Why the White Collar?
Q: I’ve seen your picture in the paper with that white collar. But I’ve also seen you around town in other clothes. When do you have to wear that collar?
A: The clergy collar, also known as a clerical is actually a vestige of bygone days, when most gentlemen wore linen collars, sometimes plan, sometimes lacy or ruffed. Some sources think that poverty (or, at least, minimal income) contributed to it becoming a sign of the pastoral office. They believe that when styles changed, many priests and pastors couldn’t afford to update their wardrobes and continued wearing prominent collars after others abandoned them for a more contemporary look.
Actually, I don’t have to wear it at all. In the Lutheran Church, as in many others, clergy dress is determined by the preferences of the pastors and the standards of the congregations and communities in which they live. Some church bodies require or strongly recommend certain apparel. No matter what, we hope that our ministers will refrain from wearing anything that brings disrespect to the office they hold.
Personally, I like wearing my collar. One nice thing about it is that I get to meet a lot of people who just want to talk about religion, or who figure that a “priest” has to stop and be nice. (Yes, some people don’t realize that Episcopalians, Lutherans, and others also wear special clergy clothing.)
The collar also tells hospital staff (see the previous question) that I’m probably supposed to be in the ICU. The collar also reminds me that I am a representative of my congregation and, especially, of my God. It’s one more help to get me to mind my Ps and Qs.
Finally, a closet full of clergy shirts helps alleviate the worry, “What am I going to wear today?”
If you have more questions about dressing for clergy success or anything else, remember to “Ask the Pastor.”
Send email to Ask the Pastor.
Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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Newspaper column #3:3