Church Life
Ray Jones

What is Appropriate Clothing for Speakers?

In 221 B.C. China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti, and his “terracotta army” were buried in an underground tomb in Xian. His life sized army of statues is famous, of course; what isn’t so famous is the fact that they all wore….ties!

113 a.d. Roman orators wore neckerchiefs (ties) to keep their necks warm.

1784 Beau Brummel, a noted authority of fashion in Regency England, was said to be the first person to associate the tie with individuality and self expression. Hardly a Christian virtue!

In 1880 the British army abandoned bright uniforms in favor of camouflage materiel; however, they retained the colors on ties as part of their uniforms. That same year the first ‘club tie’ appeared when the Oxford University rowing team tied their colors around their  necks.

In 1936 the Duke of Windsor invented, what we now know, as the “Windsor” knot, and wore it in it’s current style.

How does this relate to us?

So what does this have to do with ‘what is appropriate clothing for speakers’? Well, it is very evident that over the centuries fashions and methods of dress have changed, sometimes drastically! Various groups have elected to stop changing and maintain the dress code of that particular period.

Ontario has around eighteen groups of Mennonites with an extensive array of rules for what is ‘proper dress’. Their reason for remaining with a particular form of dress was to avoid worldliness. Not bad reasoning when one considers the huge cost of trying to keep up with today’s ever changing fashions and moral decline. The question we might ask is “Can we define worldliness by the clothes we wear?”

Scripture is silent

The Word of God doesn’t actually describe a correct form of dress for either men or women. It does however clearly speak of modesty and appropriate behavior. But no single style of fashion that meets acceptable standards of modesty, cleanliness and grooming, can be described as more spiritual than another, can it?

Most of us who are preachers or teachers are careful not offend those we are trying to minister to. That being the case, we usually wear what is appropriate to the congregation in that assembly culture.

Consider the speaker

The problem arises for the speaker when the culture of that particular assembly is only of suits and ties! Most often this rule is more important on a Sunday morning than Sunday evening or mid-week! It becomes really uncomfortable when the temperature and humidity are very high.

The result is that the unfortunate speaker becomes bathed in sweat and is often faced with hoping to dry out before repeating the exercise in the evening.

Allow the speaker to choose

I am not at all promoting the wearing of work clothes, clothes with holes in them – regardless of so called ‘fashion’- or generally scruffy attire. I do wonder, however, if we could agree that, as long as the speaker’s clothing is modest and clean, he should be allowed to wear what he is most comfortable in.

While not wanting to do away with the tie altogether (for those speakers that enjoy it), perhaps we could leave it to the “terracotta army” and bring it out occasionally?  Personally, during the warmer months I am very comfortable in a short sleeved golf shirt and pants.

Ray Jones


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    One of our elders says, “Dress as if you are appearing before royalty,because you are appearing before the King” Casual dress is appropriate for the season, but clean and neat. Understand the unofficial dress code of the assembly in which you may be speaking and dress accordingly. I’ve always tried to call ahead to avoid offense or embarrassing oneself.


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      I have heard the argument that we a ‘appearing before royalty a number of times. Whilst I can see the point, of course, I am reminded that I am indwelt by Royalty every moment of every day. Therefore m dress and behavior should always be as ‘n the presence of Royalty, should’t it?


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    Great article, Ray. Balanced and practical. Personally, I am much more concerned about what you say than what you wear. May that always be my focus! It is amazing how the Bible is silent on many issues where some of us have strong opinions! ☺


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    Don’t get me wrong, brother! I am not at all happy with those who apparently take no trouble to meet with fellow in a clean, well groomed and modest appearance. It shows great carelessness and disrespect to the Lord and His people, in my view.


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    I agree with what you say for speakers. I do have a problem with any brother, a speaker or not,dressing like he is headed to the beach. Shorts, t-shirt, sandals,etc. Maybe it’s just me. Yes, I do wear a shirt & tie(no suit).


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    You Canadian brethren must really have a lot of contention over this. It isn’t much of an issue around here (Western North Carolina).

    Personally, I like wearing ties (bow ties, long ties, never Windsor knots). I even like pocket squares that pick up the color of the shirt (not the tie—too matchy-matchy).

    I know brethren who are less “snappy” about their dress. Generally, they don’t see it as a spiritual issue (even as I don’t). To make a big deal out of it, is to rearrange deck chairs on a sinking ship.

    I say, dress like you did it on purpose. And then, speak as never sure to speak again, and as a dying man to dying men.


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    I’ve preached in churches in ranching communities. The first time I wore dress pants, dress shirt, and a tie. That became a huge distraction. In subsequent visits I wore clean jeans, a cowboy shirt with a bolo tie and cowboy boots and was accepted. I try to fit in with the culture of the community and then a bit dressier than most.


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