John Fetterman has a new team.
On January 3, the young senator from Pennsylvania, whose passion for Carhartt sweatshirts, Dickies, and baggy shorts is as much a part of his political brand as any stubby speech, is the 118th unseen light gray two-button number. This is a big deal, in part because during his tenure as vice-governor, Mr. Fetterman was careful to point out that he wore only one dark suit.
On a day marked by the chaos surrounding the election of the Speaker of the House, the light blue striped tie and polished black laces that Mr. Fetterman wore alongside that suit might have been the biggest political fashion statement of the coming era. class. It was even more emblematic than Nancy Pelosi’s bright pink no-flag outfit or the mess of the suffragist white some women in the House wore, or even JD Vance’s Trump-style uniform of navy blue suit, white shirt, and bright red tie.
And this confirms that Mr. Fetterman is one of the most unexpected image creators in Washington. While the new suit is one step ahead, it’s not because he’s dressed well. She dresses appropriately.
Indeed, Mr. Fetterman’s new outfit has been as notable as fashion statements made by various members of Congress since clothes began to play a larger role in election communications. To mean it: January 2019, when a large group of newly elected 116th Congresswomen wore white to their oaths in honor of their suffragist predecessors (and as an attack on the Trump administration’s focus on image-building).
Or for that matter, pretty much every State of the Union and major public event since — most recently in December, when some lawmakers wore yellow and blue in Volodymyr Zelensky’s congressional address. If there is a photo operation involved, there is usually a fashion decision considered beforehand.
Silent communication through dress has become a standard part of the political toolbox. Like Kyrsten Cinema, for example, sleeveless tops, colorful wigs, and the occasional denim vest are used with increasing ingenuity by elected officials who used to telegraph independence from political norms long before they became officially independent.
Also, Jim Jordan, who symbolized his willingness to drop his jackets and roll up the sleeves of his shirts to fight in committee sessions. The Washington wardrobe is so standardized that any deviation from the norm is noticeable, especially on TV.
Unless, of course, your default position is a deviation from the norm – in which case the return to work as usual will be a surprise. As Mr. Fetterman knows all too well.
Before heading to the Capitol for the inauguration, he tweeted, “For those asking, yes, there will be a Fetterman in shorts today, but I’m not.” (He was one of his sons, continuing the family campaign to free the knee with the game.) Mr. Fetterman transformed his wardrobe long ago rather than denying the idea he thought about what he was wearing or having his team dismiss it for him. an asset: the subject of self-deprecating humor, social media jokes, and pretty strong public appeal.
He wrote on his blog that he could not roll up his sleeves because he only wore short sleeves. He tweeted that his attire was “Western PA business casual” and celebrated his new “Formal Hoodie”. (His wife, Gisele, made fun of him because of this; political couples—they’re just like us.) He was never exactly a working man—he was a mayor with a Harvard graduate degree—but he dressed as such, and it was to his humanization, recognition, and beyond the borders of Pennsylvania. and even before he won the election, it helped him make a name for himself in the late night television world. It probably helped win the election.
And when he came to Capitol Hill in November to orientate himself in a dark suit and blue tie, he got the kind of excited attention not normally bestowed on a senatorial candidate driving to his new workplace. Rather, he looked like some kind of semi-celebrity, although his willingness to obey the Senate dress code and conform to the establishment could not escape the notice of his new colleagues.
The sleight of hand that managed to don a conservative suit probably wouldn’t have looked like a radical move either. And where that comes from, they can expect more: According to his office, the new suit is one of three suits Mr. Fetterman bought, and a six – count – tie.