Tag Archives: linen

The clerical collar

7 Nov

Last night, I attended a scotch tasting dinner with a room full of Jesuit priests. I’m not religious but I do drink, and assuming this would be an opportunity that may never present itself again,  I went. Between dinner courses, highland dancing, speeches, and four very different scotches, I noted the clothing of the Jesuit brothers and thought about their collars, why they exist, how they work, and what they’re made of.

Evolution of the clerical collar

The white collar worn by clerics of the Anglican, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, and the Roman Catholic church, speaks a visual language that everyone recognizes. Some say the white band is a symbol of a person’s holy calling, others that the clergy carry on the tradition of differentiating themselves from the laity – non-priests or clergy of a religious faith.

Thomas Chalmers, 19th century minister and leader of the Church of Scotland, displays a clerical cravat with tabs.

Thomas Chalmers, 19th century minister and leader of the Church of Scotland, displays a clerical cravat with preaching bands.

According to Dr. Timothy R. LeCroy in A Short History of the Wearing of Clerical Collars in the Presbyterian Tradition, the clergy adopted the dress of academics (i.e. black robes) during the Reformation, and after a while, added a distinctive white neck cloth (the cravat) to differentiate themselves. By the 17th and 18th centuries, clergy tied their cravats into bows or added “preaching bands”. These instantly recognizable pieces are still worn by some priests, pastors, and Canadian lawyers wear the same item with their court robes, but call them “tabs”. 

In Vestments and Clericals Reverend Kenneth W. Collins explains that “the Protestant clergy had been wearing white preaching bands for quite some time; [the clerical collar creator, Rev. Dr. Donald] McLeod combined them with the detachable collar that was in use at the time.”

McLeod was a 19th century Scottish Presbyterian who developed the stiff and narrow clerical collar we know it today. During the middle of the century, most men wore stiff, detachable linen collars, and McLeod used these as the base for the updated clerical collar. However, before the collar took its modern form, there was a Catholic influence to be mixed in.

Catholic cassocks

Catholic priests wearing cassocks.

Catholic priests wearing cassocks.

After the Reformation, councils of the Catholic church deemed that priests wear cassocks. Cassocks, or vestis talaris in Latin, are black, ankle length robes with deep skirts. Cassocks derive from early “closed clothing” of ancient Rome and into the Byzantine and early Christian periods; the tunica tolaris was an ankle length garment, tube-like and closed up the sides.

In his very interesting article, Why Priests Wear Black, Father William Saunders explains that the sash, or cincture worn around the waist of the cassock represents chastity, the colour black, poverty, and the square Roman collar, obedience.

Wikipedia says that the white square of on the clergy’s collar is there to mimic the collar of a cassock, but I’m not sure this is true. 

Reverend Collins says the Roman Catholic church adopted the clerical collars after McLeod’s creation, and themselves modified it into the tab-collar style. So there’s that.

Charles Hodge, Presbyterian theologian, in what will later become the clerical collar.

Charles Hodge, a 19th century Presbyterian theologian, wears the upturned shirt collar that will later become the modern clerical collar.

In Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church, Reverend Henry McCloud states that the collar “was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric’s everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode.”

After the Second Vatican Council in 1967, the Catholic Church adopted a plain black suit and the clerical band collar, as the cassock waned in popularity. For some reason, the clerical collar is commonly (and mistakenly) associated with the Catholic clergy, though the collar is worn by Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and clergy of other faiths.

Modern clerical collars

Slip in collar.

Slip in collar.

Father Alex sat at my table at the scotch tasting, and I asked him about his shirt and collar. The collar was shallow and sturdy with the fronts stitched down in a “tunnel” fashion to hold the strip of white collar that he pulled out of his shirt to show me. Somehow I was disappointed to see that it was a piece of plastic, but the concept was interesting. He said the old collars were made of starched linen.

There are different styles of collars available, as shown here. Below is the tonsure collar that is a full band version of the slip in, and the Vicar’s or dog collar.

For more information about clerical garb, check out sites like this one in the UK that only sells fair trade clothing, and Hammond & Harper of London, a member of a reputable group of companies that has supplied shirts and collars to clergy for over 50 years, complete with a “30 day no quibble” guarantee replacement policy!

Tonsure collar.

Tonsure collar.

Vicar's collar
Vicar’s collar

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Oh, grow up

1 Aug

boy-wearing-dads-clothesAll, or at least most of us at one point in our life, cross the threshold and enter the House of Adulthood where things are a little quieter and little more refined; when we care more about quality than quantity, and where substance is just as important as style.

It’s a strange time, realizing you’ve outgrown your high volume,  fast cars, and tight trousers. My friend Chris posted a Facebook rant about a place he used to frequent and revisited as an adult: “It used to be a great restaurant. Now its like a god damn club. Super loud crappy music, yelling at bartenders for drinks and young skanks getting picked up by greasy steroid bulked dudes. Terrible, just terrible.”

I suppose that being conscious of moving into the Adult House is quite different than just complaining about things being different that what you’re used to. It is the very act of being aware of our adulthood that enables us to embrace it and own it.

Several men have come to me recently, saying they want to look more grown up; they want to stop dressing like brats, ditch the devil-may-care attitude towards their dress, and embrace their adulthood. (It’s a wonderful gift to be asked to help a guy come of sartorial age.)

Take my friend, Patrick, for example. I saw him last week and he excitedly told me about a jacket that he purchased in Montreal. He thought it would help him look more grown up.

“I’m sick of wearing track pants and hoodies,” he said, “I want to look more mature, more my age. I’m coming up to 35, you know.”

He brought out the natural linen jacket with wooden buttons, explaining that he really liked the jacket and got it on sale, but the sleeves were too short and he wasn’t sure how to wear it.

That he chose a linen sports jacket is unto itself a step toward adulthood – as opposed to stretchy, sporty, youthful fabrics, linen is sturdy and sensible, and even a lightly structured linen jacket gives a squared off shoulder and visual maturity. So there’s that.

Normally, wearing a jacket with too-short sleeves is a sartorial sin and looks visually immature, but there were elements working in Patrick’s favour that helped get him around it (one must be practical in times of seasonal sales!). Though the sleeves are not lined and the seams show on the underside, the jacket did have working surgeon’s cuffs (buttons and buttonholes to open the cuff). To hide the too-short sleeve and add a bit of style to the jacket, I opened the cuffs, folded them back, and pushed them up a little – instant fix.

Patrick wore a t-shirt under the jacket, making it fun (we were going to a party), but he could also have worn a collared shirt and folded the cuffs over the jacket cuffs to cover the seams, add some colour, and give a little more visual refinement.

Details can also speak of maturity: after placing a wonderful folded pocket square (peaks up) in the breast pocket, Patrick decided to lose the brightly-coloured pin stuck in the buttonhole. I couldn’t have agreed more – the handkerchief set off the jacket and spoke of refinement, while the fun pin seemed at odds with the toned-down jacket.

So a simple but versatile linen sports jacket ushered Patrick into the House of Adulthood, and he’s eager to settle in. He’s a guy with a good attitude toward aging, and looks forward to see how he matures so he can reinvent himself, change his closets, and get comfortable in his new digs.

Dressing for (unbearably) hot weather

18 Jul
hot

Walking around in your undies may be the thing you want to do, but there are other alternatives.

It is a very hot week in Toronto and we’re walking around red-faced and wet with sweat. Weather this warm is uncomfortable for most people and dressing for it can be a challenge. Here are some tips for dressing in hellishly hot weather:

  • Air flow is very important in keeping cool – opt for loose-fitting clothing instead of tight clothing so there is some air circulation around the body;
  • Choose natural fibers like pure linen or one hundred percent cotton that are breathable;
  • Avoid polyester and other synthetics as they do not breathe. Polyester is made of fossil fuels (literally oil and gas) and is a finer yarn than a linen or cotton thread, giving a tighter weave that feels warmer because it does not allow air flow and traps perspiration – this can lead to stinky garments that stay stinky!
  • Even if you choose a cotton-polyester blend, the pure cotton is “watered down” by the synthetic which makes it stronger, but compromises the integrity of the cotton (i.e. breathability). Also, your poly-cotton shirt will wear faster because polyester tends to pill on the fabric surface,  giving an unsightly texture to a once smooth shirt, sock, or trouser;
  • If you are a denim-wearer, choose a lighter, thinner denim;
  • If you’re a man who sweats a lot, try wearing a sleeveless cotton undershirt under your collared shirt to absorb perspiration;
  • Wear light colours that reflect sunlight – dark colours absorb light and the heat that goes with it – shoes included;
  • If you’re in a suit or business casual, wear a tooled Oxford shoe that has holes to allow air flow to your feet;
  • Instead of going sockless (the perspiration from your feet will ruin the inside of your shoes), wear a short cotton sock that isn’t seen above your shoe – you should be able to find these in packages of three or six, giving you more bang for your buck;
  • Instead of using your sleeve or the back of your hand to wipe the sweat from your brow, add a little style and use a handkerchief to dab!

Finally, remember to wear your sunblock, sunglasses, drink lots of water, and stay in the shade!

Instantly cool with a spring scarf

14 Mar

Scarves are the unsung heroes of any man’s wardrobe. They punch up the colour and flavour of any outfit and make a guy instantly stylish.

Scarves are traditionally worn in the winter to keep our necks warm, but consider a lightweight scarf in the spring for a little added warmth and a lot of style in the early days of the season.

Gentlemen, no matter how much you spend, know that you’re going to make an impact in a spring scarf.

I find that menswear in general can be harsh in colour, casting a dark light on a man’s face, and giving him a hardened look. Spring colours are much more flattering, softening a man’s features and making him look more approachable. While scouting locally owned menswear shops in Toronto for this post, I’m happy to see that this season’s colour choices in scarves are soft and powdery.

Pal Zileri linen scarf

I looked at a gorgeous, tone-on-tone striped sea green linen scarf at high-end men’s store, Via Cavour at 87 Avenue Road. Their amazingly soft, handmade, Pal Zileri 100% linen scarves come in unusual colours, and are priced from $350 to $750.

When the temperatures get warmer, linen scarves are the go-to accessory because linen is one of the lightest and coolest clothing materials – air constantly moves through linen’s weave, keeping the wearer physically and visually cool. (Read more about linen.)

Marc de Rose at Via Cavour says, “Scarves are one of the best pieces to update an outfit.”

He describes his scarves as “funky” that dress up a traditional suit. He likes to loop his scarves loosely around his neck with the ends draping over his chest, giving him a youthful, comfortable look. Draping the scarf over a suit this way “frames” the collar (and tie) beneath.

  • Style tip: Scarves are meant to look “thrown on” but they are nothing but – you’ll want to spend some time arranging the fabric

I visited philip in Hazelton Lanes, a spin-off of Nanni Couture, to look at gentleman’s cotton and silk blend scarves.

Philip no scarf

Philip in a suit

Philip scarf

Philip becomes instantly cool in a spring scarf!

Owner, Philip Zappacosta, says, “A scarf is a great investment for men to coordinate with his wardrobe, and tie everything  together.”

He showed me a large, versatile, slightly crisp, colourful, square-shaped Corneliani scarf (below), made in Italy ($295), and explained how many other colours and pieces could be worn with it.

Scarves at the philip store go well with soft-shouldered sports jackets and other more casual pieces like loose-knit spring sweaters. They can be worn wrapped around the neck to create volume around the face, and longer types can be worn European style, folded in half lengthwise and draped around the neck with the ends pulled through the loop at the front.

Here, we wrapped the fabric around Philip’s neck. Notice how the added bulk seems to bring in his shoulders and torso – a trick of optical illusion, good for larger men who want to appear smaller.

  • Style tip – Look for balance in your clothing and avoid mixing warm winter weights with lighter spring weights

Queen Street West favourite, Grreat Stuff, offers reasonable price points for men on smaller budgets who like to add some pizzazz to their wardrobe. Grreat Stuff is a grreat store for menswear oddities and interesting wardrobe pieces.

They carry long, double-sided silk English scarves in traditional patterns grreat stuff twith a natural silk fringe for $95, striped 100% gauzy cotton GEOX scarves for $60, and cotton Matinique gingham scarves in a dense weave with a dry hand for $45.

Co-owners, Frances and Adam Yalonetsky, recommend wearing cotton or silk scarves loosely with a cotton blazer or lightweight outerwear.

Adam suggests that in the cool of the early spring, fold your scarf in half lengthwise, wrap European style, then tighten the loop to bring the scarf closer in at the neck. This will give more bulk to the scarf and keep the warm air close to the throat.

Adding a scarf will get you noticed and for style-savvy men, there is scarcely a better accessory.

Having the idea to wear a stylish scarf that ties your clothes together makes you awesome. Actually doing it for real triples your awesomeness.