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Thursday, October 19 Living

Time for a dress code for politicians

There has been a bit of a controversy in the U.S. House of Representatives of late over the dress code.

Seems some women were not allowed in the U.S. House chamber and the Speaker’s lobby — the private hallway connected to the chamber — because they were wearing sleeveless dresses and open-toed shoes. The decision to bar them entry was made by a House official called the sergeant-at-arms. Who knew the duties of the sergeant-at-arms were to be taken so literally?

Does the House also have: A sergeant-at-legs? A sergeant-at-necks? A sergeant-at-hairdos? Obviously, it must have a sergeant-at-toes. What about a sergeant-at-cleavage, although someone with that responsibility would probably be called an inspector.

You also have to wonder if the house has fashion police officers who deal with men. Might there be: A sergeant-at-power ties? Or a sergeant-at lapel pins? And if there isn’t already, I think all of America can agree there definitely should be a sergeant-at comb-overs.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he plans to look into the dress code, which actually just calls for professional attire. This will prove to be more complicated than he anticipates. For example:

If women can wear open-toed shoes, should men not be allowed to do the same?

What about sleeveless suits, or shirts unbuttoned to reveal hirsute chests? (If male cleavage is allowed, it would, obviously, call for a sergeant-at-gold chains.)

With all the exposed skin the patriotic tattoo — the eagle, the flag, the USA logo — would surely follow. And let us not forget the slogans: E Pluribus Unum, Don’t Tread on Me, Live Free or Die (or in the case of tax-allergic New Hampshire legislators, Live For Free or Die).

The traditionalists who favor a strict dress code cite decorum. But if you have been paying attention to Washington politics over the past several months, you are aware that the good ship decorum has sailed.

To keep attire from becoming a partisan issue, as you know it would, perhaps Congress could take a page out of the private school playbook and opt for uniforms.

I’m not talking jumpers, plaid skirts and knee socks for the women or blazers, striped ties and baggy gray pants for the men. I’m thinking more along the lines of athletic uniforms, maybe something like football jerseys. I mean, Washington is all about the sport of politics, the winning, the losing. Actual legislation is just the field on which the game is played.

So team uniforms would be a perfect fit.

Republicans could wear red jerseys, or maybe shades of red, depending upon how conservative a player is. Democrats would wear a liberal blue, ranging from dark to a wimpy pale hue for moderates. I’m not exactly sure what color Independents would wear, maybe something in purple.

The media, of course, could be required to wear the traditional black and white vertical striped shirts favored by referees. I wouldn’t give them whistles, though.

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Besides toning down the rancor, Congressional uniforms could be very beneficial to constituents. In truth, how many people know all their representatives by sight?

This is where numbers come in, maybe accompanied by a name tag across the back and a state name on the front. There might even be home and away uniforms, and leaders such as Ryan or Sen. Mitch McConnell could have a star logo to distinguish them as team captains. (I’m also thinking handshakes and a coin toss prior to any floor debates.)

Finally, as for open-toed shoes, I’m not sure where to go with that. I know better than to interfere with a woman’s right to Choos.

Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at jimboshea@gmail.com and on Twitter @jimboshea.

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