Maxwell Frost and other Gen Z politicians explain what drives their style choices | ET REALITY


Wearing a dark green Express suit and Cole Haan dress sneakers, Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., took the stage at Metrobar in Washington. He spoke at an event this summer hosted by Run for Something, a political action committee that supports young Democrats seeking state and local offices.

“How’s everybody?” Frost, 26, asked a crowd of about 200 people, in which more than one brightly colored Telfar bag could be seen. Several of the attendees, including Mr. Frost, were members of Generation Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2012.

In an interview after his speech, Frost said that “one interesting thing about our generation is that we are super open to whatever fashion and creativity people bring to the table.” Much of his professional wardrobe consists of suits, but he has worn bomber jackets and Dr. Martens shoes to more casual events, he said, as well as T-shirts while on the campaign trail.

“I feel like there’s a direct connection between Doc Martens, a certain style and young progressives,” Frost said.

He is the only member of Congress from Generation Z, but others of his generation have been elected to state legislatures and city councils across the country at a time when more young people have turned out to vote. TO study 2021 by the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University found that 50 percent of people ages 18 to 29 voted in the 2020 election, an increase of 11 percent from 2016.

Although Gen Z politicians can often be seen in the type of formal attire that lawmakers have worn for decades (partly due to workplace dress codes that date back to before they were born), some They said their clothing choices reflect the priority of appearing authentic. in a survey 2021 of American Generation Z by the accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, 92 percent of participants Such authenticity is a priority. That authenticity can be an important tool as these elected officials do the sometimes less visible work of lawmaking.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have rules of procedure, including regulations on how members must dress. But neither chamber has an official dress code.

On the Senate floor, for example, Male legislators are expected to wear a jacket and tie.. House rules have been relaxed in recent years. In 2017the chamber began allowing female members to wear open-toed shoes and sleeveless tops or dresses; in 2019the rules changed to allow head coverings for religious purposes.

State and municipal governments have their own protocols, some of which have recently attracted attention. TO Pamphlet distributed in the offices of Florida legislators. in January he warned women not to wear skirts that reached more than an inch above the knee at the Capitol in Tallahassee. That same month, the Missouri House of Representatives updated its dress code, requiring female lawmakers and staff members to wear jackets; Male colleagues have had this requirement for years.

Mazzie Boyd, a Republican in the Missouri House of Representatives who previously worked in the Trump White House, said her legislature’s new dress code hasn’t stopped her from adopting her personal style at work.

“I wear what I want,” said Rep. Boyd, 25, who described her style as country and sophisticated. She prefers colorful pieces from brands such as Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Ivanka Trump’s eponymous fashion line, which closed in 2018.

“I try not to match my skirt with my shirt,” she said. “If I wear a tweed skirt, I don’t want to wear the matching tweed jacket. The same thing happens with dresses. “I’m not trying the exact same color or the exact same pattern on every item.”

Ms. Boyd said her mix of colors and patterns has caught the attention of some older colleagues, who have commented how her suits are a reminder that “they don’t have to wear black on black with a white shirt every day.” as she put it.

“Now, am I saying that people replicate what I wear? Probably not,” she added. “I’m kind of my girl.”

Caleb Hanna, a Republican in the West Virginia House of Delegates, also said his clothing could set him apart from his colleagues. On Fridays, he said, there is a tradition among some Republican members of the state House of Delegates of wearing camel-colored jackets, a decades-old ritual in which he has not participated.

“I think the politics of today are very different from the politics of the past,” said Delegate Hanna, 23. “The politics of the past, especially in West Virginia, focused on this good old boy system, and it was more of a club.”

Hanna, whose favorite brands include Vineyard Vines, said he liked wearing sport coats but hated ties. “If I’m just walking around the Capitol after finishing the day, usually the first thing that comes off is my tie,” she said. “I’m always trying to take off my tie.”

Chi Ossé, 25, a Brooklyn Democrat on the City Council, said she has expressed her personal style at work through clothes with subtle details (a favorite pleated pant from Uniqlo) and accessories (leather platform shoes from Dr. Martens). .

Councilman Ossé is also known to wear a black beret, a style of hat adopted by the Black Panthers, in public appearances, including in a meeting of the New York City Rent Guidelines Board in June. He began wearing the beret while organizing Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, she said. Then, when he announced his campaign for City Council, he became a way for people to recognize him. “It felt good to use it and I felt good,” he said.

Ossé said he has never felt pressured to dress formally, but when he has worn a suit or tie, his colleagues and constituents have taken him more seriously. “People treat you differently,” he said.

Joe Vogel, a Democrat in the Maryland House of Delegates, said choosing what to wear often requires a careful balance.

Delegate Vogel, 26, who is running for an open congressional seat in 2024, said he seems “a little more relatable” when he’s not wearing jackets. His Adidas Stan Smith sneakers, he added, are a staple on the election campaign. When he wears a shirt and tie, he often rolls up his sleeves to appear more casual.

Leaders of Run for Something and Run GenZ, an organization that supports young Republicans running for state and local offices, said the groups encourage the candidates they support to wear clothing that boosts their confidence.

“Our advice is to dress up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself too,” said Joe Mitchell, 26, founder of Run GenZ and former Iowa Republican state representative. When he was in office, he added, “I felt like I could “Looking the part even when I was at home going to a county party central committee meeting dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and sneakers.”

Amanda Litman, founder of Run for Something, said her organization supports women candidates, LGBTQ candidates and candidates of color who, as she put it, “can’t pretend to be like the old, rich white people of yesteryear.”

“They can only be who they are,” Litman said. “They’re just not willing to fake it in a way that’s really appreciated.”

And it’s not just Gen Z politicians who dress more casually.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, 52, a Democrat, likes to wear pink (fuchsia, to be precise). House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, 58, R-Calif.; Sen. Mitch McConnell, 81, Republican of Kentucky; and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 53, Democrat of New York, recently wore dress sneakers to a meeting in the Oval Office. It’s hard to imagine Sen. John Fetterman, 54, D-Pennsylvania, in anything but hoodies and shorts.

Rep. Sara Jacobs, 34, a California Democrat and millennial, said she thought many elected officials now made appearing authentic a priority, “over some generic standard of what a politician has historically been like.”

In June, members of the Newly Formed Congressional Sneaker Caucusled by Rep. Jared Moskowitz, 42, D-Fla., and Rep. Lori Chávez-DeRemer, 55, R-Ore., organized the first Sneaker Day on Capitol Hill.

“We no longer wear powdered wigs in Congress,” Moskowitz said. Bringing some fashion and youth culture to Capitol Hill, he added, “is not a revolution; It is an evolution of how we dress.”

Nabeela Syed, 24, a Democrat in the Illinois House of Representatives, said she typically wears white sneakers to work (she also prefers Adidas Stan Smiths) because she makes dressing comfortably a priority. White sneakers, she said, have been a staple of her wardrobe since she was in high school.

“I’m still sticking to who I’ve always been,” Rep. Syed said. “To what I feel like.”

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