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Sep 26, 2023

It was initially a quiet move made by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week. As reported by Axios on September 17th, the senate leader had apparently directed the Senate Sergeant at Arms to no longer enforce the chamber’s long standing dress code. The code was not changed, modified or modernized. It was, in effect, eliminated.  

By September 21st, Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) was presiding over the body dressed in a short sleeve, collared blue shirt and shorts. In this regard, the shirt was a slight upgrade to the expected hoodie that is his usual attire. But still, many are outraged. 

All but three members of the Senate Republican Caucus signed a letter of protest to Schumer even before Fetterman’s norm shattering, jacket-and-tie-lessness had occurred. CBS News reports that the dress code is not among the 44 Senate Rules. It’s actually an “informal rule,” a custom or protocol. In other words, it’s not important enough to rise that high.

Or is it? As a communication professor at an elite business school, I would argue it’s so important, it’s beyond being codified. 

Here in my ivory tower of higher education in 2023, dress codes can be a complicated issue. To my students, primarily the young men in my classes, I am the fashion police. I teach many of them the correct way to tie a tie, the importance of a business suit fit, and how sneakers are not appropriate “business attire.” I actually had a student come to my classroom earlier this semester for the sole purpose of getting my advice on which tie he should wear to an important meeting, and to help him tie it correctly, all in front of a room full of students!

This is who I have become as a mentor to these young people. And I do it while dressed more like John Fetterman, than Gordon Gecko. What? What kind of leader doesn’t practice what he preaches? 


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