voters. They need to see who they elected, for all the ugly warts and vote accordingly the next time around.

    whembly (5f7596)

  4. I work in tech, so our office historically was doing well if folks didn’t show up in bathrobes. And then we got bought by a much more traditional, small-c conservative HugeCo.

    This turned out not to be a crisis, however. The crisis was the world throwing a pandemic while we were in a large growth phase. That led us to bet on moving to a much smaller office and hiring without geographic limitations, instead trying to get the best folks we could.

    So now we are fully remote. As management, I’m theoretically supposed to go in one day a week, but all my reports are in other states and it is harder for me to have a private meeting there than at home, where I actually have an office.

    So that’s how I’ve been working since about 7:30 and have yet to put on pants.

    Personally, I’m thinking that if folks are whining about Fetterman’s hoodie, there must not be very much wrong with the world at the moment.

    john (aff6cb)

  5. Is multitasking not allowed in your business, john?

    BuDuh (212ca6)

  6. When I was in start-up R&D tech, the basic rule was shoes-and-a-shirt, and flip-flops counted as shoes. Even for certain things (e.g. meeting with Bill G) no one wore a suit or tie (and such would have been de classe). I remember a habit they had at Atari of old, where they cut the ties off anyone who arrived wearing one (generally baby lawyers).

    Silicon Valley is different. But that doesn’t mean the Senate should be. Maybe when MTG is a Senator, she’ll wear tank-tops but I hope not, in several respects.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  7. > But it is really too much to ask that a professional dress, uh, professionally?

    Depends on the profession and what you think constitutes professional dress.

    *Many* of our so-called professional dress standards are, to put it bluntly, bull—t.

    But i’ve got a silicon valley attitude towards dress, and when i go to the office it’s normally in dressy shorts, a short sleeve button down, and sandals.

    At home i tend to wear shorts and a tank top and just put a real shirt on if i have to take a meeting.

    For the Senate — I *really* don’t see what the point to the dress code is. The idea that dress signifies respect simply isn’t true in my subculture, so the whole notion seems like a bizarre holdover from a moment when some culture I am not part of and do not understand was dominant. It isn’t, any more, so why do we need to follow its rules?

    aphrael (b0fc08)

  8. I went through post-stroke rehab. I did not need it, but the occupational therapists teach people how to pre-button their shirts, and pre-tie their ties. and similar things, so they can fully dress themselves while seated in a wheelchair.

    Fetterman is already imbued with enough indicia of his incapacitation. He does not need slovenliness as a further reminder.

    nk (997524)

  9. The idea that dress signifies respect simply isn’t true in my subculture, so the whole notion seems like a bizarre holdover from a moment when some culture I am not part of and do not understand was dominant. It isn’t, any more, so why do we need to follow its rules?

    Yeah!!! Screw it all!

    BuDuh (212ca6)

  10. If you want suits and ties, elect Trump. That was his office rules as reported; even for techies who worked on computers. (Reportedly he didn’t pay the going NY rate for hotel IT techies and has a hard time hiring.)

    You get one or the other.

    ingot9455 (97cca2)

  11. This grandpa Simpson quote seems appropriate

    “I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary.”

    Manotaur (e8e29f)

  12. Reportedly he didn’t pay the going NY rate for hotel IT techies and has a hard time hiring.

    WIth those rules and that pay, you get incompetents and drunks, often both.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  13. And I bet, to this day, Trump doesn’t understand why he gets bottom-feeders and eff-ups for all his jobs. He is the poster boy for how “C”s hire.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  14. If you want suits and ties, elect Trump.

    Well, we’re talking about the Senate, but whatever it takes to bring into the comments thread, I guess. Trump, Trump, Trump all of the time, just as he would have it.

    For what’s worth, GW Bush enforced a dress code for the White House, especially the Oval Office, after Clinton had allowed for a more lax approach.

    JVW (ae6dff)

  15. But i’ve got a silicon valley attitude towards dress, and when i go to the office it’s normally in dressy shorts, a short sleeve button down, and sandals.

    I’m going to have to request that henceforth you go with cuff links and pocket squares, aphrael. For company morale, of course.

    JVW (ae6dff)

  16. > I’m going to have to request that henceforth you go with cuff links and pocket squares, aphrael. For company morale, of course.

    This seems unlikely to be good for morale in a big tech company. I *am* a team lead, so my presentation matters, but that particular presentation would landp retty badly with my team.

    aphrael (b0fc08)

  17. If you want suits and ties, join the FBI.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  18. There’s a reason they never try selling such clothes to children,

    Sammy Finkelman (1d215a)

  19. Times have changed.
    It used to be to sign a six figure contract, you’d need a suit and tie and I’ve never owned either. I’ve signed seven figure contracts in shorts, tee shirt, hiking boots but often wear jeans, nice shirt and boots for client meetings unless the weather is in the 80’s. The clients really just want to see our body of work, and have the architect, builder, construction management team all vouch for our ability to execute the work to the quality standard. It also used to be that you had to dress up to get a credit line for a job at the bank, but the local branch where they know me by name takes a look at history, cash flow, cash reserves and if I showed up dressed like Fetterman or Romney we’d get the same credit line, same terms.

    I had some trust work done and told the lawyer to wear whatever was comfortable, I’d be in shorts and a tee shirt, so he went shorts and a polo shirt. I had a couple real estate lawyers doing a lot line adjustment who showed up in suits the first time and went casual afterwards

    steveg (43b642)

  20. Work clothes remind you that you are there to work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Home Depot apron vest, a 711 jersey, a mechanics overall, or a suit and tie.

    I always wore a suit to court. Not a jacket and slacks. And always a white shirt.

    You see, my “dominant culture” was the one I said “Your Honor” to. Not the people behind me waiting to have their cases heard. Numbers do not equal dominance. The leaders are few, the followers many.

    nk (dc4249)

  21. > Work clothes remind you that you are there to work.

    Do i need the reminder? I’ve got a desk that I only use for work in a room that I only use for work. What do the clothes have to do with it?

    aphrael (b0fc08)

  22. Senator John Fetterman

    @SenFettermanPA
    ·
    Follow
    I figure if I take up vaping and grabbing the hog during a live musical, they’ll make me a folk hero.

    https://twitter.com/SenFettermanPA/status/1704123105180893497

    BuDuh (212ca6)

  23. What do the clothes have to do with it?

    Because a job is not worth having unless it leaves you highly inconvenienced and perpetually annoyed. Otherwise you’re stealing money from your employer.

    JVW (4e9d21)

  24. But i’ve got a silicon valley attitude towards dress, and when i go to the office it’s normally in dressy shorts, a short sleeve button down, and sandals.

    Pretty much me, too, except I favor t-shirts, or a Hawaiian shirt for dress-up.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  25. I always wore a suit to court. Not a jacket and slacks. And always a white shirt.

    This is why you’re “a suit” and I’m not. Different cultures. That being said, I’d go with the Senate being more on the “suit culture” side of things.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  26. The coarsened dress code is consistent with the coarsened behavior.
    It wasn’t long ago that one Republicette called another a b!tch, right there on the floor of the House.
    I don’t know how to put that toothpaste goes back in the tube. It’s another step toward the idiocracy.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  27. Horrors!

    There is precedent for tweaking the rules of what elected officials can wear on the Hill according to their preferences and needs. In 2017 — 100 years after the first woman was elected to Congress, and at a time when a record 21 percent of Congress was female — women in the House of Representatives fought for a change in dress code that would allow open-toed shoes and bare arms. Both had long been part of the business-casual work wardrobe in other American workplaces for decades; after the rule change went into effect, a number of Congresswomen celebrated by baring arms.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  28. Things started going downhill for the Senate when the 17th Amendment was passed.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  29. What would Lincoln do?

    Well, actually we know. For his first elected position, in the Illinois legislature, he borrowed money to have a sixty dollar suit made for him. Which was a lot of money, back then. (For perspective: He had earned six dollars a month on one of his two flatboat trips to New Orleans.)

    And as a lawyer, he wore a stovepipe hat. (Which, granted, he used as a filing cabinet.)

    Jim Miller (d033f5)

  30. Rip, those Congresswomen have a right to bare arms.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  31. The coarsened dress code is consistent with the coarsened behavior.

    No kidding…

    On May 22, 1856, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” became a combat zone. In one of the most dramatic and deeply ominous moments in the Senate’s entire history, a member of the House of Representatives entered the Senate Chamber and savagely beat a senator into unconsciousness.

    https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/The_Caning_of_Senator_Charles_Sumner.htm

    An awful precedent, IMO.

    BuDuh (212ca6)

  32. IDK, I’m of two minds. The first is that as long as your bits are covered, who cares. The second is that clothing also can put you in a certain mindset and is a subconscious indicator to people on how to treat you. I guess we’ll see more about what the Senators think of themselves via their clothing choices.

    Nic (896fdf)

  33. a sixty dollar suit

    I think you can still get a suit for sixty dollars, although it’s probably not as good.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  34. Nic, I dress like a slob most of the time. But if I had business in a senator’s office, I’d bloody well suit up. It would be disrespectful not to, even for Sen. Fetterman, and that would generally not be in my interest.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  35. Paul Montagu (d52d7d) — 9/19/2023 @ 4:30 pm

    You do recognize sarcasm, right?

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  36. This is why rethugliKKKans are not taken seriously. One republican senator said she was going to where a bikini I think linsay graham.

    asset (bc7578)

  37. Here’s your chance to see AOC in cutoffs and a halter top, asset. But just remember that Zoe Lofgren is in the House too.

    nk (dc4249)

  38. What it is with Fetterman is what it is with Dianne Feinstein. A two-seat (51-49) margin for the Democrats. He is not necessary for anything more than his pulse.

    nk (dc4249)

  39. The nod towards the tech world explains a lot as well. The guy in shorts, tee shirts sandals, is often the client as a 9 figure tech guy who sold his company to Google or some such via cell phone while riding a skateboard to work. Years ago I worked for a musician and first day I’d no idea who he was or what he looked like. He showed up for a morning meeting at 2 pm in shorts, tee shirt, very interesting tattoos and I decided “that must be who I am here to meet”

    steveg (88fd35)

  40. If you got money or power you can wear what ever you want. All hat no cattle doesn’t work for very long. One time some one made the mistake of asking me why I dress the way I do. I answered Who is there here in AZ for me to impress? I am the most impressive person in AZ and I am not all that impressive ;but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king!

    asset (bc7578)

  41. I see this as one more example of the deteriorating public/private divide in American society, a distinction that used to be widely observed. I recall that my parents would occasionally use a colorful cuss word in private at home, but they would never have dreamt of doing that in public. Now, I can’t cross the quad at the school where I teach without overhearing dozens of vulgar references to copulation or defecation. And I have to agree with JWV: Americans have lost all sense of sartorial propriety. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in the Far East, where the public/private divide is still observed, but whenever I return to this country, part of my reverse culture shock is seeing so many people out in public wearing what amounts to bathroom apparel. So … go ahead and flame me.

    Roger (2e0d13)

  42. Well, as far as the comments here are concerned, I see engineers and related occupations (“techies”?) who made the word “nerd” legendary, and old guys in pajamas and sweats lounging on their couches. Begging your pardon. comrades.

    As far as Fetterman is concerned, he was hospitalized for clinical depression as recently as five months. That very commonly manifests as neglect of personal care and appearance. But like I said above, the Democrats in the Senate need his 51st vote.

    nk (4fd0a0)

  43. five months *ago*.

    nk (4fd0a0)

  44. I believe I am in moderation for using the same B word Paul used?

    BuDuh (3f6b53)

  45. It’s the two-tier commenting system.
    If you write b!tch, it goes through.
    If you write it with an “i” instead of an “!”, it does not.
    I guess Patterico just likes exclamation marks.

    nk (4fd0a0)

  46. Ahh. Thanks, nk! I did not see the “!”.

    Since this is the dress code thread:

    Police returned articles of clothing to a Tanzanian fashion designer they obtained while executing a search warrant of disgraced ex-Department of Energy (DOE) official Sam Brinton’s home.

    The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police Department confirmed the clothes were returned to Asya Khamsin, who has alleged Brinton publicly wore clothing she designed, but which was in her bag she reported missing at Ronald Reagan National Airport years ago. In May, MWAA police officers executed a search warrant in connection with the case at Brinton’s Maryland residence.

    “The MWAA Police Department can confirm we returned the victim’s property and police retained photos of the evidence for prosecution,” MWAA spokesperson Crystal Nosal told Fox News Digital in a statement Tuesday. “The case is still under adjudication and we cannot release more detailed information.”

    Khamsin Claims the clothing was stolen “years ago,” but she is probably mistaken as all poor behavior started more recently after someone called someone else a b!tch on the house floor. Society was composed of nothing but saints prior to The Coarsening.

    BuDuh (3f6b53)

  47. asset (bc7578) — 9/19/2023 @ 5:49 pm

    ne republican senator said she was going to where a bikini I think linsay graham.

    Susan Collins of Maine, But then she said obviously that was a joke,

    I think you could stop too revealing clothing – or torn clothing – without requiring dress clothing,

    Sammy Finkelman (4eaa6c)

  48. There’s been a Fetterman sighting, but it’s too good to check.

    Paul Montagu (d52d7d)

  49. I would like to see a new rule in the Senate: Senator’s must cast their own votes, without assistance.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  50. A nudist session of the Senate would be interesting, in some perverse way. Maybe as a photo for the annual Christmas Holiday card.

    Kevin M (ed969f)

  51. I would like Senators to at least wear a sash, much like the Boy Scout merit badge sash, that has all their major donors identified for all to see. I would really prefer to see them in NASCAR type outfits with sponsor insignia bold and bright.

    I think I originally heard a similar idea from a comedian, but I don’t recall.

    BuDuh (3f6b53)

  52. Hey MTG and boebert are back on the market they need to look slutty for the guys.

    asset (42cadb)

  53. AllahNick today on the dress code stuff:

    How many inane “things were better in my day” lectures must we endure from you, Grandpa?

    American culture moved away from formal dress ages ago. “Business casual” has been a thing in corporate offices since before I joined the labor force. Men hardly ever wear coats and ties anymore unless they have a compelling reason to do so. If The People have embraced casual attire, it was inevitable that The People’s representatives would embrace it too.

    Besides, we all perform better when we’re comfortable. If you weren’t thrilled with the Senate’s legislative output when senators were impeccably dressed, consider the possibility that shorts and hoodies might launch us into a new golden age of policy innovation.

    Criticizing Fetterman can also feel hypocritical if, like me, you seldom dress to impress. I’ve been doing my job in the equivalent of pajamas for the better part of 20 years. Granted, I’m not a U.S. senator (yet), but throwing stones at someone else’s fashion choices from the porch of my glass house makes me feel uneasy and self-conscious. Perhaps I, a fellow fashion sinner, can muster a little sartorial grace for a guy who’s recovering from a major stroke and a bout of depression so terrible that he had to be hospitalized for it.

    Those who are qualified to throw stones might also remind us that following the Senate dress code is no guarantee of “dressing well.” Matt Gaetz always wears a coat and tie around the Capitol yet often looks like a used-car salesman who overslept and threw something on while racing out the door. Bad, ill-fitting suits are arguably more dignified than shorts and hoodies, I’ll concede, but that’s a matter of barely clearing a low bar.

    There’s also the small matter of having one’s political priorities in proper order. Spending mental energy on feeling aggrieved about the Senate’s dress code means not spending that energy on things one really should feel aggrieved about.

    For instance, Kevin McCarthy’s House conference is currently so paralyzed by MAGA types bent on forcing a shutdown that it can’t pass a resolution to fund the government temporarily while it works on a longer-term deal. Conservatives who are willing to compromise are nonetheless warning Ukraine supporters not to expect money for the war effort in the next appropriations bill. And here I and many other conservatives are, prattling on about a dress code.

    The more unsolvable America’s actual problems seem, the more enticing trivial problems become as subjects of debate.

    https://thedispatch.com/newsletter/boilingfrogs/against-slobs/

    Nick eventually turns the corner, as he usually does, concluding:

    The grubbier this political era gets, the more it fetishizes insincere grifting populist “authenticity,” the more I find myself craving even small victories for decorum. Even in an institution as indecorous as Congress.

    Incentivize respectability in all things, great and small. That starts with voting out performance artists like Gaetz, who has a lucrative career in conservative infotainment ahead of him, but I’d extend the principle all the way to ceremonial matters like how senators dress when conducting the people’s business. John Fetterman wearing a tie isn’t going to make Congress great again, but it will make it a tiny bit more dignified. And we can use all the dignity we can get.

    Kevin M (ed969f)


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