Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) puts the “casual” in “business casual.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) puts the “casual” in “business casual.” (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Breaking news relevant to only 100 Americans: The U.S. Senate will no longer enforce its dress code for members.

Is this yet another sign of constitutional decadence, or is it a step into modernity for the fusty, antiquated chamber? Either way, it’s the best news ever for Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who would prefer to do business while looking like he’s on a Saturday-morning jog.

Not everyone is happy.

“The Senate chamber isn’t your home, a gym, or an outdoor park,” wrote former congressman Justin Amash (I-Mich.) in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If you can’t dress professionally for work on the floor of the Senate of the United States, then do us all a favor and get a different job.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently directed the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms to no longer enforce its unwritten, selectively enforced dress code of business attire, handing senators the power to wear whatever they want on the Senate floor — although it seems like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) has been doing that for quite some time (see: her denim vest, her neon tiger prints, her various wigs, her dilophosaurian sleeves).

“Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor,” Schumer said in a statement sent to The Post. “I will continue to wear a suit.”

The change will go into effect this week, according to Axios, which first reported the news. Only senators will benefit; staff will remain shackled to business attire.

As employers’ covid worries have eased, Americans returned to their offices with the sartorial comforts of home. In business-casual offices, sweat-wicking techno-knits have nudged their way into the range of acceptable attire. Even in formal settings, high heels have been replaced by comfier flats, and ties have been booted in favor of an open collar.

The move away from an enforced dress code is in step with the habits of regular Americans, although business attire can often act as its own “class leveler,” according to Richard Ford, a Stanford University law professor and author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History.” Since suits, for example, have historically been available at a variety of different price points, they can be worn by both blue- and white-collar workers, making them an appealing choice for a democratic legislative body.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) likes her denim.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) likes her denim. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

But as more conservatively dressed professions like banking and law abandon the suit and tie, politicians have followed.

“We’re used to seeing professionals wearing sportswear at work now,” Ford says, “so it’s less jarring to see it on the floor of Congress.”

For years, the Senate has abided by an unofficial, unwritten policy enforced at the discretion of the sergeant-at-arms. Out of respect for custom, men have opted for coats and ties, especially on occasions when they were voting on the floor. Those not wearing business attire have more often voted from the edges of the Senate floor, while keeping a foot inside the cloak room, according to Axios — which is why Senators have been seen on the Hill in gym clothes, golf attire and other unconventional clothing items.

The turnaround will benefit senators such as Fetterman, who often sports droopy basketball shorts and roomy hooded sweatshirts. Fetterman did not respond to a request for comment. But Fetterman’s chilled-out taste in clothing has been invoked repeatedly by the new rule’s detractors.

“The Senate no longer enforcing a dress code for Senators to appease Fetterman is disgraceful,” tweeted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who for this year’s State of the Union address wore a Cruella-like ecru wool coat that had a hood trimmed with alpaca fur. “Dress code is one of society’s standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions. Stop lowering the bar!”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) disagreed on X with Amash, saying that attire “shouldn’t be governed by overly formal rules of the body, and personally I dislike wearing ties.”

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.

Two years later, on the same day the first-ever Muslim congresswomen took office, the House voted to allow religious headwear for the first time in 181 years. The measure partially repealed an 1837 sumptuary rule banning hats and other headgear on the House floor.

“Double standard?” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) posted on X, in reference to business attire still being required for staff. Cornyn then added: “Flip flops, cutoffs and t shirts for all!”

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