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John Boehner’s final directive to Congress: Dress better, slobs

Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) waves his trademark box of tissues as he addresses colleagues prior to the election for the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington October 29, 2015.
Reuters/Gary Cameron
The way Congress dresses makes John Boehner sad.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

John Boehner, the departing speaker of the US House of Representatives, gave his farewell speech before Congress today (Oct. 29). Among the topics he felt he needed to address in his emotional goodbye: his erstwhile colleagues’ habitually shabby attire.

John Bresnahan, Politico’s Washington bureau chief, tweeted Boehner’s comments during the speech.

It just wouldn’t be a proper Boehner goodbye without some sartorial admonishment. Boehner has taken Washington to task for what he’s deemed less-than-ideal clothing before, and used that same line. He did it in 2012, then again in 2013, and again in 2014. He did it earlier this year, too.

Boehner’s reprimands are really more about following the rules than being fashionable, which makes sense given that Congress isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of haute fashion. Take, for instance, Seersucker Thursday, in which members of the Senate all dress up in old-timey-looking seersucker on a warm day in the second or third week of June each year. Or have a look at any of the presidential debates this year and you’ll see variations of the same staid, somber suiting, on men and women alike.

But Boehner hasn’t limited his critical eye to politicos. He once made fun of a reporter’s socks during a press conference. “Why would you wear socks that look like that? I thought the circus was coming to town or something,” he said. After a reporter noted that the circus was, in fact, in town, Boehner rejoined, ”Well, you better go catch up with the elephants.”

He’s gotten his share of criticism too, however. WWD, the fashion industry’s premier trade journal, included Boehner on its outfit scorecard during the tense debt-ceiling talks in 2011. The verdict: “The House Speaker, who is holding steady to the Republican agenda while negotiating to raise the country’s debt ceiling, should consider raising his own fashion ceiling.”

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