In 2020, Pennsylvania’s then-lieutenant governor John Fetterman confirmed on Twitter that he owns exactly one suit: a simple, two-buttoned deal with notch lapels and a blue tie, which he purportedly purchased from a big-and-tall store near Braddock, the town where he lives and once served as mayor. A progressive Democrat noted for his tattooed, goateed, six-foot-eight physicality and pretty much exclusively wearing Carhartt hoodies, Fetterman joked that he really only brings out the suit for “special occasions like Legal Weed,🤩, Lurch-themed Halloween pictures🙄, + so they let me in the in the PA Senate. ☹️” According to a 2019 article from the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Fetterman’s “one and only suit” usually lives on a coat rack in his office.
(“If they’d let me, I’d totally preside over the senate in shorts 🩳💯,” he added in the Twitter replies. “Curse you pa senate dress code. 😆”)
Now, as his state’s senator-elect, Fetterman added another special occasion to the list this week: new member orientation at the United States Capitol, where decorum still rules that men wear suits on the senate floor. On Tuesday morning, he brought out what appears to be the same suit, albeit with a slightly different blue tie, for his first day in Washington. “Wearing a suit doesn’t make me any smarter,” as Fetterman himself once said—but it will probably comprise his new daily uniform after he’s sworn into office in January.
Fetterman’s deeply normal wardrobe has weathered his political success before—he sat for his official government portrait wearing a gray, short-sleeved Dickies work shirt, and he’s in Carhartt on and off the campaign trail. This is all in service of a broader argument: as Rachel Tashjian wrote for GQ back in 2020, “Fetterman manages to wear the brand as both its populist creators intended and its newer aesthetic-minded customer base of art handlers and skateboarders interpret it.” He frequently wears basketball shorts, even in winter. (On Election Night last week, Fetterman’s three young kids all accompanied him on stage in hoodies and shorts.) He also—bafflingly, swaggily—appears to own a pair of Margiela side-zip boots, and there’s plenty of flair elsewhere in his life, too: his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, is a vintage lover with a delightful personal style, and the Fettermans’ family home is a former Chevy car dealership they converted into a funky, red-bricked loft. We all contain multitudes.
It would also be correct to point out that John Fetterman simply…dresses how lots of folks in Pennsylvania and elsewhere do every day. But this is also partially what makes him an interesting—and even, by some accounts, victorious—figure to have in Washington, where stalactite politicians rarely do anything that lots of Americans do every day. There’s lots to consider elsewhere, here, too about fashion’s ongoing obsession with normcore and workwear, how the powers that be view the working class, and the still-sticky political charade of “rolling up one’s shirtsleeves” and ditching ties. (In a Medium post last year, Fetterman said he “[lacks] the political metaphorical sleeves to roll up—all I ever wear are short-sleeve work shirts because hard work is the only way to build our communities back up.”) But in the meantime, in Washington, suits it is.