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Thursday, March 23, 2023

‘It’s powerful’: How John Fetterman’s hoodie won the popular vote in Pennsylvania | united states politics

By his own admission, Pennsylvania’s newly elected senator, John Fetterman, doesn’t seem like “a typical politician.”

Just over six feet tall, with a goatee, forearm tattoos, and a strong tendency toward work clothes (for his official portrait, he chose to sit in a crumpled gray Dickies cowboy shirt in front of the American flag). .), Fetterman has been described as the state’s first “workwear senator”, as well as “a guy in shorts”.

Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, he broke the Republican hold on Pennsylvania’s white working-class vote while wearing a black Carhartt hoodie, a garment “that’s not fancy, it’s well made and , more importantly, it will last: all qualities that a politician like Fetterman probably wants to convey in what he wears,” says Erynn Masi de Casanova, professor of sociology at the University of Cincinnati and author of Buttoned Up: Clothing, Conformity, and White-Collar Masculinity. “Simply put, this hoodie is an easy way to read what she appears to represent.”

Fetterman’s unreconstructed wardrobe, which also includes a lime green neck gaiter, Levi’s indigo 501, oversized swim trunks and, in an odd quirk, a pair of Maison Margiela side-zip boots costing several hundred dollars, has become a talking point since the former mayor entered American politics. .

Hailed as a style icon by GQ in 2020 when he was still lieutenant governor, he responded on Twitter that he had a “negative fashion sense.” Pressed for further comment, he wrote a blog on Medium in which he stated: “I don’t look like a typical politician, nor do I look like a typical person” – alluding to his height – before explaining why he has tattoos: on his The left arm is 15104, the zip code for Braddock, the mining town where he was formerly mayor, and on the right are the dates of five murders committed in the town since his election.

But it is the hoodie that has dominated the narrative. Says Casanova, “It’s strange that we continue to imbue an item that almost everyone has in their closet with so much meaning.” Still, context is everything. Rishi Sunak was mocked by most of the British media for wearing a gray Everlane hoodie (about the same price as Carhartt, though more suitable for the gym) at his desk, while in 2019, Québec politics Solidaire, Catherine Dorion, was so ridiculed for wearing an orange hoodie in the legislative chamber that she had to leave the room. But since none of the above used theirs to cast their ballots, campaign or even meet with President Biden, by wearing one, Fetterman “has brought some visibility to himself,” says Casanova.

The fact that it’s from Carhartt only increases its visibility. Originally based in Detroit, Carhartt began making workwear, often triple-stitched for durability, for workers in labor-intensive industries during the Great Depression. Today, the brand’s main customers are divided between hipsters and these blue-collar workers. Fetterman may have had a master’s degree from Harvard, but he comes from a mining town; wearing a Carhartt hoodie, as authentic as this choice is, “and I think it’s really what he wears rather than a costume,” Casanova says, is recognizable to many of the people who vote for him, and he’s taking advantage of that. In the run-up to the midterms, Fetterman was described as a “basement bum” by his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz. When Fetterman retaliated by mocking Oz’s “Gucci loafers” for being out of touch, the post went viral.

Hoodies like Fetterman’s cost 10 cents across the Western world, but the media climate still dictates that it’s unusual for a politician to wear one. “Pennsylvania is something unique with a very strong labor history, which is more important than clothing,” says US political commentator Luke O’Neil. Fetterman is aware that he is conferring the dignity of blue-collar work clothes on the act of politics, but as O’Neil puts it, he, too, is “just a guy who wears what he feels comfortable in.”

Hoodies are the final bastion in the gradual informalization of political dress, which began when JFK eschewed hats for his 1961 inaugural address and was last worn when Barack Obama rolled up his sleeves to sit with diners on the campaign trail. . In his Medium post, Fetterman alluded to the fact that he lacked “the metaphorical political sleeves to roll up his sleeves; all I wear are short-sleeved work shirts because hard work is the only way to rebuild our communities.”

It remains to be seen what happens to his wardrobe if Fetterman progresses. In the House of Representatives, men must wear a suit and tie at all times while Congress is in session. Fetterman has a suit, which was worn more publicly when he was sworn in as lieutenant governor in 2019, but he insists that he wears it mostly on Halloween.

What politicians wear has the power to invent and even maintain their identity, and Fetterman’s hoodie is a case in point. “If that means critics of him pathologize him for some nefarious reason, then he’s much more powerful,” says Casanova. “However, it’s clearly working for him, which is why he’ll probably be laughing all the way to the Senate.”

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