Monday, September 21, 2009

The Attire of Men at the Traditional Latin Mass

UPDATE - 5-14-2014:

The dress code for men at one traditional Catholic chapel states that men and boys "should wear dress pants & shoes, coat (or jacket or sweater) & tie.  It goes on to say that "Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, earrings, are not proper attire for Sunday Mass, and therefore, are NOT acceptable".

For an entertaining and informative essay on the question of Catholic male attire, visit Those Catholic Men.


Here is what Kay Toy Fenner had to say in 1961 about the proper attire for men in attendance at Mass, novenas, and other church devotions:

“Laymen never cover their heads in a Catholic church.

“The ideal attire is a dark suit, white shirt, and sober tie. Slacks and a sports jacket are allowable. Some sort of suit coat or jacket is always worn. It is poor taste to come to Mass in a sports shirt or jersey without a coat, regardless of how warm the weather may be.

“Men do not wear shorts to mass.

“Exceptions for men: A man who goes to church while en route to work or school [she is apparently speaking of a weekday Mass here] may wear school or work clothes. A laborer returning from work in soiled clothing who wishes to attend an evening Mass may do so, even though he would otherwise wish to appear neat and clean.

“For boy children: Boys of any age uncover their heads in church. Boys over the age of twelve should not wear shorts to church.”
What is important for men (and women) to keep in mind is that one’s external appearance should reflect reverence toward God, modesty, and respect for the clergy as well as respect for the other faithful present at the Mass.

There is very little on the internet about proper attire for Catholic men at Mass. One secular site that encourages men to dress well in general makes the point that men’s suits derive from military clothing and are a sign of authority. While it is easy to think that the tendency of men today to dress in very casual clothing -- even in many cases at a traditional Latin Mass -- is simply a capitulation to the obsession with comfort and egalitarianism in the predominant culture, one cannot help but wonder if at least some men are reluctant to attire themselves in clothing symbolic of male authority because they fear exercising that authority . . . and especially the level of responsibility that goes with that authority.

In any event, it is interesting to consider that dressing in one’s “Sunday best” is egalitarian in the best sense. That is, in former times a manual laborer in his Sunday suit was dressed essentially the same for Mass as a corporate head or public official, even a President. That was in keeping with the workman's equality of dignity with these men as a recipient of sanctifying grace. And he looked very handsome too. . .

Fenner, Kay Toy; American Catholic Etiquette (Newman Press, Maryland, 1961), pp. 229-230.

Official portrait of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, from Wikimedia Commons. In the public domain.


Anonymous said...

What a refreshing point of view and fine opinions about how a man should dress for Mass.It makes a good case for encouraging today's men to assume their rightful mantle in support of good, Catholic manhood!

Marie-Jacqueline said...

Anonymous, Thank you for commenting. Yes, we need to encourage good, Catholic men to be that to the fullest.