Style

Doc Martens, Bomber Jackets, No Ties: Parsing Gen Z Politicians’ Style

Wearing a dark green suit from Express and Cole Haan dress sneakers, Representative Maxwell Frost, Democrat of Florida, took the stage at Metrobar in Washington. He was speaking at an event this summer by Run for Something, a political action committee that supports young Democrats seeking state and local office.

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

In an interview after his speech, Mr. Frost said that “a cool thing about our generation is that we’re super-open to whatever fashion and whatever creativity people bring to the table.” Much of his professional wardrobe consists of suits, but he has worn bomber jackets and Dr. Martens shoes at more casual events, he said, as well as T-shirts on the campaign trail.

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

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

Though Gen Z politicians can often be seen in the type of formal attire that lawmakers have worn for decades — in part because of workplace dress codes that date to before they were born — some said their clothing choices reflect a priority to appear authentic. In a 2021 survey of American Gen Z-ers by the consulting and accounting firm Ernst & Young, 92 percent of participants said authenticity is a priority. That authenticity can be an important tool as these elected officials do the sometimes less visible work of lawmaking.

Mr. Frost’s work wardrobe includes many suits, but he also dresses down for certain events, like a rally in Orlando, Fla., that he spoke at in August.Credit…Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press
Mazzie Boyd, a Republican in the Missouri House, favors colorful clothes and said she prefers to wear pieces that do not exactly match.Credit…Tim Bommel

The House of Representatives and the Senate have rules of procedure, which include governance on how members should dress. But neither chamber has an official dress code.

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

State and city governments have their own protocols, some of which have recently drawn attention. A flyer distributed to Florida legislators’ offices in January warned women not to wear skirts that landed more than one inch above the knee at the Capitol in Tallahassee. That same month, the Missouri House updated its dress code, requiring female legislators and staff members to wear jackets; male colleagues have had the requirement for years.

Mazzie Boyd, a Republican in the Missouri House who previously worked in the Trump White House, said her legislature’s new dress code has not stopped her from embracing her personal style at work.

“I wear what I want to wear,” said Representative Boyd, 25, who described her style as country and sophisticated. She favors colorful pieces from brands like Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Ivanka Trump’s namesake fashion line, which

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