Years ago when I was a bachelor, I used to think that jeans and a T-shirt were appropriate for wearing to Mass. After all, I would find my best pair of jeans and my cleanest shirt; there was no digging through the dirties on Sundays. I didn’t know any better and thought, “At least I’m not wearing shorts and flip-flops”. Years later I got married and I began to notice how other men dressed for Mass. I saw a mix of things, like jeans, khakis, suits, and even shorts. I figured only the old guys wore the suits or khakis, and the younger guys could get away with dressing less formal. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I learned to take my appearance at Mass more seriously.
I learned that if I am dressing better for work than I am for going to worship the Lord, I have a serious issue with my priorities. Just because Mass falls on a weekend doesn’t mean you should treat it as some leisurely activity. What are you saying to God when you show up to His house in a pair of basketball shorts and a muscle shirt? I’m sorry, “Sun’s Out Gun’s Out” doesn’t register with the Lord. Come to Mass and present your best self, even better than the polo and designer jeans you wear out on dates.
Now when I sit at Mass, I notice the same thing every week: Many families are not reverent in their actions and appearance. There are families who show up in jeans, hoodies, basketball shorts—some look like they just rolled out of bed! Now, I’ll admit that my family and I are lax with our church attire when we are camping, but we try to arrive clean and presentable. In some family’s defense, they may be new to the faith or just don’t know any better. Maybe even getting the family to church is a miracle in itself, so Mom or Dad will take what they can get. However, eventually you need to make a change.
Women are not off the hook here, either. Yoga pants, flip flops, and hoodies are not cool in Mass, OK? You can dress modestly and still look beautiful. Attention should be drawn to Christ, not the parts of you that are exposed by your clothing choices.
Some have argued that God does not care how you look in church, but rather He only cares that you are there. I disagree. He wants you there, yes, but why not show Him that you understand the importance of you being there? Why do we show up to job interviews in a suit and tie? Why do we wear slacks and a nice buttoned-down shirt when we take our wives out to a nice dinner that doesn’t involve ordering from the kid’s menu? Because we want to act the part! We desire to show others that we care about what’s going on in that moment and we take pride in who we are. Think about this: If you were to attend a black-tie ceremony in which a loved one was going to accept a huge award and present a speech, how would you dress? I doubt you would show up in just jeans and a nice flannel. If you did, you’d quickly realize you were severely under dressed. Personally, I would be offended if you showed up to this type of occasion in support of me dressed like you were a lumber jack or a gym rat. Why? Because you are telling me that you this event isn’t important to you, that I am not important to you.
Jesus Christ presents Himself in the most beautiful way during Mass, so why shouldn’t we do the same? As men, we are charged with leading as an example for our families, our Domestic Church. Teach your children to take pride in themselves and pride in the beauty in what is truly happening in Mass. If you don’t understand it yourself, that’s OK! Just go and learn!
So. What should men wear to Mass? Here is a rule of thumb I try to follow: no jeans, sneakers, or T-shirts. If it’s something too informal for a job interview, then it’s definitely too informal for Church. If you really want to go all out, sport the three-piece suit and fedora (Right, Adam M.?). If the Cary Grant style is not you, then at least go with a pair of nice slacks, a collared shirt, and dress shoes. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong there. Another tip: look at the old guys in your church. They come from the old school where wearing your “Sunday best” was the norm.
I will leave you with this quote from G. K. Chesterton: “unless we live as we believe, we’ll end up believing as we live.” The next time you are getting ready for Mass, what are you telling the world, your family, your church, and God, about what you believe?