Fetterman Uses Sneaky Move to Get Away with Wearing Hoodies and Gym Shorts in Senate


Democrats of Pennsylvania, rejoice.

Sure, you may have elected a man to the upper chamber of Congress who, after a stroke before last year’s Democratic senatorial primary, could barely complete a coherent thought.

He also might have spent a few months of his six-year term in the hospital dealing with serious mental health issues, something that isn’t uncommon for stroke survivors.

But don’t worry. Just like any other feted Democrat, Fetterman is being given all sorts of leeway — including when it comes to the Senate dress code.

As you may have noticed, Fetterman has decided to dress for the job he had — namely, the relatively low-key, minimally powerful position of lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania — rather than the job he has. Forget about dressing for the job he wants, if he even has any hopes for advancement.

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This is how he showed up for a news briefing about debt ceiling negotiations:

Let’s just say that people had, um, questions about the appropriateness of Fetterman’s attire:

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Granted, part of Fetterman’s charm (if you did indeed find him charming) comes from his cosplaying as a blue-collar everyman. You know, the kind of hard-hat, lunch-pail, all-American type … who just happened to be able to pursue a political career because of the fact his parents paid him a generous allowance and he hardly worked a day in his life. But he owned the Carhartt hoodies, at least! And I’m assuming he has a hard hat somewhere stashed in his basement.

However, running for the Senate and being in the Senate are two different things, particularly since the upper chamber of Congress has a dress code for males.

But, as he did in 2022 with campaign stops and debates with his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, before a large chunk of Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballots had already been cast, Fetterman has found another workaround, according to The Associated Press.

“Before Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman checked himself in to the hospital for clinical depression in February, he walked the halls of the Senate stone-faced and dressed in formal suits. These days, he’s back to wearing the hoodies and gym shorts he was known for before he became a senator,” the AP reported Wednesday.

Male senators are expected to wear a jacket and tie on the Senate floor, but Fetterman has a workaround. He votes from the doorway of the Democratic cloakroom or the side entrance, making sure his ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ is recorded before ducking back out.” [Emphasis ours.]

It continued, “In between votes this past week, Fetterman’s hoodie stayed on for a news conference with four Democratic colleagues in suits, the 6-foot-8 Fetterman towering over his colleagues.

“The senator’s staff had originally asked him to always wear suits, which he famously hates. But after a check with the Senate parliamentarian upon his return, it became clear that he could continue wearing the casual clothes that were often his uniform back at home in Pennsylvania, as long as he didn’t walk on to the Senate floor.”

This is prima facie absurd and yet another sign that the questions about Fetterman’s maturity — which started long before his lone debate with Oz demonstrated exactly how long his road to full cognitive recovery would be, if in fact he ever managed to travel it — still haven’t been answered.

But don’t tell that to those in Fetterman’s orbit, who told the AP that skirting the Senate’s dress code and looking like a bum are just part of the senator’s appeal.

“People close to Fetterman say his relaxed, comfortable style is a sign that the senator is making a robust recovery after six weeks of inpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where his clinical depression was treated with medication and he was fitted for hearing aids for hearing loss that had made it harder for him to communicate,” the AP reported.

“He’s setting a new dress code,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the only other Democrat in the incoming Senate class. “He was struggling. And now he’s a joyful person to be around.”

Because he doesn’t want to follow the dress code?

Look, one understands that part of Fetterman’s appeal on the campaign trail is that he looked like a “Street Fighter 2” character while talking like Bernie Sanders.

That was — and I cannot possibly italicize this enough — the campaign trail.

Now that he’s in the Senate, Fetterman is behaving like that 17-year-old cousin of yours who shows up to a fancy Christmas Eve dinner in jeans, a knockoff Supreme sweatshirt and a lopsided Lakers cap because he’s too “cool” (read: childish) to put on a tie and jacket.

For a politician who took quite a bit of flack for living off of his ’rents dole for the better part of his earthly existence, finding a workaround to wear gym clothes on the Senate floor isn’t a good sign.

If this very-casual Friday faux-authenticity is a key part of Fetterman’s recovery plan for depression serious enough to land him in the hospital for quite some time, as Welch suggested, that’s an even worse sign.

Furthermore, it’s yet another instance of those in Fetterman’s orbit covering for the senator — and Democrats mostly turning a blind eye to it.

More serious than Fetterman’s gym clothes habit is his staff’s tendency to seriously edit his remarks in transcripts — and, in one case, passing that quote to a Washington Post reporter who took flak for posting his office’s quote verbatim.

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The incident in question came during testimony from Silicon Valley Bank ex-CEO Greg Becker.

The Post’s Jeff Stein tweeted this quote from Fetterman: “Shouldn’t you have a working requirement after we bail out your bank? Republicans seem to be more preoccupied with SNAP requirements for hungry people than protecting taxpayers that have to bail out these banks.”

Fetterman’s remarks, um, diverged significantly from his office’s official record — and, as you might imagine, not in a good way:

“The Republicans want to give a work requirement for SNAP,” Fetterman actually said. “You know, for a uh, uh, uh, a hungry family has to have these, this kind of penalties, or these some kinds of word — working uh, require — Shouldn’t you have a working requirement, after we sail your bank, billions of your bank? Because you seem we were preoccupied, uh when, then SNAP requirements for works, for hungry people, but not about protecting the tax, the tax papers, you know, that will bail them out of whatever does about a bank to crash it.”

Fox News reported it found two other instances in which the transcript of Fetterman’s remarks deviated significantly from the senator’s actual statements, which were significantly less coherent.

Considering that Fetterman only returned in the middle of April and has been easing back into his role as Pennsylvania’s junior senator, that represents a not-insignificant chunk of his remarks that have been rewritten by his staff so that he sounds more with it.

What’s next for Fetterman? Is he going to bring resistance bands onto the Senate floor and do exercises at his desk? While he’s speaking?

Maybe he can bring a Nintendo Switch in, too. I’m sure his doctor could say it helps him rebuild his problem-solving capability — and, after all, “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” just came out. Is it OK if he plays it just outside the chamber door and ducks in whenever he has to vote “yay” or “nay”?

Also, is it OK if we delay this vote for a few minutes until he beats this shrine? It’s got him very frustrated — and you don’t want to see John Fetterman really frustrated, now, do you?

This is the mess you’ve made, Pennsylvania voters. And it’s going to be another five years and change before you can clean it up.

Nice work.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture