Someday, a future congressman (or woman!) might sport a hoodie on the House floor, and it will be no biggie. Amid the hooplah over Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) wearing a hoodie on the House floor Wednesday, it’s worth remembering that congressional fashion taboos are ever-evolving.
The only dress-related provision in the standing House rules bars the wearing of a hat on the floor (it’s Rule XVII, section 5). Beyond that, it’s up to custom--and House leadership--to decide what’s appropriate House-wear. Right now, it’s interpreted to mean ties, blazers, and no jeans for men--and the code for women is far more vague. We’ve seen female members wearing all manner of sleeveless tops, mini-skirts, and sandals.
It used to be that ladies of the Senate were forbidden from wearing pants--until pioneering women broke the unofficial rule. Now, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have even dared to bare their arms even in the notoriously stuffy Senate.
And members do push the sartorial envelope, like Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), whose signature chapeaus are unwelcome on the House floor, despite her petitions.
House leaders are plenty willing to enforce the rules: Just moments after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a tear-jerking appearance on the House floor, House Speaker John Boehner issued a general reminder of the “appropriate dress” rule. Many members, headed for airplanes that would take them back to their home districts, had apparently skipped proper neckwear.
Sometimes, though, they look the other way--like when Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) wore a t-shirt under a blazer. Frank’s arm was in a sling, so we can only imagine the dress-code enforcers gave him a pass.
When might hoodies get the congressional OK? Only time will tell.