Pigeons, I am choking on my iced tea out here!! Deb’s comment below, contributed as a response to my earlier post about not wearing bare shoulders, has me totally disturbed!! Please tell me it’s not true that pastors are preaching in Hawaiian shirts. Flocking to conferences looking like employees of Trader Joe’s or as though they’re on their way to happy hour, fine. But PREACHING IN THEM!??

I’m fully with you here on the no spaghetti straps, and fully on board for no bare shoulders for anything official, though I’m not sure for church softball games or that sort of thing.

But the no hawaiian shirt thing doesn’t jive. I live and work in California and my conference includes Hawaii and hawaiian shirts are it–Annual conference, I think that might be all the men wear, and for many of us who are in the desert where you will literally pass out from heat stroke if you wear a robe in 100-120 degree heat, Hawaiian shirts are seen in all kinds of pulpits–it’s sort of the norm out here–casual and liveable for those inferno months…I’d love for you to reconsider your advice on this. (Even as a woman, I know Hawaiian shirts are fairly safe in the summer and much easier than figuring out which short sleeve blouses do and don’t show too much arm or cleavage….

And here is my response to Deb, gentle as always 🙂

Deb, I’m horrified!! It’s bad enough for male pastors to wear Hawaiian shirts, which communicate a casual I’m-totally-on-vacation-get-me-a-beer vibe, but to suggest that women wear them too for comfort’s sake is ludicrous to mine ears! Girl, that’s why God made cotton blouses in solid colors! It’s 96 degrees here today, for instance, and I am wearing a white cotton skirt, sandals, and a plain black short-sleeved T-shirt with an elegant boat neck. I am just as comfortable as if I was wearing a (shudder) Hawaiian shirt and I look professionally acceptable for tonight’s Annual Meeting.

I stand firmly by my conviction that no one on the planet will really take another person seriously if they’re clad in a Don Ho shirt — except in Hawaii. The whole look was invented to communicate “Don’t Worry- Be Happy! And Let’s Get To That Limbo Contest While I’m Still Really Wasted!” That is NOT the gospel I want to non-verbally communicate with my attire. If my pastor showed up wearing a Hawaiian shirt I’d assume one thing and one thing only: he’s been interrupted from a vacation. See my lips? They’re SO pursed right now!!! – PB

29 Replies to “NO HAWAIIAN SHIRTS!! EVER!!”

  1. I really have to second “except in Hawaii.” Aloha shirts (=Hawaiian shirts in the other 49 states) are what men wear to dressy occasions, to job interviews, to formal workplaces like banks and large companies, even to funerals. If you’re really conservative you’ll wear a reverse print (more subdued) and tuck the shirt in to your trousers. That would be the equivalent of wearing a full suit and tie. [Thank you for writing in on this, E. That’s what I thought. – PB]

  2. Yeah, but can’t you make allowances for regional differences? Does all the world have to dress like you dress in Massachusetts? I’m just saying. [Kelli, BTFM is a no-whine zone, and you’re not just “sayin,” you’re whining. If you can make a case for how it glorifies God, celebrates the good news or in any way lifts up the highest vision for the Church to wear a Hawaiian shirt in the pulpit, please do. This isn’t a regional issue, it’s a theological one. You should know by now that PeaceBang will go down to the death fighting the ‘dumbing down’ of pastoral image to correspond to the increasing ambivalence of the church-going population to truly worship and revere the Lord. One can have a joyous and celebratory presence in the pulpit without resorting to resort-wear, or appearing to be heading straight from the sermon to the keg. – PB]

  3. Don’t you know that in order to be relevant, you must preach in Hawaiian shirts, khaki’s, and scandals? Then you need to make pilgrimages to Willow Creek and Saddleback to learn how to minister. Then throw in some Maxwell and Osteen motivational meetings. Throw out the organ and get a rock and roll praise band.
    No wonder our churches are in the shape they are in.
    BTW: I’m the only pastor on my conference who wears a collar. Respect isn’t old fashioned to me.

  4. Call me crazy, but it was 98 degrees here yesterday, and I preached in a suit and tie. And immediately after the service and chatting with our visitors (I thought they deserved me looking my best), the tie and jacket were nowhere to be found. Dress shirt and suit pants were fine for Coffee Hour.

    I am considering a nice (sold-colored) linen shirt with cotton (or, even better, if I can find them, linen) dress pants for summer services. What say you to that idea, PB? [I think if the sanctuary is un-air-conditioned, definitely go with solid linen or linen blend. Nice cotton pants work well, too. The trick is not to look like you’re on a cruise, so consider colors carefully. I would think that a navy would work well, or browns. What shoes would you wear? I think that’s a tough one. Maybe a nice loafer? – PB]


  5. Several men at church yesterday were in linen or linen-blend shirts. They looked so nice – and so fresh & cool! I would admire my pastor for choosing such a lovely fabric – no matter their gender.

  6. Preach it! I’m in full agreement, PB. Just curious, though: does your condemnation extend to guayaberas? They seem to me to be the middle ground between Hawaiian shirts and button-down oxford shirts.
    [Guyaberas would fall under the whole ‘be mindful of ethnic garb’ topic, but since they’re not universally associated with party time, I see nothing inherently wrong with wearing them for church. I would think that a nice guayabera with a pair of nice slacks and loafers would be a very nice summer outfit for guys. Maybe even to preach in in certain regions. – PB]

  7. We are using the Cokesbury “Beach Party” curriculum for Vacation Bible School this summer and the Christian Education committee wants me to wear an Aloha shirt and flip flops as a promotion. [Well, enjoy it!! Because it’s for a good cause, and apparently they’re counting on it being so different from your usual more dignified garb that it will attract attention to VBS!! Terrific!- PB]

  8. PB: To answer your question about shoes, I’d still wear brown loafers with the khakis and linen shirt. Plain, classic, brown loafers. There is most definitely no AC in our sanctuary (if there was, I’d not think twice about wearing a suit, but I just about melted last week).


  9. PB, I’m a big fan, but I can’t help feeling you were a little hard on Kelli. I was born and raised on the West Coast and I can tell you that there are some distinctly different attitudes here regarding clothing.

    I have no interest in defending Hawaiian shirts in the pulpit (although it wouldn’t put me off that much), but I think there may be more to Kelli’s remark than you allowed. Is this *truly* a theological issue — or just a very strong and well defended preference? [Hon, I would never offer my opinion that something is a theological issue if I didn’t honestly think it was. If I walked into a church and saw that the pastor was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I’d walk right out. Outside of Hawaii, I believe that Hawaiian shirts broadcast one message: “Hey dude, it’s paaarty time!” I think it’s just incredibly disrespectful to don one in the pulpit. But thanks for weighing in, and I’m a big fan back atcha. – PB]

  10. Ditto Satchel Pooch’s support for Kelli’s remark which didn’t seem whiney in tone to me. 12 years in California taught me that regional differences exist.

    Got to giggle a bit though. To the right of this comment thread on my server is an ad for the “Hawaiian Shirts Outlet.” They feature a special wedding dress/shirt line. Wonder what they recommend for the officiant? Good to see that PB is getting some advertising revenue to support your work. Hopefully they won’t pay you in merchandise!

  11. I am in South Texas and was quite frankly thrilled when asked to do a wedding wearing a Hawaiian clergy shirt and shorts. I have no problem with the Hawaiian shirt / casual shirt thing in the pulpit. This applies both to men and women. You guys are way too stiff. No wonder the church is shrinking.

  12. For me a great moment in Barack Obama’s “Finally made it” speech was when he gave a shout-out to his grandmother “somewhere in Hawaii.” He pronounced it like a local, not an awestruck vacationer, casually.

    It’s a state. Some of us have relatives there. Some of those relatives moved there to live peacefully as pre-Loving interracial families. Mine did, in 1954. It is always a pain that I cannot comfortably wear the clothes I bought while last visiting them, because my New England neigbors will think I am being “too casual.”

    Aloha shirts were actually invented by a kimono seller for people who liked the fabrics but no longer needed or wanted kimonos. They reflect a western-eastern compromise.

    Having said that, there is muumuu etiquette, and the spaghetti strap style I chose would NEVER pass for anything but a personal patio get-together in the Aloha State. I do not wear it anywhere except in my own humidity-soaked apartment. For a public muumuu, I would have needed to do the bell-sleeves and scooped neck. But why bother, when I couldn’t wear it to public gatherings up here anyway?

    So if Hawaii has produced the next president, at least in part, will we get to start thinking their/our cultural heritage is dignified — provided we do it right by Hawaiian standards, as described above?

  13. Dear PB and others, please excuse the testy tone of my post. What angers me is that Pacific is so wide and my paycheck is so narrow that I do not see my aunt even once in a decade. It has nothing to do with PB’s opinion about Hawaiian shirts.

    I do, however, celebrate having a potential president who was shaped by the culture which allowed my aunt and cousins to spend safe, happy lives together. “Paradise” is truly not just about the beaches.

  14. FYI, the loveliest clergy blouse I have ever seen was handmade from a somewhat subdued (perhaps reverse) Hawaiian fabric. With collar, of course. Granted, I think the priest in question was from Hawaii, but she was wearing it in Ohio. It sure beats most of the things in the clerical garb catalogs! Of course, with its collar and tailoring, it didn’t look at all like a “just come from a kegger” shirt.

  15. Well, the regionalism of the movement is sure being displayed.

    It’s not innappropriate for the preacher to dress in a sober and dignified manner. But that doesn’t mean dressing in a way that’s well outside the congregation’s culture–or that’s comfort level: Insane, tempting heatstroke.

    We meet all summer, none of this “take the summer off” casualness. Two services, too. And lack A/C. If someone chooses to get in a snit and exit over the fact that I’m not about (even considering) wearing a coat and tie and melt down when I preach next Sunday, I’m not going to concern myself in the slightest. Clearly, in that case, appearances are more important than worship and message. In this, women in the pulpit are at an advantage–our minister was able to choose dignified but temperature appropriate clothing until she went on vacation. But there’s simply no way to do that with a coat and tie–and I don’t care what the material is–in a hot summer climate.

    There is a reason that clothing standards are different in places with wildly different climates. The idea that the standard of New England must be kept up everywhere is just silly. It’s New England’s standard, not some received on the Mount thing.

    PB’s point was

    I stand firmly by my conviction that no one on the planet will really take another person seriously if they’re clad in a Don Ho shirt — except in Hawaii.

    If it’s “serious” if in Hawaii, and if Rick Warren makes it work — very, very successfully — in SoCal (and yes, I know he’s not one of us… but people take him quite seriously), then I submit that the garb’s not the issue. It’s an eye and culture of the beholder issue.

    I just completed a preaching course with Bill Schulz–who is solidly with you insofar as a minister wearing appropriate and sober clothing. It’s an issue of not confusing people, not distracting them, not bleeding the earned/deserved authority of the preacher in the pulpit.

    But if it’s not doing that…

  16. Somewhere in all these posts I saw someone ask “is this really a theological issue?” and I say “NO!” Ladies and gentlemen, it is the Gospel you preach and the Gospel youlive that matters. There are some groups that will be better reached if not being preached to (or preached at) be someone wearing a full suit and tie. And they are also the ones who would be put off if you required that the congregation also dress “to the 9s” to attend worship.

    The reason the traditional denomnational church is shrinking? perhaps because we are too concerned about the appearance of their bodies and not enough about the condition of their souls!

  17. Indeed, it is the Gospel you preach and the Gospel you live that matters. What you wear is part of how you live and part of what you preach. And “Hakuna Matata” is not part of the Gospel that the Christian Church preaches.

    As for being taken seriously, it is worse than just taking the preacher seriously, it hints that the preacher doesn’t take God seriously. “So, like, there’s a God and all, but whatevs, dudes.”

    “Regionalism” isn’t by itself a (complete) answer, because regional clothing isn’t just random, it comes partly out of regional attitude, and regional attitudes that say, “Nothing really matters all that much, [not enough to bother dressing up for]” are (like plenty of much worse regional attitudes endemic to other places) some of what the church is up against, not what it should go with the flow on.

    But that might be hard to see in a culture that can sing about Awe and Worship in fun, rockin’ songs that are completely contrary to anything resembling what Awe and Worship actually mean. (The dignified and proper Northeasterners or Midwesterners who sing about falling down on their knees and lifting up their hands in worship, but who would be horrified if anyone actually did either of those things in church, are a subject for a different rant about a different set of regional attitude failings.)

    If you go to a red light district, does a prostitute’s attire become appropriate for a preacher because it is simply a local form of dress? If the answer is “no,” then there is some kind of wider issue with clothing beyond simply local habit– local habit is expressing something, and we should think about what else we’re expressing when we’re there to express the word of God. “God’s just another bro, and is on our level– there’s no ‘above-ness’ or ‘below-ness’ in our relationship with God– is part of what excessively casual clothing helps convey.”

  18. TM: “God’s just another bro, and is on our level– there’s no ‘above-ness’ or ‘below-ness’ in our relationship with God– is part of what excessively casual clothing helps convey.”

    I believe you are conflating a pastor’s relationship to his/her congregants with his/her relationship to God.

    You guys don’t like Hawaiian shirts on clergy. I get that. But I don’t think you can make a credible case that God doesn’t like them either.

  19. That this even needs discussion is mind boggling. A little disclosure before I continue: I am not a minister, I am not from New England, I’m relatively young (early 40s) and I am a UU, so my comments can be taken in this context.

    Some who comment on this blog (on this post and others) bemoan the idea that appearance matters. It. Just. Does. Get over it! You are a minister and presumably you have Something Important to say, which is why your congregation called you. Dress so that people will listen to you, respect you and take you seriously – not just in your church, but also in the wider community. If it’s hot, then don’t suffer through wearing a suit and tie but for godssake don’t wear a Hawaiian shirt, a crappy t-shirt, a strappy sundress or some other equally inappropriate attire for a minister.

    You are a person in a position of authority and you should dress like it. Just imagine President Obama whining to Michelle, “It’s so hot – why can’t I just wear my cargo shorts and flip flops to that meeting with Nouri al-Maliki?”

  20. When Jesus sent his disciples forth to preach the good news, to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons he told them to take no money, no bag, no staff and in Matthew, no sandals, and to wear only one tunic. This means they had no change of clothing and they would have smelled. Their feet would have been dirty from the road. And yet, they had the authority that Christ had shared with them. He didn’t want them to look pristine. He wanted people to focus on the message. We are to humble ourselves as Christ’s servants, not lift ourselves up above others – and clothing plays a role in that. We do not have to look good to have Christ’s authority. We only have to have faithful hearts and a calling from Christ.

    Your focus on “dressing for authority” is not biblically founded. It is a human tradition – and , may I remind you that Jesus preached against the Pharisees for loving their traditions more than God. Let’s focus on the truth of Christ and guiding people to salvation and stop the arrogance of only wanting to listen to people who look a certain way.

    [Naive, naive, naive. But go be a groovy, unkempt slob for Jesus if you think it helps. – PB]

  21. I am naive enough to think that God reaches out in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people. He can reach people through pastors of whose dress sense you approve, and He can also reach people through “groovy, unkempt slobs for Jesus.” By the way, that was a really unkind remark.
    [Satchel, I give what I get. You know what the goals of this blog are, and why. I’m tired of seeing unkempt slobs representing the Church and the ministry and justifying it on naive, sentimental grounds. Of course God reaches out in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people — who ever said God didn’t? I’m not critiquing God in this blog. I’m addressing God’s sloppy servants who refuse to take responsibility for their public image. This isn’t a Biblical issue. It’s a practical issue. Calling me a Pharisee is hardly going to bring any new Spirit to our dying churches. – PB]

  22. I am a young mainline pastor in Colorado. This whole thread seriously makes me cringe. If my non-Christian friends read this, they would never take ANY of us seriously. They would say, “One more reason why I want NOTHING to do with the church.” And I honestly can’t blame them. If a pastor “dresses down” behind the pulpit but clothes are neat and clean, Aloha shirt or otherwise, and THIS would cause you to walk out of a church, it’s little wonder to me why our mainline churches are in decline. Your priorities are severely misplaced. We as the ministers of the Gospel have much bigger fish to fry.

    P.S. Some of the best pastors I know are trendy/non-frumpy. Some of the worst are, too. Some of the best pastors I know are frumpy. I know very few frumpy pastors who are not EXCELLENT pastors, by the way. I wonder what that might tell us. [I don’t expect lay people to have considered that clergy need to take their image seriously; it just isn’t on people’s radar, nor should it be. However, that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a worthy topic for conversation. I certainly get that you don’t approve of this blog and its topic, but I don’t think you can extrapolate frumpiness = excellence in ministry from your own limited experience. – PB]

  23. I dought if the person or family member that I’m praying for would stop to say hey no Hawaiian shirt allowed , your focusing on the minor point rather than looking at the whole picture, that’s so legalistic it reeks of law, not Grace!!. we as Christians worry, so much about the outside, that we forget about what your there for. To pray for, comfort, give hope, and solice to a troubled person. and if God doesn’t mind me wearing a Hawaiian shirt, why should you? and besides what does it hurt to wear a Hawaiian shirt to church ? what law or custom says I have to wear a suit and tie. if you don’t like me as a minister wearing Hawaiian style shirts then don’t come to my church or tell me how to dress especially if you didn’t buy it. [Gee, Don, thanks for stopping by to say nothing original or productive — like I haven’t heard these weak, shallow arguments a thousand times before. This blog is about analyzing clergy image, analyzing how what we wear non-verbally communicates how we understand our role, how much respect and intention we bring to all aspects of it. You go ahead making excuses for why you don’t want to do that and I’ll keep on writing about ministry. Bye. P.S. Work on your spelling. – PB]

  24. Well, PB maybe I haven’t spoken much that you have heard anything new, I’ll say this I’ll continue to pray for those who need God’s grace, and I will do my best to please God himself and when it’s all said and done, then I’ll know If Christ was pleased with my life and I pray that I can hear him say well done thou good and faithful servant. [What’s interesting about this response is that it’s exclusively about you and your personal experience with Jesus Christ. No mention of your accountability to community, to the church, to the people you serve. I find a lot of ego in this supposedly humble response. I think you just revealed a lot about yourself. – PB]

  25. I would like to know how the White Supremist who have started wearing Hawaiian shirts are effecting the image of the shirt? This is more a stateside situation, I would expect, not a Islanders situation. I am curious.

    Would this have any negative affects of the image of those who simply like the shirt, such as a Pastor?

    Thanks CR

  26. I preach in aloha shirts often. I prefer them. Mine are all black, but it is still a short sleeve aloha shirt.
    There is nothing wrong with this and your obvious distain speaks volumes.

  27. This is one of the dumbest comments I have ever received. If it’s not a Hawaiian print, it’s not a Hawaiian shirt, Andy. There’s no such thing as an all black “aloha shirt.” What you are describing is a shirt. And it’s “disdain.”

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