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The age of shabby and shoddy, Part 2

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Little did I know three weeks ago that I would be revisiting this topic again so soon. However, thank you, Senate Majority Leader Charles Ellis Schumer, D-N.Y., for providing our topic this week.  

Monday a week ago Schumer said the Senate chamber’s sergeant at arms will no longer enforce a dress code. He further stated: “There has been an informal dress code that was enforced. [Now] senators are able to choose what they wear to the Senate floor.”

What’s next, Chief Justice Roberts encouraging Supreme Court members to wear culottes?

Granted, the great Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, is often seen in a shirt and tie, sans jacket; but Schumer’s relaxation of the rules is obviously to accommodate Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., whose standard garb would not turn heads at the Sturgis, S.D. motorcycle rally.

I’ll be the first one to say we should judge no one by the clothes they wear (see further down this column), but when it comes to high office, lacking a sense of decorum degrades the office as well as the perpetrator.  

Yet, even the English have made barrister wigs optional, going back to 2007. Surprisingly, most lawyers there still prefer to wear them.

Last Friday, Peter Doocy of Fox News asked press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if President Biden would ever show up to an official meeting wearing shorts and a hoodie? She, of course, dodged the question.

In the last month, I was invited to an official function, where in attendance were Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Australia, Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Ky., and Dr. Kevin Rudd (Australian ambassador to the US.).   

I have been to many similar ceremonies before. This was the first time, however, the suggested dress was “business casual” (a suit without a tie).

So, what are the rules today? Even I seem to be all over the place. I think it comes down to this. Honor the office to which you have been invited by coming in the best you have for the occasion, not dressed in a lazy or slovenly manner.

In the New Testament, the Book of James (ESV) Chapter 2: 2-7 says this starting in the second verse: “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place;” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet;.” Have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

Not so quick. The Old Testament specifically calls for distinctive garments to be worn by the priests in the temple.  

Exodus, Chapter 28, Verse 2: “And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron [the High Priest] thy brother for glory and for beauty.”

When I think of our representatives and senators in Congress, they all make a decent salary (I actually think if their salaries were raised, we could attract better candidates, but that is another column another day). The point is all of them can afford clothes commensurate with the office. Not dressing according to custom is not a sign of modernity, but degrades the office for all and is a sign of disrespect.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at


Matthew (not verified)

26 September 2023

There have been a few American Indians elected to Congress. Say a member of the Navajo Nation or the Sioux Nation is elected. I would have no problem if they wore ceremonial Indian garb. I would actually prefer it, if that's what they would normally do. And a Pacific Islander or Inuit would be welcome to dress in normal formal attire appropriate to their culture and tradition while serving in DC. If I were working in the halls of Congress, I'd wear khakis and a collared shirt. I don't have a suit and tie. That stuff is totally uncomfortable. What is the purpose of a tie? But Fetterman is just a lazy bum from Pennsylvania.

Matthew (not verified)

27 September 2023

No matter what the circumstances, other than a creative and fun Halloween costume: I will not wear a wig. Such a weird custom during the time when my Country was founded. No wonder scalps were the currency of the 18th century American frontier.

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