I Miss Coats and Ties

This past week Majority leader Chuck Schumer D-NY changed the 234-year old dress code for the United States Senate. Senators will now be able to wear whatever they want on the chamber floor after Schumer directed the sergeant at arms not to enforce the Senate’s informal dress code.


Two centuries of etiquette and excellence gone. For what and whom?

This is not the biggest issue facing our nation, but it’s a symptom of cultural rot. I don’t like it. 

I miss ties and coats. 

I Miss Coats and Ties

Before I share a personal story about the importance of excellence in society, here are the facts about the Senate dress code bombshell.

In a statement to CBS News, Schumer said, “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit.” The change only applies to senators, but other staff members must still follow the code, which requires business attire. 

The Senate’s sergeant at arms, who is elected by senators and acts as a protocol officer and law enforcer, will enforce the new “informality.” 

Why did Schumer erase two centuries of dignified dress? I can’t read his mind or that of any invisible beings that might be influencing it, but on the surface it appears he did away with historical precedent for one man who really shouldn’t be there at all: the mentally and emotionally challenged Sen. John Fetterman, D-PA.

John Fetterman has major mental issues, and suffers from depression that has kept him away form Capitol Hill for weeks. He languished in this diminished state while running for office in 2020. Wisdom and compassion in “Penn’s Woods” should have led the voting public to encourage him to get help–not move to D.C. But they voted for him anyway.

Shame on the voters of Pennsylvania.

Reminds me of another mentally diminished candidate who was also elected to the highest office in America in 2020 whose words, actions and policies hurt and embarrass the nation daily because 81 million unthinking people voted for him.

Shame on them as well.

We reap what we sow. 

Now back to Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman. He has been seen wearing a hoodie and shorts to work – even before Schumer’s announcement. Fetterman even donned a sweatshirt for a news briefing about the collapse of I-95 in Pennsylvania with President Biden earlier this year.

Josh Hammer in the Daily Signal explains:

Fetterman’s appalling sense of dress, and Schumer’s capitulation to it, can be seen as part of the Left’s broader, sustained attacks on the norms of many venerable institutions. (We are, after all, reliably informed by many wokesters that the very structure of the Senate—two members per state, regardless of population—is a throwback to “white supremacy.”) But the koshering of Fetterman’s sartorial slovenliness bespeaks a trend both greater and more pernicious than the wokes’ now-trite attacks on American traditions: the failure to recognize, and uphold, objective social standards.

I’m old enough to remember when women wearing pretty dresses and men donning coats and ties was a an important part of American life. We dressed up for special events, especially for weddings and funerals where we desired to bless and memorialize those we love.

We also wore coats, ties, and dresses to church–to show respect for God as the reigning King of the universe. On important days like Christmas and Easter, we took it a notch higher with little girls wearing pretty dresses with ribbons in their hair, and women donning special bonnets and hats. 

We wanted to look our best for God.

When I first began to preach, you couldn’t enter a pulpit without a coat and tie. I liked the tradition and the dignity it brought. When I preached around the world in many diverse cultures, I always dressed up, even in sweltering heat.

Some years ago when I was speaking in Finland, I got separated from my coat and tie on Sunday morning due to various meetings and arrived at the church worried I might have to speak without them. Fortunately, my hosts brought my apparel from home in time to hand them to me before preaching.

Of course, dress depends on culture. Many cultures don’t wear coats and ties (they’re not Western), but they also have special “dress up attire” that fits their cultural standards. It’s also true that some cultures are more “informal” than others. It’s not coats and ties that are the issue. It goes much deeper than that.

God created human beings to both seek and appreciate three things that no animal considers. Theologians call them the cultural trinity: truth, goodness, and beauty.

From dolphins to ants, no other creatures except humans, made in God’s image, are wired to admire these aspects of life. Human beings seek truth and meaning in their lives. We are drawn to good character and moral virtue. And our heart smiles at “beautiful things” though that it may differ as “beauty in the eye of the beholder.”

A biblical or godly society builds strong roots upon these three cultural pillars. We establish laws and family life centered in the truth about loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. We teach our children that godly character, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the key to their personal destiny and happiness. And vibrant human cultures celebrate the beauty and excellence of the arts in music, paintings, and other cultural expressions.

Societies that are “ascending” are growing in these appreciations. Cultures that are in decline show a drift from the truth. Schools no longer teach moral character as the key to success, and beauty becomes sloppy, ugly, and downright demonic.

America began a long decline in these areas during the Baby Boom generation, helped along by the newness and informality of television. TV brought you publicly into people’s kitchens, living rooms, and even bedrooms where most of us live our “casual” existence. This invasion of what used to be private caused the culture to say, “Why not informal everywhere and all the time?”

Hence “casual Fridays” and now wearing holey jeans and cut-offs to worship.

This change coincided with a great turning away from God–love and respect for Him–which only accelerated the ride to the “bottom.”

Lies, bad behavior, and ugliness are becoming the new norm.

Yes, there needs to be balance in life. We need casualness and informality in many activities. But a healthy society also treasures truth, goodness, and beauty–even in the way they dress. Dressing up for a special person or event, or for the greatest Someone in the universe, shows honor and respect.

We mustn’t do it legalistically–that’s heartless. We should do it it out of love. 

And there’s one more reason I like coats and ties. 

I once saw a Beatles poster hanging on the wall of a Christian musician. I asked him how he could admire the Beatles after they led an entire generation of youth world into sexual immorality, drugs, and rejection of God (John Lennon’s famous quote: “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ.”)

He responded, “I like them for the excellence of their music.” I couldn’t disagree with that, though I thought he should be careful about sending mixed messages to his followers.

Special dress, in every culture, also demonstrates an appreciation for excellence–which is an aspect of worship.

I’m preaching on Sunday.

Maybe I’ll wear a  coat and tie at least to elevate the debate.


  1. Sharon Kay Gakin on September 27, 2023 at 6:07 pm

    I too was sad for the change. It lowers the office to commonplace, like a sporting event or a picnic.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.