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Clothes don’t really make the man, they only cover him

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Clothes don’t really make the man, they only cover him

Sep 26, 2023 | 5:57 am ET
By Leann Ray
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Clothes don’t really make the man, they only cover him
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U.S. Sens. John Fetterman. D-Pa. and Gary Peters, D-Mich. joined striking UAW workers on their picket line Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. Fetterman is seen in his typical outfit of shorts and a hoodie. (Sen. Fetterman | Twitter/X photo)

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) eased up the informal dress code on the Senate floor.

He said in a statement that senators are now able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor, but he will continue to wear a suit.

Most people immediately thought of Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who is known for wearing shorts and hoodies. 

Politico’s congressional reporter Ursula Perano tweeted that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told her that he spoke with Fetterman about the loosening up of the dress code, and how he opposes it.

 

Fetterman, who must have much more patience than me, told Politico that he doesn’t take Manchin’s pushback personally.

Thursday night, The Hill reported that Manchin was circulating a proposal to reestablish the Senate’s dress code, obviously the top priority as a government shutdown nears. 

The relaxed dress code had not even been in place for a week before Manchin started to sweat over it. Why is he letting this distract him while West Virginia University is falling apart, thousands of federal employees in West Virginia are fearing they won’t be paid during a government shutdown and a quarter of children in West Virginia are living in poverty?

I am very much of the belief that you can care about multiple things at one time, but worrying so much about someone wearing comfortable clothes while everything is a dumpster fire is embarrassing. 

Dress codes are sexist, racist and classist. That’s true in the Senate — where it’s only been in the last few years that women could wear sleeveless tops and open-toed shoes — just as it is in public schools. 

While dress codes are supposedly a tactic to avoid distractions, many “include elements that may make the school environment less equitable and safe for students,” according to a report from the United States Government Accountability Office.

Public school dress codes typically target girls, and perpetuate rape culture by putting the blame for boys’ actions on what girls wear.

No leggings for girls and tank top straps must be at least one-inch thick because those poor boys can’t concentrate if they can see your naked shoulders. Oh, won’t someone please think of the poor boys who can’t control themselves when they see shoulders?

Students see these kinds of dress codes as sexist, as well.

“Not being able to wear leggings because it’s ‘too distracting for boys’ is giving us the impression we should be guilty for what guys do,” said Sophie Hasty, a 7th grader at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois, “We just want to be comfortable!”

When I was in high school, the rule on shorts was that they must be the same length as your fingertips when standing straight — but if you had short limbs and a long torso, your shorts could be inches shorter than someone’s who had long arms. If they wanted to prevent short-shorts, this is not the way.

Some dress codes target natural and protective Black hairstyles. 

In December 2019, Matthew Moore, a freshman at Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley was told by his basketball coach that he couldn’t play because his dreadlocks weren’t neat, and that he should cut them. This led to the introduction of the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”) Act in West Virginia’s Legislature in early 2020, but it still has not passed. However, some cities in West Virginia have passed their own CROWN Act — Beckley, Charleston, Huntington, Lewisburg, Morgantown and Wheeling.

Dress codes can also be problematic for students who rely on hand-me-downs or don’t have easy access to a washer and dryer.

Foster families don’t have many options on where they can spend vouchers, so a strict dress code could make their vouchers useless when clothes shopping. 

But back to the U.S. Senate — some argue that you must dress formally because it’s professional and shows respect for the job, or that it’s bad manners to dress down. 

You can look like a slob in dress clothes just as much as someone in casual clothes can look glamorous.

Is it less ridiculous to have someone stand outside the Senate to cast their vote because they’re in gym clothes than it is to let them on the floor to vote?

This is just another instance of people being in other people’s business for no reason. What other people wear doesn’t affect me and isn’t my business. 

Manchin can still wear his suits on the Senate floor. No one is forcing him to wear cargo jorts and a hoodie. He should give the loosened dress code a chance, see how many people actually dress differently, and then realize that other people’s clothes don’t affect him.