The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Collared — UPDATED

I’d thought I’d toss this out there to see what “Bench” readers think.

Most of us would probably agree that the collar to the right, or a variation of it, is typically found around the neck of a Roman Catholic priest. Now and then you might see an Anglican or Episcopalian sporting the “tab” look. But my first reaction is “Ah. A Catholic priest.”


But I’m not so sure about this other style of collar, seen below — the full collar or (as it’s sometimes puckishly called) the “dog collar.” It strikes me as predominantly Protestant.

In my experience, I’ve met two Catholic priests who wear it. It always throws me. To my (admittedly biased) view, it screams “Anglican!”

I’m wondering if anyone has any ideas of why there are these two different styles of collars. I’d also like to know what you think about them. Do you guys ever see Catholic priests in the “full” collar?? Do you have any preference?


I know: in this day and age, we should all be grateful to see a priest wearing any kind of collar at all.

But do you have any thoughts?

(Oh: and we’ll leave the discussion about deacons and collars for another day…)

UPDATE: A priest friend e-mailed me the following tidbit:

The collar you describe as “full” and associate with Anglican clergy is in actuality THE Roman Collar. If you consult pictures of Roman Catholic priests prior to 1950 you will find almost every one of them wearing that traditional “full” Roman collar.

The collar we are familiar with today is called the Military Collar. It became more accepted in the 1950’s and by 1960 had almost completely replaced the Roman Collar as the style of rabi or stock that Catholic priests wore for street wear with a black suit and usually a white neck band shirt with French cuffs. It has, in the more recent past, been replaced by clergy shirts with the removable white tab. These only came into fashion in the late 1960’s. (I despise them, and wear only black neckband shirts with removable military collar.)


As an historical aside: Until the 20th century Catholic priests typically wore a black suit, white shirt, and black cravat for street wear. The custom of addressing diocesan priests as “Father” began in England with Cardinal Manning toward the latter part of the 19th century. Before that, priests were referred to and addressed as “Mister”. “Father” was the title given to the regular clergy, particularly those in the cloistered or mendicant orders.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I grew up in a Redemptorist parish, St. Alphonsus, where the priestsall wore cassocks similar to what Fr. Pablo Straub wears.The collar is different from the traditional Roman collar, but not exactly the “dog collar” either.

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big benny

posted February 28, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I’ve only ever seen the fuller collar worn by a couple of elderly priests who were also Canons. I don’t know if it is a distinction of seniority?

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posted February 28, 2009 at 4:03 pm

can I just say, I HATE the all-white collar. Ugh. It’s so unattractive and so…NOT Catholic. It screams ANGLICAN to me. And maybe “fop” too.Ugh, Ugh, Ugh.

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Ray from MN

posted February 28, 2009 at 4:05 pm

In Minnesota the “Roman Collar” predominates, even among lots of Lutheran ministers. And the local Scientologists “dress up” in Roman Collar when they know that they are going to be on television.

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the Feds

posted February 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Deacon Greg, I had a philosophy prof in seminary college who always wore the second collar, but usually I see catholic priests in the US wearing the chintzy looking plasti tabbie thing rather than the more formal collar. While at the major seminary I pretty much always wore the tabbie to classes. I droppedout about a year before deaconate ordination. Now I’ve been married 21 years and am interviewing for deacon Aspirancy (1 year) and then three years of formation for permanent deaconate (God willing! Please say a prayer for me! I agree it will feel weird having to wear a collar again but I’ll live if I’m so lucky or blessed… Rob Federle Livermore, Ca

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Ray…By “Roman collar,” I presume you mean the one with the small white tab? Dcn. G.

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Civitas Occiduus

posted February 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm

When I was in RCIA, a priest explained to me that the Roman collar symbolizes a “ray of light in the darkness,” which seems to make sense: a little “tab” of white ringed-in by black. He added this was “not the official symbolism mind you”, but I liked the explanation.The “dog collar,” according to Wikipedia, originated among the Anglicans. Just looking at it, I don’t think it carries the same symbolism discussed above.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 5:18 pm

A priest friend of mine wears a white shirt with french cuffs and a full collar because that is rectory attire for a priest and the idea of the “tab collar” may come from wearing the cassock, Church attire, over the above mentioned shirt thus giving the tab look. As the use of the cassock dropped and the expense of the clerical shirts with french cuffs went up the “clerical shirt” with tab style collars gained popularity. The Redemptorist style collar above is generally one folded down and not just a simple band. That’s what I heard. pax

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Kay Neudecker

posted February 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Holy cow! What a non-issue.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 6:24 pm

In the UK, most priests – if they wear a collar – will wear the tab version. Then again, so do most Anglicans.In fact, I’ve never seen a full collar in real life! The tab does look a bit more sophisticated.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 6:28 pm

The only priests I know who wear the full collar are ones that were either educated in Britain or taught and lived there. In my experience, that’s where the difference is (up here in the frozen wastelands of the Canadian prairies, anyway…)

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Fr. Stephen, C.S.C.

posted February 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I have almost exclusively seen RC priests wear the first collar – and that is what I wear daily. Like you, I associate the second collar with Anglicanism. However, if you look at older pictures of Catholic clergy (from say the 30’s and 40’s) you see many of them wearing the second collar. Perhaps it was a slight attempt to Americanize, I’m not sure. I think the first gets at the “hope” symbolism better, and the second gets at the slave collar, or “obedience” symbolism better. Either way, as you say, let’s just see more clergy in them!!!

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posted February 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I once heard that the full round white collar (or dog collar, as you dubbed it) was the norm. But, so that either Nazis or Communists (not sure which one, or maybe some other non-friend to the priest) could not tell or identify a priest from the rear, the other style was developed and gained in wide usage.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I prefer the first one.Today its part of the catholic identity.I didnt know that the origin of this collar was not catholic,but protestant ,I discovered it recently.

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Fr Ray Blake

posted February 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Actually the 2nd form is more authentic as a “Roman Collar” but it was meant to be worn under the standing collar, of a military/police uniform as is still done in Italy, or a cassock. When worn under a cassock it looks like the 1st example.In England where the public wearing of the cassock was outlawed for Catholic clergy a frock coat with the modern style jacket collar was worn thus leaving the collar fully exposed as in picture 2.The black stock or waistcoat with attached cassock style black upright collar, and later the tab collared shirt became a way of maintaining the cassock look.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I have seen a couple of Irish priests im my diocese wear the “Anglican” collar.Also in my diocese there are both priests and deacons (myself among them) who wear “Roman Collar” shirtfronts.

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The Pondering Catholic

posted February 28, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I like the first. But I found Fr Ray Blake’s explanation interesting.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I like Fr. Ray’s explanation too. But I still hate the look of the dog collar.

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posted February 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm

There’s a Catholic priest/philosophy professor at Fordham U. who wears the banded collar (the second one). I had always associated it with Anglican clergy, though I knew that it wasn’t exclusive. I’ve also noticed some Jesuit brothers use the banded collar to distinguish themselves from Jesuit priests.Clerical attire is quite expensive. It’s no wonder that many, even most priests opt for the first option with the white plastic collar insert.Fr. Blake’s explanation is close to what I’ve heard before as to the origins of the different collars.

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posted March 1, 2009 at 6:58 am

Oddly enough having grown up in Lutheran and Congregationalist parishes, the pastors in both always wore the first “Roman” collar. I’m now catholic and enjoy seeing our clergy in that style of collar.

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Charivari Rob

posted March 1, 2009 at 7:16 pm

I assume there are variations particular to orders.One I know of would be Christian Brothers (de La Salle)

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posted March 2, 2009 at 9:32 am

On a recent episode of “Web of Faith” on EWTN Fr. Trigilio talked of the differences in collars of his and his co-host, Fr. Levis.He basically said it was personal preference.See his picture here.

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Sue Ballmann

posted March 2, 2009 at 11:28 am

I could not help but notice the large number of very interesting responses this topic produced. By next week, I will be launching a brand new web site called It will be a fun web site designed to provide positive restaurant reviews. I got the idea a number of years ago when I realized that if I was looking for a good restaurant, I just needed to ask a priest for a suggestion. They seem to know all of the best restaurants. When I have wandered around Rome on numerous occasions, I realized that if you are looking for a good restaurant, all you have to do is open up the door and count the number of Roman collars in the place. If you see a lot of priests in the restaurant, you have probably found a “5 collar” restaurant. Since I will not be able to eat at all of these wonderful restaurants myself, I will be inviting my family, friends and clients and any of their friends to participate in this venture. Instead of rating the restaurants using the usual “star” system, the review will assign a number of Roman collars to the restaurant. It will be a fun web site, and we will be looking for POSITIVE reviews. We want to know why you want to go to the restaurant, not why you do not want to go there. Over the years, my experience with restaurant and movie reviews is that they are all negative. I have read reviews of many restaurants which are truly wonderful, and in most cases, you wonder if you will get food poisoning just from reading the review. We will be looking for places to go to share great times with family and friends. So be sure and stop by our site to check out our heavenly guide to fine dining!!!! We will have more details on the web site as it develops. Sue

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posted March 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Anyone out there that can give the genesis of the Roman Collar? It doesn’t seem to be out there during the 19th century, or am I wrong?

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