Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

or
clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

3 Best Scalia Quotes From the Supreme Court's Clothing Debate

Justice Scalia, via Getty
Justice Scalia, via Getty

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

The Supreme Court is arguing the very definition of the word "clothing" thanks to Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation. Quick background: The case was brought on by steel workers who sued their employer in order to have the time it took for them to put on and take off their protective work clothes count toward their paid hours. Repping the steel worker's argument, lawyer Eric Schnapper holds that wearable tech and clothing fit in two different boxes.

As The Atlantic points out the discussion is both brain-breaking-ly interesting and chock full of hilarious references. For example, Justice Sotomayor said to Schnapper's opponent, DiNardo, "Your definition would include somebody spending an hour putting on a suit of armor if he's going to be a jouster. It would include the space people who put on that complicated white suit."

Justice Scalia, America's Devil-fearing homophobic uncle, has some thoughts on the matter (it's his job). Check out some of his sassiest quotes below.

1. On resentment:

Mr. Schnapper: In ordinary parlance, not everything an individual wears would be referred to as clothes. There are examples of that in this courtroom: Glasses, necklaces, earrings, wristwatches. There may be a toupee for all we know. Those things are not commonly referred to as clothes.

Justice Scalia: I resent that.

2. On scabbards:

Mr. Schnapper: Workers wear tool belts. It's—one of the recurring—recurring issues that has come up in these cases are knife scabbards. We don't think anyone would, in ordinary parlance, call those things clothes. And we think that's the significant limitation on this.

And so even though you could be wearing those things, those are not clothes.

Justice Scalia: Tools and what?

Mr. Schnapper: Scabbards.

Justice Scalia: Scabbards.

3. On ordinary meanings of clothes:

Mr. Schnapper: All right. Your Honor—well, Your Honor, we are not undertaking to give you a comprehensive definition of what items are and aren't clothes. The—the variety of things people wear is—is extraordinarily complicated, and we—we have not taken that on. What we have tried to do is suggest—

Justice Scalia: No, but you have taken it on. You're trying to tell us what is the ordinary meaning of clothes. That's what you're appealing to, the ordinary meaning.

Mr. Schnapper: Your—­

Justice Scalia: And I suggest the ordinary meaning is not—is not what you—you have proposed.

Mr. Schnapper: Well, we may disagree of the substance, but—

Justice Scalia: It includes protective garments, and—and you want it to include all protective garments, I guess, except those that protect against workplace hazards. That's peculiar.

Go read more of the nuanced discussion over on The Atlantic.
· 'What Are Clothes?' Asks Most Delightful Supreme Court Argument in History [The Atlantic]
· The Best Fashion Tweets in Response to Today's DOMA Ruling [Racked]