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Sneaking Past the Fashion Police

Sen. Evan Bayh's physician-approved sneakers. (Courtesy of Sen. Bayh's office)

Bayh -- in his sneakers -- plays basketball with his sons. (Courtesy of Sen. Bayh's office)

Sen. Evan Bayh is known for a low-key, preppy style that blends effortlessly into the marble halls of the Capitol. Sooo ... what's with the ugly white sneakers?

"I get the feeling I could balance the budget or solve the health-care crisis, and people would still be more interested in my shoes," he told us with a sigh. "I'm definitely more on the traditional side of the sartorial scale."

The Indiana Democrat, 53, has been walking around Washington with clunky athletic shoes for the past few weeks due to a chronic case of plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes severe heel pain. His podiatrist told him to stay off his feet this summer, but Bayh kept reinjuring himself. "I was not a good patient." So his doctor laid down the law: sneakers with arch supports.

Which caused a problem in the august Senate chamber, which has an unspoken yet seriously monitored dress code: Male senators must wear a jacket, tie, slacks (no jeans) and suitable footwear. A doorkeeper actually stopped Bayh from entering one day in his sneakers. To wear them onto the floor, he told us, he had to get two doctors' letters -- one from the Senate physician, one from his podiatrist -- to submit to Lula Davis, the Senate's majority secretary and unofficial fashion police chief.

Davis explained to us that "the tennis shoes were not appropriate." (What about flip-flops? "Are you kidding me?" she said.)

There are other walking-wounded senators wearing less-than-formal footwear, but they slipped past the gatekeepers by choosing kicks less sporty-looking than Bayh's. (Ted Stevens was notorious for his super-thick soles.)

Bayh said he hopes to be back in dress shoes in a week or two. His wife, figuring it could be much longer, is already shopping for sneakers in a nice shade of black.

By The Reliable Source  |  October 9, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
Categories:  Politics  
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