Is it appropriate to demand appropriate dress?

By Dr. Harold A. Black

Of course, it won’t happen but suppose everyone decided to follow the lead of John Fetterman and dress casually? Fetterman, if you don’t know, is a Senator from Pennsylvania who seldom wears suits and ties. Rather he favors hoodies and shorts. Since Senate rules barred anyone from the chambers who was not dressed appropriately, Fetterman would stand outside the doors to vote. For some reason unbeknownst to us all, the Senate majority leader waived the dress code for senators.I guess that no vote was needed. Mind you everyone else still had to adhere to dressing professionally. I can’t figure out why Schumer capitulated to allow Fetterman to come into the Senate chambers dressed like a slob. The Democrats own a 51-49 majority thanks to the Republicans blowing the last election, so Schumer didn’t need Fetterman’s vote. Yet he is now for allowing him to wear his hoodies and shorts on the Senate floor. Of course, if Fetterman were a Republican Schumer would have never changed policy. Susan Collins remarked that she could now wear a bikini if she wanted. Thank goodness she will spare us of that horrid sight. Surprisingly, some Democratic senators have objected. Not surprisingly, one of them is Joe Manchin. Surprisingly, one is Dick Durbin. Under pressure from both some Democrats and all Republicans, the Senate formally adopted a dress code mandating coat and tie for its male members. Women were not mentioned in the resolution.

At first, I thought it was of little importance as to what Fetterman wanted to wear. But I changed my mind. Some have pointed out that this is another example of the coarsening of America and the lowering of standards. They are right. Suppose everyone decided to dress slovenly and all of our elected officials and bureaucrats wore hoodies and shorts or worse. Would they govern even worse than they do now? That is a frightening thought. My parents bemoaned the loosening of the dress code for teachers. They contended that when standards regarding dress were lowered so were academic standards and respect for the teachers. They didn’t object as much to wearing a nice shirt and pants but not hoodies, shorts and sneakers. They also bemoaned the change in the churches. No longer did one have to wear their Sunday best to church. I remember growing up in a Baptist church in Atlanta where the men wore a coat and tie and the women looked splendid in their dresses, heels and hats. In the winter I remarked while looking over the congregation that the mink population had been severely reduced given all the women’s fur coats. I loved going to church probably more to look good and to feel good than for any other reason. Now even our southern Baptist churches have gone casual and I wonder if the spirit moves less because of it.

I admit guilt. Once I wore a coat and tie to teach in. Then one day I rode a motorcycle to work. I showed up in all leather. When I first did that as a young assistant professor it was a wonder I didn’t get fired. It was obvious that my colleagues did not approve. However, I had the best classes ever. After the students got over their initial shock, they were livelier and more participatory. I never wore a suit and tie again. Of course, my parents objected profusely stating that the students would respect me less if I looked like one of them rather than one who “dressed right.” They were right if I showed up in a hoodie and shorts (naturally being black if I wore a hoodie and shorts I would be labelled a thug). However, shirts and slacks might be appropriate dress for teachers but not for senators. But as Deion Sanders aka Coach Prime so eloquently puts it, “If you dress good, you look good. If you look good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good!” So dress appropriately.