The Middle Way

Male ministers tend to do two things: they either dress overly casually or they rely too much on a suit and tie.

I’d like to advocate for a middle way that isn’t quite as formal as a suit and not as awfully casual as the old flannel plaid and Dockers route.

First, a sports coat with a sweater underneath is a great look. It works with a casual pair of pants, and even with jeans (but nice jeans, guys!). You throw on some nice soft leather shoes (not sneakers) and you’re good to go.

The other option, much ignored among the liberal religious clergymen of my acquaintance, is the old chamois shirt look:

Don’t worry if you’re not as gorgeous as this model. No one is. However, I like his shirt: it’s got color, it’s warm and presentable for a day in the office, and it looks put together. I would trade the jeans for a pair of twill pants of some kind; you don’t want to seem too much like you’re going camping.

In general, I think male ministers have a lot more options in casual wear than they’re exercising. There are some really attractive, unstructured jackets out there in cottons and wools that can help you feel well-dressed without a suit. Many of them look nice with a tie, and since we’re speaking of ties, ya’ll need to update the tie collection, okay?
If the only tie you ever wear has either graduate school logos on it or is decorated by UNICEF children’s drawings, go shopping already, or ask for a new tie for Father’s Day.

It is my experience that hetero men are afraid that if they get too interested in fashion — you know, “oh my god, an unstructured jacket!? That’s outside the Accepted Straight Man Uniform category!” — people will think they’re gay.

Fellas, let me tell you something: when it comes to dressing and grooming, you could all use a little gay. Don’t fear the gay. The gay is good. The gay is about beauty and flair and an aesthetic sensibility. Embrace it and let the blessings flow.

Remember, no Hawaiian shirts. Ever.

5 Replies to “The Middle Way”

  1. Whew, for a while there I thought I was going to be the only guy seen here. Thanks.

    And yes, gay is good, but I probably won’t help your case as I own several flannel plaid shirts.

  2. I don’t know, Peacebang. This fellow looks like he’s going to go chop wood and the whole outfit reminds me too much of what *I* was wearing in 1993 in college. I think it’s great minister-wear for a church retreat or youth week at Rowe Camp or DeBenneville Pines, but I respectfully disagree that it’s a great shirt for church meetings or office hours. I’m forwarding this to my male minister sweetie to see if he wants to weigh in on this one… Perhaps he’s got another opinion. It’s very relevant because we’ve been shopping for professional clothes together this weekend. BTW your advice has been **very very** helpful as I’ve faced racks of choices at the mall. Your site rocks, PB.

  3. I’m afraid I’m with Sarah, here, Peacebang. Unless you’re serving a church in the rural Pacific Northwest, where you can get away with looking like the veterinarian on Grey’s Anatomy, at work (who wouldn’t want to look like him outside of work, I wonder), I’d eschew the untucked chamois look for ministering.

    Now, the unstructured linen jacket for summer…delicious. Here in the South, linen is a wonderful thing for people of all genders this time of year.

    And I do agree that a few nice lightweight sweaters are a must for any fashionable minister as the weather turns nippy. With jacket or turtleneck or even well-placed dark t-shirt, with nice jeans or khakis or nice wool pants, three seasons a year can be made nicer with cashmere.

    Gayly yours,

  4. I concede, I concede! I was really looking for an unstructured jacket but couldn’t find one on Google images, and my head was turned by this fabulous babe of a model. Mea culpa!

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