Clergy shirt colors

Updated February 21, 2017

Clergy shirts come in a variety of colours depending on the denomination or religious organisation requirements. Most Catholic clergy or priests wear black shirts with white collars. There are two types of clergy shirts: the tab-collar shirt and the neckband shirt. The tab-collar shirt has a fold-down collar with an opening at the throat where a cloth or plastic neck piece can be placed. The neckband shirt has no collar, but rather a thin band of white cloth around the neck similar to a mock-turtleneck shirt.


The black clergy shirt is the most recognisable colour of clerical attire. Catholic and Methodist clergy wear the black colour as their primary attire. The black colour comes in both types of clergy shirts and is worn for everyday attire, as well as public attire. Deciding on the proper clergy shirt colour protocol can be found by inquiring with the local religious organisation and its requirements, as well as colour designations, but black is the primary clergy shirt colour.


A red or maroon clergy shirt is generally assigned to members of the clergy who hold the position of Bishop. Catholic, Methodist and other denominations with bishop positions generally wear a red clergy shirt with a white collar. Cardinals often wear a maroon clergy shirt because they hold a higher position in the church than a Bishop.


A purple clergy shirt also designates a specific position in the church, such as Bishop or senior Bishop. Most Methodist Bishops can wear this colour of clergy shirt. The purple clergy shirt can also imply that the clergy holds a specific ecclesiastic position in the church. At times, one Bishop will wear a purple clergy shirt in the presence of a superior or senior Bishop so there is a distinction between the two.


Many clergy wear white shirts during formal ceremonies, such as weddings or baptisms. The white shirt is generally worn under a cloak or robe during these ceremonies and not worn out in public. A clergy shirt of this colour also comes with different colour collars designating either the season or type of event.

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About the Author

Mitchell Brock has been writing since 1980. His work includes media relations and copywriting technical manuals for Johnson & Johnson, HSBC, FOX and Phillip Morris. Brock graduated from the University of Southern California in 1980, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English.