Rolling Up Obama's Shirtsleeves

Casual White House dress has Illinois roots

Because the folks in Washington, D.C., don't have anything more important to gab about, the less formal dress code of the Obama White House -- compared to noted workhorse George W. Bush -- has garnered a lot of attention inside the beltway.

A former Bush chief of staff is apoplectic at the thought of a president taking off his suit jacket and actually rolling up his sleeves to get to work for the American people -- even though evidence has surfaced that Bush, by God, took his jacket off in the Oval Office too.

What the folks in Washington and the rest of the country don't know, though, is that Illinois pols tend to work with suit jackets off for a variety of reasons. Let's just say it's part of our unique political culture.

- At staff meetings, the guy who keeps his jacket on is the guy wearing a wire.

- Suit jackets are often said to be "at the dry cleaners," which is Illinois euphemism for "getting lined with illicit cash."

- Bidding on lucrative suit-jacket contract is still open.

- Future office-holders pay dues in Illinois by holding the coats of already-elected pols.

- Coats are sent to town hall meetings to "listen to the people" while pols do the real work behind closed doors.

- Suit jackets don't play well downstate or in Southwest Side wards.

- Daley insists he be the only one to wear a suit jacket among Illinois elected officials, and they all do whatever Daley says.

- Working in crisp white shirts is a sign of respect to the Illinois Crisp White Shirt Association, which provides generous support to state and local pols who share its agenda.

- It's been this way ever since Ditka said that only losers keep their suit jacket on while working.

- Union rules.

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