These days, she still wears trainers to work as an elected member of the House, a firm believer that the rules of modern fashion allow for an outfit to be styled with a mix of leather and synthetic fabrics around the foot. But his notoriously staid workplace forbids such sartorial choices in one very important place: the elegant speakers’ lobby off the floor of the House, where members and press often meet.
So, Moskowitz is doing something about it. On Thursday, he sent a letter to President Kevin McCarthy and other interested parties requesting a meeting to discuss lifting the sneaker ban for journalists, with the goal of doing the same for lawmakers.
“Obviously there is tradition here,” Moskowitz said in an interview with POLITICO. “This is the hall of Congress. We have to dress a certain way. But Congress is getting younger. Traditions change. No one wears a wig around the Capitol anymore.
He said that, in fact, some lawmakers clearly make sports wigs, he revised his statement.
« I meant fake wigs, » she explained. “No one dresses like Thomas Jefferson anymore. … It doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the gravity of the place. But you can wear any suit or tie you want. It should be no different for the sneakers you want.
For Moskowitz, the sneaker ban in the speaker’s lobby – which also bans denim and too-casual shoes for reporters – is not just a personal affront, but a blatant disregard for podiatry and an injustice to the ‘boot (excuse the pun). Elegant shoes are extremely uncomfortable for the inhabitants of the Capitoline Hill, who take thousands of steps on the marble floors during the day.
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
And for journalists, who spend hours in the Capitol halls surveilling lawmakers and occasionally running full speed ahead after high-profile ones, the freedom to don more comfortable shoes could vastly improve their quality of life.
“The ban is unrealistic and outdated. Journalists are on their feet all day, often on hard marble floors, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice basic comforts to do their job,” said a Hill reporter who was granted anonymity to address an issue directly. delicate.
“The rule is particularly targeted at women, who largely don’t have the same comfortable dress shoe options as men,” this reporter added. « I think we can still respect the historic institution that we all work in while we’re in our kicks. »
The power to lift the sneaker ban rests only with the speaker. After all, it’s his lobby. But Moskowitz believes he may have a sympathetic ear in McCarthy. The California Republican is a sprite 58, someone whose very affinity for hybrid sneakers (which are allowed in the lobby) has sparked a fashion debate that ended up on the pages of the New York Times.
McCarthy and his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (a self-described shoe aficionado), represent a new generation of leaders who aren’t necessarily tied to the dress mores of previous eras.
« We’re at a tipping point, » Moskowitz said. “I don’t know if we are at a turning point. McCarthy and his age, and Hakeem and the good relationship they seem to have—it’s a conversation you can have.
Moskowitz has dubbed his cause « freedom footwear, » suggesting it could appeal to conservative members of the Freedom Caucus. To bring more light and attention to the topic, he and the rest of the Congressional Sneaker Caucus are hosting a congressional sneaker day on June 21.
The event is billed as the « first ever » of its kind, with a trophy to be presented to the participant wearing « the coolest sneaker ».
Dress etiquette on the hill and in the speakers’ lobbies has been a perennial issue for the press corps. Then-reporter Paul Ryan revised the regulations in 2017 amid a row over requirements that women cover their backs and wear closed-toe shoes. Men are still required to wear a suit and tie, although this rule hasn’t drawn much criticism.
As for the sneaker ban, its enforcement expired during the pandemic. But the rule gradually got stricter as more reporters returned to the Capitol, leading to rumblings among the body of the press about inconsistent standards and arcane expectations. Another Hill reporter with chronic knee issues said it was important to be able to wear supportive footwear.
« The ban prevents me from prioritizing my health, » said this reporter, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
For some members of Congress, the sneaker ban is little more than a bunion to the body politic: a nuisance, to be sure, but hardly the most pressing issue.
« Really important discussion, » scolded Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), when she heard Rep. Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.) being asked about the ban.
But for others it’s simple, common sense. « Sneakers are comfortable, so let people wear sneakers, » said Bowman, himself a member of the Sneaker Caucus.
What sets Moskowitz apart — and why, perhaps, he took on the role of Pied Piper in the cause of footwear freedom — is his sentimental attachment to shoes. His father, who died a month before he took office, would take him to the mall before he opened so they could run to the local Foot Locker and wait for the clerks to lift the gate, open the checkouts to buy new shoes.
That long-ago anxiety about whether the store would stock the new pair of Jordans Moskowitz wanted is still fresh in his mind. So is the youthful swagger he felt walking into school decked out in Reebok pumps. To this day, he checks the sneaker app every day at 10am on his phone.
His shoes, he explained, are him. « We are connected to them. »