Jeff Van Drew dressed for the occasion. As he always does.
The South Jersey Republican congressman knew all eyes would be on him when he took the lectern Wednesday to speak against impeaching President Donald Trump for inciting last week’s deadly Capitol insurrection. But online, Van Drew’s attire might have gotten more attention than his arguments against impeachment.
The look drew savage commentary from Twitter pundits, with some calling it a “zoot suit” and comparing him to an old-timey gangster from a corny movie. One tweet paired an image of Van Drew with a disapproving screenshot of Meryl Streep’s fashion-boss character from The Devil Wears Prada.
“None of the lawsuits against Donald Trump are as bad as this suit,” the comedian Samantha Bee wrote.
In an interview Thursday, Van Drew said he began wearing colorful suits years ago as a way to start conversations and bring levity to the sometimes grim work of politics. Wednesday, which saw Trump become the first president ever impeached twice, was no exception.
“So much in politics, especially lately, is negative and sometimes sad,” said Van Drew, who represents New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. “So it’s kind of fun for me to wear suits that are a little bit different. My constituents get a kick out of it, and my colleagues in Congress get a kick out of it.”
Van Drew said it was a mistake for Trump not to denounce last week’s attack on the Capitol sooner and more forcefully. But he doesn’t believe Trump encouraged the violence, and said another impeachment will further divide a fractured country. Van Drew also had joined most House Republicans in voting to throw out election results in Pennsylvania based on false fraud claims.
Van Drew has been a fixture of South Jersey politics for decades — a conservative Democrat who long served in the state Legislature before flipping a GOP-held congressional district in 2018. He was known for his distinctive style around the State House in Trenton. In addition to pinstripes and pocket squares, he wears a tooth-shaped lapel pin as a shoutout to his former career as a dentist.
His tailored suits run the gamut from custom to off-the-rack Men’s Wearhouse budget buys.
“I have custom suits as well as very inexpensive suits, and what’s funny is that sometimes people will guess the wrong way about which are which,” he said. The suit that got so much attention this week was midrange in terms of price and was purchased online, he said.
He’s now so known for his style that he’s just as likely to get comments when he wears something more traditional. The day before the impeachment vote, he said, a few colleagues noted his plain navy suit.
“They said, ‘Where are you going, to a funeral?’” he recalled. “I was wearing the same thing they were!”