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The Most Chaotic Congress in Memory Is Pure Style Chaos, Too

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The guys in suits are at it again.

Standing in the chamber Santos center wears unevenly tied blue tie and dark rimmed glasses Gaetz wears a dark blue suit...

Representative-elect George Santos (R-NY), center, and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), right, in the House Chamber on Wednesday.Bloomberg/Getty Images

When the C-SPAN live-stream cameras float over the chamber, giving a gauzy aerial view of the House floor, it’s like looking through a kaleidoscope, or maybe at a really miserable Hieronymus Bosch painting. This week has seen the 118th Congress sputter out on its remarkable tenth (and counting) failed vote to elect a speaker, which would be chaotic on its own. But when you look at the clothes, things are even wilder: it’s a haze of black and navy jackets and dresses, milling over a royal blue carpet dotted with gold wreaths. One fish, two fish, red tie, blue tie. Occasionally, a bolt of vaguely bipartisan purple or yellow. “The Washington wardrobe is so standardized that any deviation from the norm stands out, especially on TV,” writes Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times, referring to new Pennsylvania junior senator John Fetterman’s new suit. Politicians have long used clothing to bolster or subvert their messages. But this week, it’s hard to know where to look.

Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), center, in the House Chamber on Thursday.Bloomberg/Getty Images

That said! It’s easy, at first, to settle one’s gaze on George Santos, the Republican representative-elect from Queens who arrived in Washington this week mired in a truly bonkers web of falsehoods. On his first day at the Capitol, Santos wore a thin periwinkle-blue sweater under his navy jacket and mostly sat alone—looking, as the Washington Post described him, “very much like a freshman at a prep school in hell.” That day, a photographer captured him mid-yawn, face stretched in a wide Ducreuxian inhale; later on, he committed the Menswear Twitter faux pas of wearing a backpack over his suit. The next day, and the day after that, he donned a pair of dark-rimmed Clark Kent glasses—another identity?—and mingled with his new far-right pals. According to my colleague, timepiece cognoscente Cam Wolf, on Santos’s wrist is…a Cartier Santos watch, which Forbes couldn’t resist suggesting might also be fake.

George Santos (R-NY)Win McNamee/Getty Images

Increasingly by Santos’s side has been fellow Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida, who on Wednesday wore the very Trumpian combo of a bright red tie and blunt black suit; on Thursday, he bafflingly voted for the former president during the eighth speaker vote, skirting Republican speaker-hopeful Kevin McCarthy once again.

Matt Gaetz (R-FL)Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

As with his politics, McCarthy has been keeping his options open, sartorially speaking: he’s worn blue shirts and red ties, but on Wednesday showed up in a printed purple tie—a diplomatic Hail Mary, perhaps. His early-week competitor, Jim Jordan of Ohio, seemingly only ever wears blue shirts and yellow ties (long before lawmakers began wearing blue and yellow in support of Ukraine, as they have in the past year), which he has continued to do this week, despite it all. And yet, if neckties can be tea leaves, this is one murky brew.

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