Press Club

Morning Poll: Relaxing the dress code for local elected officials?

Officials at the March 2022 Arlington School Board meeting (via APS)

Earlier this month, the Arlington School Board meeting featured some business casual attire on the dais.

That was not well received by the Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey. He took to his editor’s blog to rail against the “sans cravate” look for elected members and other top officials:

This has been festering for a while, but a couple of current members of the Arlington School Board – maskless since last week’s meeting! – are going commando, either without a jacket, without a tie, or without both. Even the superintendent, who makes an obscene amount of money and ought to dress the part, seems to prefer the jacket-and-sweater look, although there may have been a tie hidden underneath.

Some will call the informal look inviting, saying those who expect formality are Luddites and fuddy-duddies. What is that you say from the great beyond, oh sartorially splendid John McLaughlin? “Wrong!” And right you are.

In that earlier incident, Ye Olde Sun Gazette had enough heft in the community that it got the elected official to mend his ways and return to a tie. Not sure our whining about it will make the current elected officials do the same. Nobody seems to care any more about keeping up appearances and maintaining standards. But they should. Sloppiness reflects badly on the School Board, the school system and the community.

Please, fellas, have a little self-respect. This is not Bradenton Beach, Fla., a community I have some knowledge of, where flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts are the norm for men at some meetings. Northern Virginia is supposed to be a little higher up the political food chain.

Officials did not make the same out-of-the-norm sartorial choices at this past weekend’s Arlington County Board meeting — the men on the dais were all wearing suits and ties (though at least one suit jacket came off after a little while).

Many may agree with McCaffrey, but surely some do not. It’s 2022, lots of people are working from their pajamas at home, and perhaps the old ways of dressing should become another pre-pandemic relic, outside of courts, cotillions and the upper echelons of government.

It’s been a decade since Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie made business headlines and of all the problems we have in the world, tech executives and local elected officials ditching neckties remains pretty low down the list. There is, some may believe, a happy medium between a sea of suits and the State of the Union scene from Idiocracy.

What do you think? Should our top local officials keep up suit-and-tie norms as part of their public service, or can the dress codes be relaxed a bit?

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