Beginning to dress like a true gentleman starts with the realization that one dresses not for yourself, but for society. While we eventually would like to do a series of posts on how the Catholic Gentleman should dress, let us start with a very practical starting point, how a Catholic Gentleman should present himself for Mass.
How a man carries himself and presents himself both sets the tone for his interactions and says a lot about him. A Catholic Gentleman dresses for an occasion, careful to neither over-dress or under-dress. For example, it would be inappropriate to wear either a swimsuit or a tuxedo when invited to a dinner party at a friend’s house. One extreme shows no respect for the occasion, the other extreme is an excess and is not proper. Remember, virtue lies in the middle. However, this virtue is set not from how those around you dress, but to an objective standard. Just because everyone else might wear flip-flops to a Sunday Mass does not mean that it is proper for you to do so.
So how should a Catholic Gentleman dress for Mass? First of all, we must understand when we attend Mass we are there for literally the present reality of the Last Supper and Passion of Christ. In every Mass, the Passion of Christ is celebrated and Christ is made present in the Eucharist. It shouldn’t be too hard to then realize we should not show up to the memorial of Christ’s Passion and the event of Christ made Truly Present dressed in the same way we would go to the beach or a movie. Shorts, sandals, t-shirts, etc. are not proper ways to present ourselves for Mass. It is a solemn moment. We partake of the most important thing that will ever happen in our lives, the reception of the Lord. Remember that when you open up your closet in the morning.
While for most weekday Masses, we dress in the clothes that we will be wearing the rest of the day, it is still important to consider the importance of our appearance at Mass. Instead of wearing your workout clothes to Mass, pack them in a bag and change into them later. Instead of wearing shorts on a hot summer day, wear lighter pants that would still be comfortable enough to work in. Think ahead, prepare yourself.
On Sundays, the reality of the Resurrection is celebrated, a glorious and happy occasion. Wearing your “Sunday best” should become part of our lives. A jacket and tie should become standard attire for Sunday liturgies. However, don’t listen to those that say you should only wear black or grey suits to Sunday Mass. Feel free to wear celebratory colors. It is a glorious occasion, a celebration of the victory of life over death. So, while wearing gaudy colors or lacking taste is never permissible, remember that brighter spring colors can be appropriate.
If you want a virtue-based ethics maxim: Dress with the proper respect and decency as proper for the occasion. Dress in the knowledge that you will be in the True Presence of Christ. On Sundays, dress for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ.
If you prefer a deontological ethic: T-shirts, shorts, sandals, etc. are never permissible. Wear your Sunday best on Sunday, and at the minimum, pants and a dress shirt/polo on weekdays.
In conclusion, wear clothes that are proper to the occasion. Never do it to attract attention to yourself, but to indicate to others the importance of the occasion and to remind yourself of the importance of the event.
Prepare yourself for Mass and remember the importance of the occasion. Dress accordingly.