It’s What They’re Choosing NOT To Do

Was having dinner with my daughter last night and she was telling me about her ethics class. They were posed with a dilemma – you are conducting a train and you learn that you are going to crash into five people OR you can switch tracks and only kill one person. But you are choosing to kill that one person.

My answer was that once you have an option, you are accountable to both choices for what you choose.

The Senate Dress Code is a similar situation. It is not only what they are choosing TO do, it is also what they are choosing NOT to do. They are choosing not to follow the code they are imposing on others. They are choosing not to show respect.

Dressing is self expression, but in certain situations it is not self expression first. When a soldier puts on a uniform, and wears it, I dunno, ALL DAY EVERY DAY, he or she is choosing to dress for respect of country, the betterment of their peers, and to play their role as a part of a larger at the potential cost of their lives. AND YOU CAN’T BUTTON A COLLAR?

One of the more astonishing juxtapositions in this whole scenario is when a senator casts a budget vote for a soldier, the senator clad in whatever the **** they want while the soldier must wear what they are told. Shame.

There are circumstances of smaller responsibility where what you wear is totally up to you. For most of us, that is most of the time. But when you assume the mantle and walk into a hallowed hall, that is not a circumstance of smaller responsibility. That is a circumstance of the highest responsibility. Whether it be health care or war or crime or food – your work SHOULD be saving lives every day. And your comportment should reflect your respect for that work. And actually, no matter what you have on, it does reflect that.

I saw the response, should have seen it coming. “Shouldn’t we be talking about bigger things than my taste in clothes?”

My answer: SOME of us should. Those of us who come correct. You want to be heard? Present yourself as worthy of the volume.

If it is too much of a bother to dress in a suit to do high work, what other corners are you all willing to cut? And that is part of my peeve here as well – the I-can’t-be-uncomfortable-or-bothered bit. Really? You think the soldiers or the infirmed or the impoverished or law enforcement – you think it is fine for THEM to have to wear a code, but you don’t?

The post two days ago got a pretty big response, including a few I-am-too-polite-to-mention knock off articles. But it also got me thinking. If as a collective body you choose to not be inconvenienced such that it is too much to show respect, well, tell me the difference between that and disregard. Be humble enough to show your people you care, rather than so arrogant that you feel like you are on such high ground it doesn’t matter.

The answer to what-does-it-matter-what-I-wear lies in the mouths of our military, our first responders. Why don’t you ask THEM if it matters? Why don’t you choose to say I-am-one-of-YOU?


29 Comments on "It’s What They’re Choosing NOT To Do"

  1. Gregory Carrara | September 26, 2023 at 8:38 pm |

    Well, the person in the picture has zero taste and style in clothes…regardless of your taste, this is no taste…you would think this person could at least try to look cool in some way…I mean, if you can’t dress respectfully and represent you country…at least wear something cool…even if not appropriate….well, it is hideous, regardless of your taste….however, society is in the toilet these days when it comes to class, truth, respect, courtesy, etc…how can we expect people to dress with respect if there is none. Not a political statement, this applies across the board. Left, right, middle, I don’t care where you land. It really is a shame, I am waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way….not sure it will. Sadly. I raised my kids differently, with manners and decency towards others.

  2. What is appropriate? In many cases that would mean either prison stripes, a big red clown-nose with big red floppy shoes, Che chic, or, of course, transvesting. Any guesses as to which of the four we will see first?

  3. G. Bruce Boyer | September 27, 2023 at 11:08 am |

    I must agree with John Burton: to choose not to make a choice is to make a choice. We cannot escape the responsibility of choice unless we are coerced beyond our will. And, at bottom, virtually every choice is a moral choice. We are accountable. To look at the sartorial implications, those who say they simply don’t care what they wear or how they look are both deeply self-delusional and uninformed.

    • william plumer | September 27, 2023 at 2:49 pm |

      Just read Mr. Boyers book “Riffs” great writing, great book. His remarks here are completely correct.


    • william plumer | September 27, 2023 at 2:50 pm |

      Just read Mr. Boyers book “Riffs” great writing, great book. His remarks here are completely correct.


  4. I like all the points you made. I don’t usually comment I just shop and read. On this point however you are so correct I had to chime in. Thanks for a great site.

  5. Well, I am not a Sinema fan: so this is quite objective. She is a sharp dresser, that particular picture at the head of your piece is one of the few where she is making a fashion mistake. I have to say, it looks a bit photoshopped in fact and I doesn’t at all look like her normal quite stylish way of dressing.
    Remember the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot”? As Bruce is saying this is impossible to untangle from politics, populism and morals, even partisan politics now.

    I also have to say that I can’t comment without bias over all really, since though I dress Ivy, sort of, I voted for Fetterman, partly rather than vote for his opponent but also because I agree with some, not all of his politics and his work in his community, which is not far from me. I wouldn’t dress like Fetterman, not do I think it flatters him. As it happens I didn’t even know there was a dress code and really was tired of seeing every male rep dressed like an attorney: that is the impression I always got frankly. I am ok without a dress code there and I don’t really think not adhering to the ‘attorney/businessman’ look shows any kind of disrespect as such: Fetterman is, anyway, making a kind of point, a populist one and as Bruce Boyer says, is not just being careless in ‘not making a choice’. He is also correct that it is a moral choice at bottom. However I might disagree as to what the moral is?

    I wish, in genera,l American males would dress a bit better though. I go for bow ties, courdory jackets, seersucker and Panama hats in Summer, you can start to stand out too much in Paoli PA and, that is kind of sad to be slightly forced in one’s dress by the laziness of others.

  6. GC,
    The pendulum will naturally swing back to the right in seeking equilibrium. The fulcrum, however, is being driven to the left at an ever increasing rate of acceleration. This has been the situation for so long now, that it would take multiple generations of course correction to achieve stability. Even the most minuscule of improvements will be perceived to be radical as compared to momentum and inertia.

    So, please don’t wait for the pendulum to correct itself. Apply some kinetic energy first, by searching here the terms “Radical” and “Conformists”. You will find some great articles. Then, try to find a couple of odd jackets and a half dozen neckties. You are a warrior. Thank you for your service.

    • Bop, can you please amend the note about the pendulum swinging to the left #nopolitics #thanks – otherwise, yes, great point.

      • In order to maintain GC’s pendulum analogy, I had to gurgle image search “pendulum fulcrum”. The link is too long, but graphic representations…I’m sure you understand. So I’ve spent a good part of the evening trying to come up with something better. Then, on the way to class, I thought about using terms of aesthetics, i.e., beautiful vs. ugly. I’m OK with that, but on top of being a mixed metaphor in this case, some people take offense to that as well. You know, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder, sexist, blah, blah”. Then just a few minutes ago it hit me. What we’re talking about, in this instance, is dressing to present a “professional” vs. an “unprofessional” image, as well as respect for the institution and the public. (As an aside, my experience is that usually, when people speak in terms of professional vs. unprofessional, they really don’t know what they’re talking about.)

        So, anyway, as I like being in the club, sure, I amend my comment to say that the trend toward grunge began in 1967, as documented here, and every time it has a resurgence, the bar has been lowered.

        By the way, as I’ve said before, the “professional” blue-suit uniform they wear looks so cheap and so minimum effort, that I believe this contributes to the problem. All this applies to the TV talking heads, too. Is everyone afraid to exceed the standard or do they all just consult the same professionals.

  7. Charlottesville | September 27, 2023 at 2:05 pm |

    I could not agree more. Dressing with respect for the country and the institution in which one serves is a minimum standard. I am losing what little respect I have left for our political class.

  8. James H. Grant | September 27, 2023 at 5:05 pm |

    According to a recent Gallup poll, only 19% of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. Why should their clothing not reflect their ineptitude, intransigence, and lack of self-esteem? Let them throw 234 years of tradition, dignity, civility, and respect for their colleagues and the institution out with the bath water and wear sack cloth and ashes.

  9. “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” – John Adams

    Few of the “Founding Brothers” (nod to J. Ellis) were optimistic about America’s future as a republic. Adams and Jefferson were especially pessimistic (in the early days of “The Cause”) but eventually the rest of the gang predicted a downward spiral — toward eventual demise. The authors of U.S. history textbooks don’t include this information because, well, it’s damned depressing.

    Why? The people. Yep. The masses. Uniformed, uneducated, foolish, lazy, silly citizens, who, infatuated with/by celebrity and easily fooled by charlatans, not only permit/tolerate but affirm appallingly stupid people as they seek office. We’ve been slouching toward hades for a good long while. Dreadful and grim, but not surprising. Populists on both sides (the blame is thoroughly bipartisan) have much to answer for, but, since their righteous anger is mostly justified, we can also point the finger of condemnation at the shallow, vapid “elites.”

    Oh yeah — don’t take my word for it:

  10. An addendum is that “elites,” whether liberal or conservative or what-the-hell-ever politically, are as much to blame as anybody. Wanna see slipshod, shabby sartorial standards? Visit an Ivy League campus. And I’m not talking about the students only. I’m referring to faculty and administration. Ivy League deans/administrators are collectively the paragon of slovenliness.

    Meanwhile I recently saw pictures of a college football Saturday (“Game Day!”) at a state school below the Mason-Dixon: Sport jackets, button-downs, blazers, khakis, loafers, neckties. They probably go to church on Sunday, drive SUVs, work 50-hour weeks, lift hand-to to heart (or head) when The Star-Spangled Banner begins, and offer grace before meals. God bless ’em. If traditional manners (including dress) survive, it’ll be because of them.

  11. Sometime yesterday, the Senate reinstated the formal dress code.

  12. Yesterday while walking a block to pick up a salad around noon in an area in which most of the major law firms, as well as at least one big four accounting firm are located, I noticed among the crowd that no one was wearing a coat and most, both male and female, were wearing extremely casual closing, much of it gymwear. I was wearing what has become my post COVID dress – dress pants, oxford BD and a sport coat but no tie. Yesterday was a turning point. Today I am in a navy BB suit (puchased before the fall of BB), white OBD, navy tie with white stripes, and cap toed English shoes, i.e., the pre-COVID uniform. As an act of rebellion, I have decided to return to dressing as an adult professional. I may look odd during Zoom calls, but so be it.

  13. Charlottesville | September 28, 2023 at 10:34 am |

    We get results! Senate unanimously passes formal dress code. Apparently, when Ivy Style speaks, people listen. 🙂

  14. Over the past couple of years, as we’ve all emerged from the Covid pandemic, we’ve collectively been asking a lot of questions about what we went along with in the “before times.” Many of these questions are warranted. I think a lot of us feel indignation returning to a world where so many things in this society work so poorly for so many. I think the disavowal of dress codes can, in part, be traced to this phenomenon. But it’s overkill. I agree that dressing to a high standard shows respect, and anyone in a position to make decisions about the workings of the military or first responders should probably dress accordingly. Some, like the senator in the title photo, seem to dress mainly for attention. Others, like a certain congressman from Ohio, for some reason can’t be bothered to wear a jacket. I wish they’d try a little harder to bring more dignity to their offices, but, as have seen, dignity seems like another thing that a large number of politicians have collectively decided no longer works for them.

  15. I agree with SE, our elites just aren’t. It’s always about protect their rice bowls. We’ve got academics and scientist having to retract papers at an alarming rate.

  16. Aaron Klingensmith | September 29, 2023 at 8:02 am |

    There is so much classism within this post (and many of the comments) that it makes me question whether ivy style–my preferred style–is what I want to identify with. It certainly makes me feel that it is not a welcoming style and I understand why more and more youth are rejecting it, letting it grow old and archaic in their parents closet.

    Take, for example: “You want to be heard? Present yourself as worthy of the volume.”

    What a pair of sentences. The implication being that if you don’t dress in a particular way then you don’t deserve to be heard or may find yourself being ignored. Maybe, in that situation, the fault lies with the people choosing not to listen, no?

    This entire discussion seems to also be lacking a historical perspective. Namely, the class of dress commonly found in our political bodies throughout history were both a sign of respect for the institution AND a form of gatekeeping–ensuring certain classes of people would feel unwelcome or unqualified to participate in those spaces.

    I would never imply that someone shouldn’t dress formally if that is what they’d prefer to do. And I’d fully acknowledge that in some contexts a person’s casual attire will make it harder for them to be taken seriously and could result in consequences (e.g. being voted out of office) regardless to whether or not that’s “right”. However I will always disagree that how a person drreses plays a role in whether or not they should are “worthy” of a voice in the first place.

    • I’ve been at this for a little bit now, but I have to say I’ve never been misinterpreted at this high a level before. Makes me wonder.

      • Aaron Klingensmith | October 3, 2023 at 11:59 am |

        Honest question, how would you say I misinterpreted you?

        • John Burton | October 3, 2023 at 2:33 pm |

          (1) I don’t really imply much. Not smart enough to. But it makes for a writing style. (2) When I say you want to be heard I mean as a senator, not as an individual. (3) Not to toot my own horn but I don’t think there is anyone with a bigger body of work about Ivy inclusiveness than me – can you think of anybody? I get knocked for being TOO inclusive. (4) this is not a misinterpretation but you are incorrect, Ivy is SURGING amongst youth. Go to Target today.

  17. John
    I am giving you credit for single handedly getting Congress to reverse course on the Dress Code.
    Well done!
    Now get them to pass the spending budget please.

  18. Unlike the other floaters in the punch bowl, Sinema and Fetterman “own it”. Shame to waste good lipstick.

  19. Aaron Klingensmith | October 4, 2023 at 11:19 am |


    I’ll fully admit that I’m newer to the site so your body of work isn’t fully known to me. I’ll take you at your word that you promote inclusivity, in which case good on you.

    I still have issue with the sentences “You want to be heard? Present yourself as worthy of the volume.” Even if directed at senators (although I’d wager many people will read a sentence like that and mentally use it as a justification towards individuals as well). I think the work and words of a senator are far more valuable barometers as to “worthiness” than attire. There’s no shortage of Representatives in the House who are dressed more formally, and look how that’s going…

    Your feelings about Ivy popularity is interesting to me. My personal experience (as a former high school teacher and as someone who recently started expressing to peers that my preferred style is Ivy) has been the opposite. I’m not sure I’m ready to point to one collaboration as more convincing than the myriad of youth that seem uninterested in Ivy. But more than willing to reconsider that stance in the light of more data.

    • John Burton | October 5, 2023 at 6:02 pm |

      Aaron, spend some time on the site and on the FB group and you will catch the vibe. Which has changed. With regard to that sentence, it was directed at senators because I was writing about senators. I can tell you many people read it and you are the only person I know of who threw it to a larger audience. I am having trouble following your logic here. I am saying, and the Senate now agrees, that if you want to be trusted as a leader, dress like you respect those you govern. Of course what you say and do has more worth. But when did I say dress was the ultimate? I didn’t, right? So where did you get the dot you are connecting there? With regard to data, you would have to get the data that Rowing Blazers and Target used when they invested. Because I am sure they used data. 🙂

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