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Catholic Origins

Interesting Facts on Clerical Shirts and Collars

13th March 2023

Depending on how familiar you are with clerical clothing, you may or may not be familiar on the reasons why clergy shirts are worn.  We take a look at some interesting facts on clerical shirts and collars to better understand the traditions and history of why clergy shirts are worn. In the case of religion, clerical garbs send a clear message that someone who is wearing them is in service to the church.

Religious roots go back centuries, so it’s probably no surprise that clerical clothing has evolved during that time into what we see today. However, in addition to the historical symbolism, there is more to clergy attire that meets the eye. Here are some of the interesting facts on clerical shirts and clothing:

  • In the Catholic Church, clergy shirts are worn by all ranks of the clergy. These types of garbs are also worn by other clergy groups such as Anglican, Protestant and Methodist.
  • While clerical attire does have its roots in tradition, there  has been room for deviation for modern lifestyles. Short-sleeved clergy shirts are popular in the hot summer months and you will notice some variation for personal preference, such as shirt colour, collar style and fabric.
  • Offered in a variety of colours, clerical shirts can represent different denominations and levels to the rank of the wearer. For example, the Roman Purple or ‘Bishops Purple’ colour is usually worn by those who hold the authoritative rank of Bishop within the church.
  • There are three main shirts for clergy to wear. A slip-in collar (or tunnel-collar) shirt and a neckband (vicars collar) shirt. The slip-in collar shirt has a tunnel around the collar of the shirt with an opening at the throat where the collar can be inserted. A neckband shirt allows for a white band to be placed around the neck and fixed to the shirt collar by attaching small studs to it. The third collar option is a Tonsure collar, which is a full collar which is set slightly above the shirt and shows the tab and peak of the collar all the way around the top.

Clerical shirts are made usually in polycotton or a breathable mix that allows for comfort in long periods of service .  The most popular colour is the traditional black that vicars are well known for, however colours like white, blue, grey and purple are also common colour options for modern clergymen.

The clergy suits is derived from Anglo-Saxon Protestant pastors clothing, but Roman Catholicism has appreciated the convenience and comfort, which has seen it accepted as a religious suit and symbol of the Catholic identity.

Clergy shirts identify the priest to the community they serve and serve as a reminder of their membership and commitment to a higher calling. Naturally, there is a need to identify specific  roles and tasks of the community members and the uniform of the priesthood is no different.

The clerical, or Roman, collar is a sign or mark of a person’s holy calling, according to the Church of England. It is an identifying badge that can be recognised by people of all faiths. . Worn by priests around the world, the clerical collar is a narrow, stiff, and upright white collar that fastens at the back.

The collar is thought have been invented in the late 1800s. According to the Church, it became popular with Anglican clergy during the Oxford Movement, which attempted to revive Catholic religion in the Church of England in the 19th Century. Church rules on the subject are subjective. Canon law – the rules and regulations of the Christian church – says the apparel of bishops, priests and deacons should be “suitable to office” when on duty to communicate their “spiritual charge”.

The clerical collar was adopted by other Christian denominations, including Anglican Church, Methodist churches, Eastern Orthodox Church, Baptist churches, Lutheran churches, and the Roman Catholic Church Prior to the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to1965. The practice of Roman Catholic clergy wearing the clerical collar as street-dress, tended to be found only in those countries where Catholicism was the minority religion. In the 1960s, many clergy who lived in countries where Catholicism was the dominant religion began to wear the clerical collar rather than the cassock.

The traditionalism of the clerical collar now takes a more symbolic meaning for those who wear it – purity – a washed spirit of worthiness in the eyes of God. Whilst the collar itself is a small representation of this purity – it is a means of showing the obligation and commitment that a priest has undertaken to model the purity of God.


Hammond & Harper of London are long-time shirt makers in men and women’s clerical clothing and have garnered a reputation for incredible quality over the years. Quintessential British design and a renowned product range has allowed the Hammond and Harper brand to grow and flourish. Our fantastic range of men and women’s clerical clothing is designed and created from our studio-factory in the North West of England, where we supply and manufacture our clerical products. Contact us to find out more about ordering the clerical apparel and clothing that you need.