Congressional style

Lawmakers are known for many types of style — political, oratorical, campaigning — but a few members of Congress stand out for a different kind: their personal style.

Suits, tailored dresses, red or blue ties and basic black are a normal sight in the halls of Capitol Hill. The Hill spoke to several lawmakers who distinguish themselves because they dare to be different.

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Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

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CYCLING FAN: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has one of the most distinctive looks in Congress. He is usually easy to spot in a sea of men in traditional blue suits with his bow tie and bicycle pin on his lapel.

The nine-term lawmaker is avid cyclist and heads the bipartisan Congressional Bike Caucus.

He said he owns about 10,000 bicycle pins and he hands them out at random — including to reporters asking about them.

“I have red, white, blue, platinum, little pewter ones and ones that glow in the dark,” he said on a recent day while wearing a dayglow green pin on his lapel.

Asked how he decides which one to wear, he responded: “Suit, tie, day of the week.”

He’s been wearing the pins for about 15 years.

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Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.)

HATS OFF: Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) is hard to miss — whether she’s walking into the chamber for votes or standing out in the crowd of lawmakers waiting to shake President Obama’s hand during the State of the Union address.

And it’s all thanks to her hats.

The sophomore lawmaker, asked how many she owned, responded: “Too many.”

On the day The Hill spoke to Wilson, she was wearing a red-sequined cowboy hat, a bright red skirt, a red-and-white checkered jacket and a massive strand of pearls.

“Cowboy hats are the ones I basically wear. If it’s not a cowboy hat, it’s a fedora,” she said, noting that she keeps them in their own room in her house.

“I have a room that’s shelved top to the bottom and I try to keep them in colors — according to colors and to season.”

She purchases the hats in South Beach, where she is based, and said she’s been wearing them for about 20 years.

“My grandmother always dressed up. She would always wear a hat and always wear gloves. Her name is Frederica, too. So I grew up wanting to be like her,” Wilson said, adding that, “I inherited all of my grandmother’s hats.”

And Wilson’s hats also do some good. She said she’s often asked to donate them to charity auctions.

“They make a lot of money,” she said.

She admits the one downside to her look is that people mistake the area she represents: “I get asked ‘Are you from Texas?’ ”

The mustache caucus

Most male lawmakers go clean-shaven, but a few dare to wear facial hair: mainly in the form of a mustache.

Sen. John Hoeven (D-N.D.) said he’s worn his for a long time.

“I grew a mustache when I was in college and I’ve never shaved it off since,” he said.

The mustache is prominent in pictures throughout his life and career: his wedding photos, his official portrait from when he was governor and pictures from his time in the Senate.

Hoeven says his wife has never seen him clean-shaven.

“I don’t know if she even knew me when I didn’t have it. I’m not sure she’s ever seen me in person without a mustache.”

He had been the lone senator in the facial-hair club until Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, was elected last year.

“I get teased once in a while but now there is another mustache — Angus King,” Hoeven said. “I told him [he] doubled the size of the mustache coalition.”

King was happy to join the caucus of two.  

Asked if he was teased by other senators for his mustache, told The Hill: “Not that I’ve heard. Not to my face, at least.”

King says he has worn the mustache for “48 years.”

He noted there was a third senator with facial hair: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who sports a beard.

“Hoeven and I were the first two and Coburn’s beard followed. Maybe that can be the beginning of solving the sequester and other things — consult the facial hair caucus,” he joked.

Sadly, that may not come to pass. Coburn, who was the subject of a mock Twitter account called Tom Coburn’s Beard, appeared in the Senate last week clean-shaven.

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Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)

MADE FOR WALKIN’: Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) stood out during votes one afternoon with a bright-pink plaid tie, a matching kerchief and blue cowboys.

Boots, Grayson admits, are his Achilles’s heel.

“I have a serious weakness for Italian boots,” he told The Hill.

He said he owns about 30 pairs, ranging in different styles and colors. (On another day, Grayson was spotted in a yellow-and-black-striped pair).

He buys them from www.Fsbmens.com — a Florida website that sells men’s fashion items.

“They stock these Italian calf boots that I love so much,” he said.

“I try to color-coordinate the best I can. What makes it all interesting is letting one particular article of clothing speak and not necessarily trying to create an orchestra affect.”


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Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

HOUSE HIPSTER: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is Congress’s most well-known hipster.

She even has a Tumblr account, devoted to following her every fashion move, by the name of “Rosa DeLauro is a f------ hipster.”

Her outfit on the day the 113th Congress was sworn in inspired multiple tweets. She was wearing a jacket and ruffled dress with an all-over print, which made her stand out in the crowd of plainly dressed colleagues.

DeLauro doesn’t shy away from prints, usually wearing them in the form of a scarf.

The 12-term lawmaker declined to talk fashion with The Hill on a day she was wearing fabulous striped shoes and a purple jacket while carrying a bright-green purse.

The bowtie caucus

While a tie is the customary neckwear of choice for lawmakers, a few stand out for wearing bow ties.

A couple of newly elected members favor the bow tie look.

Freshman Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) is often spotted sporting a bow tie.

“I predominantly am a bow tie wearer,” he told The Hill.

He buys them from Michael Lamont Neckwear in Newark, N.J.

“They are normally two-sided, you can wear them on two different sides. But in his craft, he’s actually made them two, three, four-sided so you can wear the one tie four different ways based on how you tie it,” he said.

Payne said he’s been wearing bow ties for about four years.

“It’s really become my signature,” he said. “It’s just become something I like.”

And he has plenty to choose from. When asked how many he owns, he joked to The Hill: “Oh my goodness. I don’t want my wife to hear this,” before admitting he owned 88 bow ties.

And as Payne prepared to go back to his district for last weekend, he admitted: “I’m going home to buy a few more. He’s having a sale.”

Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.), who was appointed to fill now-Secretary of State John Kerry’s Senate seat, is also a big bow tie fan. 

He wore a bright blue one on the day he was sworn into the upper chamber.

“It was a gift from family friends who sent me down here and wanted me to look my best,” he said.

“I just always liked the look of a bow tie and it’s not something you see as often these days.”

And he likes to change up his look — sometimes several times during the day. 

“As my staff will tell you, I sometimes change bow ties periodically during the day depending on how my mood might be.”

He added: “We have all our vice. My vice is that I like to change to bow ties over the course of a day. As vices go, I figure that’s not a bad one to have.”