Why I wear a tie to church

March 28, 2013 | 72 comments
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Not long ago, on the way to church one Sunday, my son, recently turned twelve, asked me, “Why do I have to wear a tie to church?” Instead of directly answering that question, which would reveal his parents’ rather curtailed ability to compel behavior in their almost-teenage children much earlier than I’d like and short-circuit the altogether salutary process of his exploring those limits in person, I told him why I wear a tie to church.

“I wear a tie to church,” I explained, “because men have been wearing a tie to church for so long that it has become the expected behavior, at least in any place we’ve ever lived. There’s nothing special about wearing a tie in itself, but because it’s expected, if I didn’t wear a tie, it might cause someone at church to become concerned or disconcerted, which might distract them from their worship or search for comfort or pondering of some momentous spiritual question, or whatever it is that they have come to church for. Now, I think for the most part everyone should ignore other people’s clothing choices, but as members of the church, we’re called on to help one another, and that includes helping those who have trouble ignoring other people’s clothing choices. I don’t particularly enjoy wearing a tie, but eliminating whatever minor physical discomfort it causes me isn’t worth the concern and distraction it might cause somebody else if I didn’t wear a tie.”

My son seemed skeptical, so I tried something else. “Also,” I added, “you’ll notice that we’ve moved a lot. We’ve lived in six different places since you’ve been born. In every ward we’ve lived, the members of the church have been incredibly helpful. They’ve helped us move in and move out. They’ve helped us find a house, brought us furniture to help stock empty apartments, left more plates of cookies on our doorstep than I can count, and helped us load the truck when we leave. The things we wear send signals that other people interpret, and it’s important that there be no misunderstandings, particularly in a new place where people don’t know us well. When we attend church for the first time, I want people to have no reason to ask themselves if I am taking advantage of their generosity. Wearing a tie is one way to signal that I understand what’s customary and expected, that I’m grateful for the couch and the cookies, and that I have experience in the church and a willingness to serve, including teaching Sunday School or delivering plates of cookies or helping other people move in or out when called upon. If I didn’t wear a tie, people might wonder if I plan to take their assistance without ever returning it, which might threaten not only others’ willingness to help us, but weaken in some infinitesimal way the whole system of people helping each other. Compared to how much people have helped us over the years, wearing a tie isn’t a lot to ask.”

My son still didn’t seem convinced, but he has continued to wear a tie to church.

72 Responses to Why I wear a tie to church

  1. Cameron N on March 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Great post. Will the Lord return wearing a red suit and tie? Always good to help kids understand the difference between culture and eternal truth/doctrine.

  2. Nate Oman on March 28, 2013 at 10:33 am

    I like it. I think that another good response is, “Wearing a tie is an informal tradition for men in the church. Informal traditions are not moral requirements. They are also no necessary for formal belonging. On the other hand, communities are maintained by far more than merely moral obligation or formal membership. They are maintained be even more than affection. They are maintained by habits, habits that become so deeply ingrained within in us that they become part of who we are so that to not be part of the community would change ins some important way who we are. Informal traditions are part of the way in which we develop the habits and connections that maintain community. Each standing alone is pretty trivial and can be violated without much fear of loss. It would be a huge mistake, however, to conclude from this that informal traditions taken together are silly and do not matter. They are extremely important. Accordingly, I think we ought to honor alot of them, and tie wearing is one of the one’s that I honor.”

    Or something like that.

  3. wondering on March 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Interesting.

    I see a conflict between the position that “everyone should ignore other people’s clothing choices” and the idea that clothing choices are a signal about our beliefs, commitment levels, etc. Or are we obligated to ignore all such signals?

    Another implication of this post is that someone whose commitment and faithfulness are beyond question (e.g. the Bishop, the Prophet), would be doing a service by NOT wearing a tie to church. Needless to say, this is not what we observe.

  4. Paul on March 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I think this is a terrific discussion. You introduce your son to the ideal: “ignore others’ clothing choices” and the practical reality that the ideal doesn’t exist. Still, he can strive to follow the ideal when he looks at others, and recognize that it does not exist when he looks at himself, just as we do in so many other areas of gospel living. Well done.

  5. Wilfried on March 28, 2013 at 10:53 am

    On the other hand, sometimes not wearing a tie as an active and faithful church member signals to those who never wear a tie (because of whatever personal habit or because a tie gives them a headache or because ties are symbols of white-collar corporate executives) that these non-tie wearers are as welcome and loved as those who wear a tie and that they will be helped and sustained just as much. And this situation is not unusual in European branches and wards.

  6. Kent Larsen on March 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I like what Wilfried said here. Perhaps the question should also include some idea of what we should do when we think that the “informal tradition” or “culture” needs to change.

    Part of the problem is that what is arguably the best cultural norm—that clothing choices shouldn’t matter at Church—is as much a lack of a standard or norm than a clothing norm. When does the intention behind wearing pants to Church in order to make them acceptable become wearing pants is the norm (not that this is likely to happen any time soon).

  7. DavidH on March 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I suppose the same conversation could be had about women and pants.

  8. jimbob on March 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Purple pants, no less.

  9. Jace on March 28, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I don’t see the big deal about suits/ties/dresses/whatever. It’s not about “Jesus doesn’t wear a suit and tie”, but rather, in our society/culture, that clothing is synonymous with formality/special occasions/etc. So because Sunday meetings are something special and important, we wear clothing with that sends that message.

  10. MC on March 28, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I like Nate’s answer a little bit more.

  11. kite_guy on March 28, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I wear a tie because President Monson and the other leaders I respect wear ties. They wear suits. So do I. They are clean-shaven and well-groomed. So am I. When these representatives of the Lord change their standard so will I.

  12. jimbob on March 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    My response: I wear a tie because I’m really good looking in a tie, and I want people to notice.

  13. chris on March 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    I wear a tie because modest is hottest and I don’t want to distract all the women when my open button shirt and exposed chest hair.

  14. Clean Cut on March 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    I sincerely love how you applied critical to something that so rarely arouses much thought. This should be required exercise from time to time. I appreciated that it personally sparked some good thinking!

  15. Geoff J on March 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Ties for men at church have become the accepted and traditional tribal garb. I am, by choice, a part of the Mormon tribe so I wear the traditional Mormon garb.

  16. Tevye on March 28, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Tradition! Or what Nate O. said, with the clarification that the community doesn’t just include the present.

  17. jimbob on March 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    “I wear a tie because modest is hottest and I don’t want to distract all the women when my open button shirt and exposed chest hair.”

    I don’t know if I can agree with this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been wearing a good-looking tie and I’ll go up and talk to a woman at church, and she’ll just unabashedly just stare at my tie–not even try to hide it. And I’ll be like, “My eyes are up here, sister!”

  18. Steve Smith on March 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I wear a tie because it is the norm and I do not want to call undue attention to myself among community members. It is a symbol that I recognize and esteem parts of the community tradition and want to be part of it. Yet while I desire to maintain a relationship with the community, I am careful to not venture too deep into its waters lest the mighty tides of its standards and traditions completely consume my individualism. I am keen on my individualism and assert it when I feel that the community is encroaching too much on my individual space. However, I reserve those assertions of individualism for special moments when I believe that the cost of keeping in line with tradition outweighs the cost of fighting against it. And I figure that the cost of wearing a tie is small compared to the costs that could be incurred by not wearing a tie.

  19. Chadwick on March 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I like the first paragraph but, for some reason, did not care for the second paragraph. I personally do not wear a tie to say thank you for cookies. I say thank you to say thank you for cookies. I also try not to solicit the ward’s help when I move. My company has always financed my moves and I’m grateful I didn’t have to ask complete strangers to damage their back and my piano for a slice of pizza.

    When I lived in India, my wife and daughter often wore Indian garb to church, whether it be a sari, another form of Indian dress, or even the pajama outfit (yes, in Bangalore women wear pants to church every week and no one seems to care, go figure). My son even wore an Indian outfit and it was no big deal. So one week I didn’t don my suit and tie and wore my Indian garb (though I left the turban at home). I got so many comments about dressing like an Indian I never did it again. I didn’t like being a distraction, even though I was a “welcome” distraction (that is, people were elated by my dress, not upset by my lack of tie).

    I really like the notion that we try not to get overly concerned with what others do but, out of charity for those who are overly concerned with what others do, we try to give them a break.

  20. Old Man on March 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I wear “Sunday best” to show respect for the Lord (his sacrifice and atonement deserve the best we have on His day) and respect and love for the people in the community (including myself) who need to further embrace that atonement.

    But that is just me…

  21. Tiger on March 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Those are interesting reasons from a community/societal/tradition standpoint, but I think you can be more basic than that. Worshiping God on His holy day is a formal obligation in accordance with His commandments. In doing so, we wear our best clothing and men’s “best” clothing, by cultural standards, is considered a coat/shirt and tie. Of course, we don’t judge others who don’t dress similarly for whatever reason, but doing so is a personal decision that enhances our unity and connection with church members and with Heavenly Father. If we dress for church like we do any other day, then little else remains that sets apart our Sabbath worship. Also, wearing a tie prepares your son for eventual missionary service when he dons the shirt-tie “uniform” on a daily basis as a wholesome reflection of the Church and his calling.

  22. DavidH on March 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Europe is not the only place where significant numbers of males may not wear ties. More than one man in my urban ward in the US do not, and more than one woman wear pants. I should add that more than one woman has more than two earrings and more than one man has pierces, and several men and women have visible tattoos. Our former bishop and new bishop (and our stake president) have not felt moved upon by the Spirit to give a talk, or speak privately, to these individuals about group cohesion or the statements they might be making by diverging from the cultural dress norms of the U.S. Church as a whole. I like our ward and stake for that reason. (I do wear white shirts and ties because I feel pressure to conform, and I don’t want to offend people who judge based on clothing. Moreover, my beliefs are sufficiently heterodox (not to mention my politics) that I don’t want to push the envelope on how I dress.)

  23. Tiger on March 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    men’s “best” clothing, by *American/Western* cultural standards, is considered…

  24. DB on March 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    A lot of folks on here seem to think that wearing a tie to church is a Mormon cultural thing. Hardly! This is a cultural norm in most parts of the world and is not specific to any religion. Go to most any christian church in town and you’ll be expected to wear a tie and depending on which part of the country/world you’re in, some of those other churches are going to have much stronger dress and grooming expectations than you’ll find in most mormon wards.

  25. Old Man on March 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    If temples and the grounds are a product of the better materials and design that we can muster as a sacrifice to the Lord, what of what we wear to church and the temple? Are we not temples as well? Aesthetics do matter, don’t they?

    If I was asked to place everything on the line, and give a priesthood blessing that truly healed someone, I would engage in a period of preparation before giving that blessing. It would include fasting and mediation (inner vessel) as well as washing and a change of dress to finish that preparation (outer vessel). I would place as much emphasis on dressing for that occasion as I would dressing before meeting the POTUS or a Nobel Laureate at a formal reception, because I believe that I as a representative of Christ’s priesthood should respect the Savior and the recipient of the blessing as much as most people respect heads of state and the “great” people of this planet.

    And I know I am about to be criticized, but whatever… I’d prepare the same way if my critics needed a blessing.

  26. KLC on March 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    “Go to most any christian church in town and you’ll be expected to wear a tie…”

    DB, I can’t say that has been my experience. I pass by 3 churches on my way to our chapel every Sunday and there are 2 very large churches near my mother’s house which I frequently visit on Sundays. In all five of these churches the dress code is sloppy casual at best. The men are in baggy shorts or jeans and getting dressed up appears to mean wearing an untucked button style shirt instead of a T shirt.

  27. Trevor on March 28, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    What if I wear a tie *most* of the time? Can that demonstrate that I abide by the tribal rules while also demonstrating that nothing about a tie per se actually matters?

  28. Paul on March 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    #25 Old Man, I’ve wrestled with the question of whether to wear a tie to give a blessing, in fact just this week. I did not wear a tie to give the blessing, but after reading your response, I really wish I had. I think you’re right.

  29. correlated on March 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I like what old man said. I tend to agree. But I also think that banker’s attire is not viewed as particularly clean or holy to many people in the world.

  30. Julie M. Smith on March 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Well, I certainly prefer the OP’s answer to “isn’t it obvious that Jesus personally prefers 20th century Western men’s business attire”?

    One thing I can’t figure out, though, is how to convey both “there is benefit to showing solidarity to the tribe” with “but we shouldn’t be judging anyone based on what they are wearing.”

    I would also add that I think using one’s clothing as a vehicle to express individuality is a pretty shallow way to do so. Write a manifesto instead, for heaven’s sake!

  31. Last Lemming on March 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    In doing so, we wear our best clothing and men’s “best” clothing, by American/Western cultural standards, is considered a coat/shirt and tie.

    I don’t think the “best” argument works, because “best” in American/Western culture is actually white tie and tails, which one never sees in church.* I think the “tribal uniform” idea fits better.

    * In our ward, two teenaged boys (twins) routinely sport formalwear (black tie) in church. It takes some getting used to.

  32. Christian on March 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I live in Phoenix and it’s too damn hot for a suit. It’s too hot for a tie, and for pants, and for any clothes at all, but I wear them anyway.

  33. Adam G. on March 28, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Dressing formally for services is often associated with black churches. I wear a tie because I’m not racist.

  34. J Watson on March 28, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I wear a tie about 90% of the time. Some mornings, I wake up, and I don’t feel like wearing one. So I don’t. I always wear slacks, and if I don’t wear a tie, then I make sure to wear a jacket. My heart is not charitable enough to care if anyone is distracted. I’m not trying to distract anyone. I’m not trying to provoke a reaction.
    In my ward in southeast Idaho, a number of men come week after week in clean blue jeans and a tucked-in, buttoned shirt. I’ve never found them to be a distraction. I’ve always appreciated their presence. I can’t say what others think about them.
    When I was a teenager, one of my friends and his mother attended our sacrament meeting. Neither belonged to a specific church. It was summer, and they both wore summer-appropriate clothing: clean t-shirts, clean shorts. When they entered the chapel and came to sit with me, you could hear a collective gasp. Distinct among the audible whispers were “Look at them!” and “Oh my gosh, look at what they’re wearing.” The obvious punchline to this sad anecdote is that they’ve not been inclined to return to a Mormon worship service.
    While this anecdote is merely one experience, it underlies our undue focus on the outward person. I acknowledge that the topic is “Why I wear a tie,” but I believe beneath much of our reasoning is misplaced devotion to tradition, concern for what others think and feel, and, perhaps–I don’t know; I only suspect–the pride in wearing costly apparel. I tell myself, and I hear others say, “It’s not about wearing costly apparel; it’s about devotion to the Lord.” But I’m forced to ask, “Then why do we all wear costly apparel?” Just what is it about costly apparel that is so darn pleasing to God?
    Sure, you may be among the exceptions, one of those who spends very little on your “Sunday best.” I believe you. I know many of you are true, humble followers of Christ. It’s just that, when attending church, I can’t help noticing the riches on display in the pews ahead and behind, and on my body. And it makes me wonder.
    I’ve not come to firm conclusions. It may be my thinking is off.

  35. Peter LLC on March 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I realize that putting on a tie = dressing up for many men, but that’s only because sartorial standards have dropped to unprecedented lows. This business of wearing a tie without a jacket, for example, makes one fear for the future of the well-dressed man.

  36. Wilfried on March 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Though there are undoubtedly positive sides to wearing a tie (sign of respect in some cultures, reinforcement of community feeling, conformity to a general tradition) there are also drawbacks:

    – Unwittingly giving a feeling of exclusion to non-tie wearers. (cf. comment 5)
    – Becoming judgmental toward those who do not conform to your own standards.
    – Imposing an American-Western standard to other parts of the world (where white shirts, ties and dark suits are sometimes associated with wealthy businessmen, white-collar criminals, body guards, CIA, or maffia)
    – Feeling special or important or “American” because of this Sunday male dress code (I heard that in some African regions some Mormon men love to dress in white shirts and ties, because it gives a feeling of importance and of upward mobility, even of “Americanness”; I suppose it may play a role elsewhere too)
    – Thinking we need to look like general authorities (there was a brother once in our ward who advocated to wear a suit that “matched the color of the prophet’s suit”)
    – Possibly moving locally to imposing a “priesthood uniform” (I witnessed it in one branch)

    In “The way to apostasy” (1946) Joseph Fielding Smith remarked on this very topic:

    The first changes [to priesthood ordinances, in the primitive church] that came, evidently came innocently because some enterprising bishop or other officer endeavored to introduce into his meetings, or among his congregation something new – just a little different, in advancement of that which was practiced elsewhere. This tendency is very apparent in the wards and stakes of the Church today. These changes and innovations are innocently adopted, but in course of time there is the danger that they will become fixed customs and considered as necessary to the welfare of the Church.

    For example, it became the custom in many wards throughout the church to have the young men who passed the Sacrament all dressed alike with dark coats, white shirts and uniform ties. This could in time lead to the established custom of dressing them in uniform, such as we see done in some sectarian and other churches.

    So we see that we, if we are not careful, will find ourselves traveling the road that brought the Church of Jesus Christ in the first centuries into disrepute and paved the way for the apostasy.

  37. Aaron on March 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Isn’t the reason we wear nice attire to church to show respect: respect for our fellow members, respect for the Lord, respect for his house, respect for the sacrament?

  38. Chadwick on March 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Re #37:

    Yes Aaron that’s why we wear nice attire. You nailed it. But the question in the OP was why do I wear a tie? Why is a tie considered nice attire? Are there reasonable alternatives to nice attire that do not include a tie? If I wear a tie for my pay check Monday through Friday from 9-5, should I also wear a tie on the Sabbath, a day of doing things more special? Did the Old Testament prophets wear ties when officiating in the temple?

    We dress nice for God. We wear ties for other reasons.

  39. CK on March 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    I appreciate the OP, not that I’d analyze the situation in exactly the same way or come to the same conclusion, but that it addresses what I think are the correct/appropriate/real considerations.

    There are complications. These may be particular to my situation, but generalizations will come easily. In my home ward the men sitting on the stand wear ties almost without exception. But men in the congregation, in the pews, are all over the lot, from suit and tie and polished shoes to jeans and sweater and boots. (I’ve even seen a tux, but I think that was a one-off situation where there were no good alternatives.) If wearing a tie is signaling, what is the signal saying in that situation? And if/when I wear a tie it’s a colorful bow tie. I don’t have any other ties (and don’t plan to change that). When I wear a tie it looks like nobody else on the stand or in the pews.

  40. Cameron on March 28, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    In Tahiti a tie had Priesthood worthiness connotations…so it can be a bad thing. That said, I think we’re not yet on Apostate ground. A seventy came once and zone leaders were wearing neon yellow ties with hibiscus flowers, and he mandated no neon/crazy ‘local’ ties. I obeyed that mandate but thought he was needlessly projecting American expectations onto a quite different culture.

  41. AJ on March 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Why do I wear a tie? To avoid the inevitable fight with my wife if I don’t have one on (same applies to a white shirt most weeks; I do not own a suit).

    I do not recall a question in my last temple recommend interview asking me if I wear a tie, a white shirt, or a suit. What I wear to meetings on Sundays is not determined by cultural pressures, expectations from others in my ward, or the desire to send any signals (overt or subliminal).

  42. IDIAT on March 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Growing up in another church, males usually wore ties. Church leaders definitely wore them. So, when I joined the church 34 years go at age 18, wearing a tie was not a big deal. That same church now espouses blue jeans, flip flops and the Christian rock band. I continue to wear a tie because, to the extent it is reasonable, I want to follow the example of my priesthood leaders. Compared to the time and personal effort they spend trying to build up Zion, I figure wearing typical “priesthood uniform” is a minor inconvenience.

  43. Kris on March 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I think ties make a man look attractive and sexy. They enhance the physique. They are masculine. I love men in dark pants, a white shirt and a TIE!

  44. Sherry on March 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    FWIW – as an older female church member, 4th generation Mormon, mother of nine, divorced from long temple marriage and now married to a NOMO, I’ve experienced MANY priesthood blessings and Mormon men in my life. Some with suit, white shirt and tie, some in ordinary clothes and everything in between. At this stage in my life I care not what a man wears, I only care about the words he says in humility if I ask for a blessing. Suits and ties now usually give me the willies as they remind me of X. My X was a pompous a** who would not always give a sick child a blessing when I asked yet he would “dress” for the occasion and drop everything to give someone else a blessing. Yes, clothes do tell a story but in the Mormon church clothes have become WAY too much of a focus. Especially the modesty issue. Personally, as long as someone is happy, willing to help/attend and is doing/wearing their best that is enough for me. If I was a man, I would NOT wear a tie – I hate things around my neck so you’ll never see me in a turtleneck or with a scarf. Ties remind me of nooses!

  45. Wilfried on March 29, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I would not have written the following without your comment, Sherry (44). But you deserve some support. Yours, and some previous comments, do more than hint at the uncanny aspects that ties also represent. Knowing the history of the necktie, the Krawatte or cravat, and its uses and symbolism, makes it harder to see it only as part of nice attire that shows “respect for the Lord, respect for his house, respect for the sacrament”. The message that an object conveys is determined by local traditions, perspectives, and experiences.

    The Krawatte is originally a military scarf worn by Croat cavalerists since the 17th century. Some say it was soaked in blood as a sign of victory. Enlisted in the French army as a cavalry regiment called the Royal Cravate, the Croats made the scarf fashionable in France as a colorful tie. It was associated with male power and male dominance.

    When Kris (43) writes “I think ties make a man look attractive and sexy. They enhance the physique. They are masculine”, it innocently confirms what Sigmund Freud wrote in The Interpretation of Dreams about the necktie as phallic symbol. Men collecting ties display deeper desires, according to Freud. Since then the place of the tie as male sexual characteristic has been present in psychology, in literature and in art. Nômachi Mineko’s novel I’m Queer but I’m an Office Lady is a vivid example of the “necktie nightmare” in rejecting this symbol of manhood that terrifies her.

    In The Naked Man Desmond Morris discusses the dual role of ties (p. 127): on the one hand the already known “brash phallic displays”, on the other hand the “servile badges of conformity” in a world of bureaucratic control: “a necktie is a rope around the neck, a choke collar inviting enslavement.” Hence the feeling of freedom when removing a tie and being able to breathe freely again. Hence the open-necked shirt as either “an act of modesty or of rebellion.”

    Sherry expressed both aspects in her sad experience: on the one hand the pompous pride of the male, on the other hand her expression of freedom: “I hate things around my neck … Ties remind me of nooses!”

  46. ray on March 29, 2013 at 8:49 am

    If wearing a tie to church is such a burden, don’t do it, but currently throughout the world it is the acceptable thing for men to do, it is the completion of dressing up for special occasions, something I happen to thing church is and is meant to ber. Men wear ties to weddings (unless invited to wear casual attire for, say, a beach wedding), they wear them to funerals, our missionaries wear them in most parts of the world to proselyte — what is the big deal about men wearing a tie to church? Do we want to start dressing like Catholics (apologies to my Catholic friends)? We make a huge deal out of the Sabbath being a special day, but we don’t want to dress up to go to church? There is a huge disconnect here.

  47. Eric on March 29, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I wear a tie to church because I would feel disrespectful if I didn’t; as much as anything, that probably has to do with the times in which I grew up (I didn’t grow up LDS, by the way). I also wear a tie to weddings, funerals and job interviews; for me, at least, that’s just the way it’s done.

    But I almost never wear a white shirt. It’s just too Republican of a look for me.

    I couldn’t care less what other people wear for church. I’m just glad to see people there.

  48. Sherry on March 29, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Thanks Wilfried for your thoughtful scholarship on ties/men/symbols/sex. Yes, the Sabbath is a special day, Yes we need to wear/do our best but it is OURS to decide. In the 50s/60s women, at least middle/upper class white women in America were expected to wear a girdle, brassiere, stockings attached to a garter belt, full slip, dress, hat and gloves to church. ARGHHH!! What a tortuous form of dress! And we won’t go anywhere near Victorian dress with corsets, etc. Men too were somewhat trussed up in their formal gear as well. Our clothing now is MUCH more comfortable thank goodness. I do agree LDS men wearing ties to church makes then part of the tribe and wanting to look like a church leader is important for some men. Jesus never wore a tie though. I haven’t worn pantyhose in years, yet some LDS women are aghast that I don’t, especially to the temple. I even had an older church lady once tell me that when my now X was called into the Bishopric I needed to make sure we all dressed the part….my boys with white shirts and ties, me in dress and hose. Just one more thing for us as LDS people to use as a way to judge. And FWIW, I have worn pants/slacks to the temple – not a word was said.IT SIMPLY DOESN’T MATTER. Clean and presentable are enough.

  49. Cameron on March 29, 2013 at 11:55 am

    One thing to consider, that my father actually told me when I was 12, was that a tie is the primary fashion variable for men-it’s one of the few ways to express ourselves in culturally accepted church dress. I like to wear white shirts for reasons understood, but it does get kind of boring. Towards the end of their mission, many Elders (who aren’t particularly worried about clothes) expressed excitment about wearing normal clothes again. Ties are a way to mix things up while still wearing symbolic white while performing Sunday service/ordinances.

    I think the history of ties is probably unknown and irrelevant to most. Although I look forward to more celestial tie-less clothes.

  50. 0t on March 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I guess this discussion was destined to lead to the history of formal wear.

    I will add that I think the church has been more sensitive to what is deemed appropriate attire over the last few generations where being increasingly informal has been used as a kind of generational wedge.

    My own answer to my son will be: we want to dress in a way that symbolizes respect for Deity without going to extremes and while recognizing that the Lord looks upon the thoughts and intents of your heart. Conversely we do not judge people for their attire. And yet, we want to wear attire that will not detract from the missionary nature of the church. Also, since many new converts are not experienced in wearing Sunday attire, thoughtful private counsel may be helpful if they are dressed in a way that is inappropriate from a modesty standpoint.

  51. JT on March 29, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    1, 30:

    I think the idea of Jesus wearing a suit and tie is not as absurd as as you are making it out to be. Think of Jesus outide the Garden Tomb with Mary, on the road to Emmaus, and later with his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Think of angelic visits made throughout the Old Testament (as well as in the Apocrypha – Raphael in the Book of Tobit comes to mind). In all these cases, the people didn’t recognize him (or the angelic visitor) at first. There was no indication that the visitees knew they were communicating with a heavenly visitor. There was no indication that the visitors were dressed oddly (per whatever clothing norms of the time). Rather, the narratives indicate that they blended in fairly well.

    Thus, if Jesus were to visit a sacrament meeting (not in the glory of his second coming, which I realize is what comment 1 was referring to), would it be that far-fetched for him to come clean-shaven and in a suit and tie?

  52. Adam G. on March 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    If not having uniforms for deacons is the law, then suspicion of ties and white shirts strikes me as putting a hedge about the law.

  53. J Watson on March 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    51: Yes, but Christ had just completed his mortal ministry in that region, where, I assume, he spent his time dressed in the local attire. A visit to a sacrament meeting in the 21st century is a whole other thing. Still, I don’t think your suggestion is that far-fetched.

  54. Wilfried on March 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    jt (51): Thus, if Jesus were to visit a sacrament meeting (not in the glory of his second coming, which I realize is what comment 1 was referring to), would it be that far-fetched for him to come clean-shaven and in a suit and tie?

    No, but he may also come as a poor wayfaring man of grief, dressed in rags, and thus giving offense to some.

    So, you never know who the one without the tie could be.

    Then in a moment to my view
    The stranger started from disguise.
    The tokens in his hands I knew;
    The Savior stood before mine eyes.
    He spake, and my poor name he named,
    “Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
    These deeds shall thy memorial be;
    Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”

  55. Mtnmarty on March 29, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I wonder what Jonathan tells his son when he asks why the Emperor has no clothes.

  56. Jonathan Green on March 29, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Fortunately, Mtnmarty, we’ve never come across any naked emperors.

  57. Brian on March 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    I wear a tie for many poor reasons, and maybe a good one or two. The trouble is, I’m not sure which are which.
    1) It is inconspicuous.
    2) It makes me look thinner.
    3) My daughter likes picking one out that “matches” my shirt.
    4) It makes me feel more authoritative.
    5) Sometimes I hide money in it in case I get robbed. (True!)
    6) To display a sports logo and advertise my fan allegiance.
    7) I like throwing it over my shoulder while I stand at the urinal.
    8) It comforts me to know I have something that could be used as a tourniquet, if needed.
    9) It covers missing buttons, dirty/stained shirt areas, etc.
    10) Fiddling with it gives me something to do with my hands (insert innuendo here).

  58. Chet on March 29, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Church Handbook 2 (20.4.1) reminds us not to be too rigid in all of this. Similarly I would never bar a deacon from passing the sacrament if he failed to be in place before the meeting started.

    Personally, I wear a tie only during the three hour block, and sometimes the top button gets undone during 3rd hour. I have never felt it completely necessary to wear a tie to go home teaching or give a blessing.

  59. Greedy reader on March 30, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Jonathan, your lecture to your son on ties was an excellent episode in parenting. The only useful parenting book I ever read suggested that, instead of insisting that your teenager do things your way, you should explain why you do it, then back off. I notice that your son conformed, but still had the freedom to think whatever he wanted to think about it all.

  60. Cameron N on March 30, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Nice hymn citation Wilfried!

  61. Riley on March 30, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    I wear a tie because the Brethren wear ties. During general conference I have every color of tie next to me and I switch them out according to whatever the speaker is wearing. In keeping with this logic I’ve also written the Brethren requesting how they wipe (sit or stand) to ensure I am showing total love to The Lord. So far I am yet to receive a response. Hopefully when they do they won’t conflict because I’m not sure what I’ll do…

    In all seriousness, I wear it because I feel like it is my Sunday best in my current social convention. I rarely wear suits, seeing as I’ve out-girthed them. But in all honesty I probably wouldn’t wear them if they did fit. If I was on a Polynesian island I would wear flip flops and a lava lava much likei would wear a silky boring white robe (that if true to Moroni’s garb is breathable) if somehow there is a clerical error and I’m admitted into the celestial kingdom…

  62. Neal on March 31, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I wear a tie because its the only truly colorful (and I love color) fashion accessory available to men. Unless I wore blue-suede shoes. Not.

    And I never, ever wear a white shirt. EVER.

  63. OAK on March 31, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Tie because it is Sunday and for church. I am a blue collar worker so it gives me a chance to “dress-up”. White shirt if I feel like it. My wife once got upset because I would not wear “priesthood white” shirts when giving a blessing. My home teaching families, including my Bishop, prefer their home teacher to not wear a white shirt and tie.So thankful!

  64. Sharee on March 31, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I have never understood why men wear suits, long-sleeved shirts and ties, even in the heat of summer. To me it makes no sense. It just means you have to crank up the air-conditioning, meaning women who are wearing summery, climate-appropriate, short-sleeved dresses need to put on a sweater. And I definitely think men are sexier without ties (even if Pres. Uchtdorf wears wonderful ties). Ties are too rigid. I think a man can be well-dressed, respectful and reverent without a tie–and in a colored shirt. Although the Bishopric in my ward always wear white shirts, other men wear colored ones. Women don’t need to wear white dresses, so why should men need to wear white shirts?

  65. Paul on March 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    I always wear ties, except today. We are visiting our daughter and I realized as I was dressing for church this morning I had forgotten to pack one. No one died.

  66. Cheeky on March 31, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    I think “Sunday best” is up to each individual, culture, financial situation and so many other factors. Sunday best may include a tie or not.

  67. Mtnmarty on April 1, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Jonathan,

    They may not be naked but their chins are.

    I think your son is skeptical because its a circular and relativistic argument. There may be no getting around it because a lot of life is circular and relativistic but you have in some sense validated peer pressure.

    The trick becomes managing when peer pressure is a good thing (reciprocity of aid in your explanation) and when peer pressure needs to be overcome (Good Samaritan story).

    In fact, your whole explanation of the moving and reciprocity seems to remove the blessings from the people that helped you because even Publicans help other tie-wearing people to move – they have their reward. Its only when they help the non-tie wearing that they get the big blessings.

  68. RW on April 2, 2013 at 1:16 am

    We, humans, like to fit in. Wearing a tie is a simple message that we agree with all of the other tie wearers in the congregation. There is not much wrong with that. If wearing a tie causes distress, do not be distressed. For some people conformity is a high necessity. For some people and some leaders, conformity in dress is a signal of being on the same team.

    As for the tie: It is better than a cod piece.

  69. Jessica on April 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Not wearing a tie might “weaken in some infinitesimal way the whole system of people helping each other.”

    I’ll take that another step down cynical alley.

    Conformity not only sends a message that we’re all in this together, but that we all aspire to be called to serve in the “top callings.”

    When I see a man without a tie, I just assume he does not aspire for a visible “important” calling.

    Too many men like this might actually undermine “in some infinitesimal way the whole system” of hierarchy and respect/awe we give to our lay leaders.

  70. Seth R. on April 8, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I like dressing in a suit and tie for church because it’s an act of individualistic rebellion against the herd of the rest of American society that has been brainwashed into thinking that dressing like uniform casual slobs is a sign of independence.

  71. taylor on May 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I come here infrequently, and even less frequently do I have something to say that I feel is worthwhile, but I have to make three points here (even if it is a dead thread).

    1) I don’t wear a tie to honor the Prophet, I wear a tie to honor and imitate my Dad. If everybody from President Monson to my Bishop were to start wearing Hawaiian shirts to church, I would still wear a tie for this reason alone.

    2) Most days I get dressed by throwing on whatever is on top of the pile of clean cloths. But on Sunday getting dressed becomes a calming and focusing ritual that connects me to myself and others- I find out what my wife is wearing so I can match her. I iron my shirt, and almost always think of my Mom who taught me how to iron. I pick out a tie, and since all but one of the ties I own are a gift from somebody, I often think of the person who gave it to me. Finally I spend a few moments making sure I look nice and thinking about what I will be doing for Sunday, while considering adding a pocket square or lapel pin.

    3) Dressing up makes me feel better about myself. I once wore a tie to take the GRE, and when my wife asked me why, I told her I just felt smarter wearing a tie. But it goes beyond that. I am currently way under-employed and working as a janitor. Monday-Friday I am wearing a uniform and scrubbing toilets, and let me tell you, it can impact your self esteem. But on Sunday, I feel that I am the equal of everybody else in the room, even if it is in a meticulously cleaned and repaired 20 year old suite or one from D.I. That may seem shallow, but it is meaningful to me.

  72. Steve on September 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Nice story, but there is an essential element or vital component missing from this equation. We are creatures of habit. As creatures of habit our culture has grown accustomed to certain things and that’s where the ‘expectation’ is ceded. Tradition, where does it come from? If you can answer that you will have found the missing element.

    Compliance to a norm is tradition, and men over the years have worn ties for one specific reason. That reason is the projection of “worth”.

    Worth, or value is first measured in the eyes of the beholder. Matthew 7:16,20. In the eyes of most people, if a man is in rags he has no value. If a man is wearing a $5000 suit he has great value. Matthew 19:24 But, what of the value in the eyes of the creator? 1 Samuel 16:7. This is a sad truth in our present culture, we tend to place value on people, when it’s not our place to do so. Matthew 7:1-3

    I would dare say that if Christ himself were to walk into one of today’s religious retail outlets, 1 it would make him sick, and 2 he would be run out of there and told not to come back. He has no worth because he’s in rags and he has an offensive odor which can only mean he can’t afford a bath, razor, the latest fashions… therefore he has no worth or value.

    Think clearly about this from a psychological and historical standpoint. If I am a professional (as I am) and I work in a professional office (which I do) and a client comes into the office seeking assistance with a legal situation (no I am not a lawyer) and that client sees that I am wearing baggy shorts, flip flops, and a Grateful Dead tee shirt where is my credibility? We have been engineered to expect curtain behaviors from other, and when one steps outside that norm, their worth decreases in the minds of those who sees, i.e. This guy’s in flip flops, he doesn’t care about himself, how can he care about me, where is his value?

    We used to live in a culture in where we were civil to one another. Not any more. We used live in a culture in where people had respect for others whether they deserved respect or not. Not any more. Welcome to the land of entitlement, in where most feel they are entitled to something that they have not earned. Entitled to flourish at the expense and labor of their neighbors. People feel entitled to wear their pants down around their knees to show the world that today they chose to wear their favorite red plaid boxers. As a man who does wear a tie, I now look around me ans I ask where is the worth of my community.

    Bottom line: We wear a tie to church for sake of vanity. Ecclesiastes 6:2