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Catholic Origins

Clerical Clothing: Simple, elegant and traditional

20th May 2021

Clerical clothing has strictly adhered to codified rules that were implemented to bring uniformity to those devoted to the Church. Priests and vicars were easily identifiable by the clothing they wore – most prominently by the collar that featured around their neck. With modern times, these rules have softened and nowadays priests need a more relaxed choice in attire to fulfil their duties as modern spiritual guides. However, priest must also keep the traditional expression of belonging to the Church and therefore a balance must be found between contemporary fashion and traditional history.

Clerical clothing is a non-liturgical article of clothing that is worn exclusively by men and women of the clergy. It is distinct from vestments to a point that it is not reserved solely for services but as an identifier of their commitment to the church. Wearing clergy clothing is a way to remind themselves and others of their role and their spiritual closeness to Jesus. The social and psychological impact is strong on those meeting with a man of Church, because it is like he brought a living witness of God around.

Nevertheless, many priests have begun to move away from clergy clothing, with some even refusing to wear the ecclesiastical collar. That alone would be enough to make the priest easily and quickly recognizable to members of their congregation and the wider public. The ecclesiastical collar was first introduced in the 19th century. It was once made of cotton or white linen, and was buttoned up around the neck, above clothes. Today, collars are often made of plastic and can be replaced by a partial collar under the shirt or cassock collar.

Over time, clerical clothing has evolved with the modern world, adapting to elements of contemporary fashion styles. For clergymen, clerical shirts have become a mainstay in their daily attire, allowing for formality when conducting services but comfortability for everyday tasks. However, despite the duality of their application, these shirts are still able to hold their status as a traditional garment in connection to the church. There are so many colours, styles, patterns and fabrics available due to growing demand. Whilst black remains the most popular, the inclusion of a wider range of colours and styles have increased the choices for vicars and allowed their personal taste to be accepted as part of their professional calling.

 

Let us take a look at some of the styles available – tab collars, collar attached, tunic shirts, clerical blouses and tonsure shirts with double cuffs are all clerical shirts that feature most prominently as modern options. Of course, these types of Clerical Shirts also come with different names. The most common clergy shirt in the UK is the Slip-In Collar Shirt, which is also referred to as a Tunnel Collar Shirt. When it comes to the tonsure shirt on the other hand, this is more of a formal shirt that is coupled with double cuffs. Tunic clerical shirts have a detachable vicar collar that is either made from plastic or linen. There are variations for all of these shirts that are available for both men and women, with many other styles being made exclusively for each gender. This includes Clerical Blouses for women and Polo Shirts for men.

Clergy Shirts in the H&H catalogue are available in end-on-end, a perspiring fabric that is light and resistant, created by weaving two fine cotton, poplin or mixed threads. They are available in a range of colours which include black, white, blue, grey, roman purple and more. Available in both short or long sleeves, they are all excellent quality, elegant and comfortable to wear, with practical pockets and hidden buttons.

As an alternative to the clergy shirt, the modern priest can also wear a polo shirt, designed with a clergy insert and tunnel collar. All of our Clerical Polo Shirts are produced with fine cotton in order to guarantee thin and practical shirts that are even suitable for wearing under a jacket.  These Clerical Polo Shirts are short sleeved and breathable, providing the perfect choice for a summers day.

For women, Clerical Blouses are an ideal and lightweight choice in clerical wear. These blouses are casual and made from comfortable, slightly stretchable cotton in a variety of sizes. This clerical blouse are one of the most unique on the market as they allow for the single insertion of both of our clerical collar options – Vicar or Slip-In Collars.


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