Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Not to Wear… To the Lodge

A question that seems incredibly easy yet inherently difficult is what to wear during a Lodge meeting. The differences of opinion concerning dress in the Lodge range from wearing full tuxedo with white gloves to khakis and a sweater and even further, a t-shirt and jeans. I will attempt to give what I wear for a Lodge meeting and considerations that should be made for the candidate.

First and foremost, I have to give my bias. I hate suits. I hate the feel, look and weight of a suit. Ahhh, that was cathartic. Now that I have aired my prejudice towards suits, we can begin.
When I enter the Lodge, I wear different clothes for different events. I will first describe what I would wear for a normal business meeting. When I was not an elected officer, I would wear nice khakis or black dress pants and a tucked-in polo shirt. Now, as an elected officer, I wear a sport coat, a button up shirt and nice khakis. (When I am wearing my sport coat and khakis, I look like most of the professors I had in college.) The main reason for different attire between being an elected officer and as a brother is that in my Lodge, there is a custom that officers should wear suit coats.

During degree work, I put on a suit with a tie. For me, degree work and business meetings are two different engagements with different expectations. When I am in degree work, the ritual work should be treated with a certain amount of respect. Business meetings involve us doing the work of the Lodge and I dress for them accordingly. Wearing khakis and a button-up shirt with no tie does not degrade the work we are doing but makes men more relaxed to discuss the business of the Lodge without a filter. I have heard some brothers voice the evils of business casual as being the downfall of productivity in America, but I consider that argument to be a straw man. In Lodge, I believe we get just as much work done in a suit as we do in a tucked-in polo and khakis.

Another consideration for degree work is: do the brothers wear costumes? In my Lodge, we do wear costumes and for me, I find that I need to wear light clothes so I don’t sweat to death. For me, the degree work is built upon creating a good experience. If I am going to put on a good show, I should be comfortable. I want what I am saying to appear natural and not forced.

Lodges are built on the idea that when men meet together in Lodge, they are entering a sacred space. For some, the sacredness of the Lodge requires matching dress. For them, dressing to the nines is important including a black tuxedo, white gloves and shiny shoes. In fact, when I am installed as Master, I intend on renting a tuxedo during the installation.

Other men find Lodge to be a Fraternity that allows all men to enter regardless of station. I am a member of the second camp. For me, the most important article of clothing that a Mason wears is his apron. I think that the phrase “the clothes make the man” is entirely incorrect. Although I disagree with brothers that dress up for Lodge, I admit that I merely have a different opinion concerning taste.

For a candidate, my advice is this: ask a man from the Lodge what the appropriate dress is. One of the worst feelings in the world is going to what you think is a costume party and you get the picture.

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In the end, all matters of dress should be made by consensus of the Lodge. If brothers want to dress up, then they should dress up. If the brothers prefer to dress in business casual, then that norm should be followed. There is no right answer. Well, maybe one or two…


13 comments:

Masonic Traveler said...

No banana hammocks.

Steve said...

The main thrust of my comment is that I hope no brother ever skips a meeting because of his clothes. Some times it is just all I can do to get there from downtown, and so I show up in 'biz casual', and shabby biz casual at that...

As an officer, I wear a charcoal sport coat, but you know that it somehow gets hung up on the wall within two minutes. (our lodge is NOT air conditioned, and I am built like a polar bear)

I have been to lodges where they wear the tuxes, and it is pretty spiffy.

Nick, you and I share a great lodge, an old building with a lot of character, and I value the dress appeal of that building a lot. I also appreciate and respect the Brothers that dress up - they look good!

But in the end, my preference is that brothers attend and engage, regardless of what they wear.

(Masonic Traveler's Banana hammocks notwithstanding!)

Richard E Kauffman said...

Our Lodges in the north have a mixed view on dress.

We have an equal mix at my Lodge of suits and business casual.

We have had many brothers that come right from the fields and rush to make the meeting, especially at harvest time, that are wearing jeans and a t-shirt. They don't have time to run the other way to the house to change before the meeting. To help solve this problem, taught me by my father, we have a couple extra suit coats that we picked up or a Brother brought in that we have hanging in the ante room.

This allows them to attend without feeling out of place. I would rather have them there participating, than not showing up for a couple months in a row because they feel out of place.

As for our candidates, we tell them to dress in something comfortable and easy to change out of (business casual) for the first two Degrees, then where a suit for the third.

And thanks for the nightmares now traveler.

Tom Accuosti said...

One of the worst feelings in the world is going to what you think is a costume party and you get the picture.

I have this recurring nightmare in which I show up for a lodge meeting and then realize that I'm in my underwear.

StGeorges15 said...

Brethren,

As a mason of north of the Boarder (G.R.C) it would never be considered correct to wear anything but a business suit for all meetings with officers wearing tuxedos.

I believe that it does the craft as a whole a great disservice for the rules and traditions to be lowered to make life easier for the new generation of masons. (I am 33, so I consider myself part of this generation). Was it any easier for our brethren of earlier generations to arrive in Lodge in formal clothing? In this day and age, their is no reason for a man not to have at least one dark suit, white shirt and black dress shoes. Mass production has lowered the costs and it may be a sacrifice financially for some, but it shows your loyalty to the great fraternity that we all belong to. One of the landmarks of our organization is self sacrifice.

I have attended Lodge meeting in Canada, the UK and the USA and must say that when everyone is require to wear a suit, you feel as you belong, as all are equally dressed. When I have shown up wearing my suit and the rest are in jeans and polo shirts, I feel out of place. Only in the USA, to the best of my knowledge are their lodges that do not require suits. You are correct, clothes do not make the man. But a man should strive to look the part. After all, we are entering a Temple, not your local pub.

I hope I do not offend you with my harsh views, but I have a strong belief that we should honour our forefathers and act accordingly. Our fraternity was at its peak when it was a grounded in tradition, pomp and ceremony and the roll calls were made up of gentlemen of all classes. You are only bringing a great disservice to the craft by lowering the standards.

Bro. M.A.M

Prince Hall said...

As a Prince Hall Mason in Chicago, IL, we are required to wear a black suit, black tie to every meeting, degree work or not. I kind of like suits so its not so bad for me!

Nikolaj said...

In Denmark the dresscode is white tie (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_tie). Always. And it's great.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully you realize you're in a cult, and not just a club
(really no different than Satanists, Mormons etc.).

Nick Johnson said...

LOL. Your comment is actually pretty amazing. And yes, I realize I'm in a cult.... Wait, I didn't mean to write that. I'm in a cult. Gah... my circuits are broken. Damn you, Mormon Satanist Masonic overlords.

-Nick

Mal Darwen said...

Dear Nick,

I'm Mal from the Samuel Windsor blog team. We're producing an article at the moment about how Freemasons should dress at the Lodge, and would like to use a quote from your page at http://humblemason.com/what-masons-wear-in-freemasonry-by-duncan-burden/.

We will of course credit and link to you - and the article is respectful.

I hope that's ok - if you have any questions please just drop me a line.

I'll be sure to let you know when the article's published.

Kind regards,

Mal
Samuel Windsor blog team
blog@samuel-windsor.co.uk
http://blog.samuel-windsor.co.uk

Mal Darwen said...

Hi Nick,

This is just a line to let you know that the article I mentioned recently is now live on the Samuel Windsor blog at http://blog.samuel-windsor.co.uk/freemasons-guide-look-good-at-lodge

Thank you so much for the use of your quote, it’s made a really helpful addition to the piece.

I hope you like the article - please feel free to share it with your networks; there may be something of interest for them there. If you like to use Twitter, there’s a handy tweet link at http://bit.ly/freemason-dress-code-tw - or, if you’re more of a Facebook fan, you can use the one right here: http://bit.ly/freemason-dress-code-fb

Thanks again,

All the best,

Mal
Samuel Windsor blog team
blog@samuel-windsor.co.uk

Anonymous said...

Brethren,

I was raised in a blue lodge in WI, USA where we wear suits to all events and meetings, and officers wear tuxedos.
Just wanted to add my 2 pennies. Travel far and wide.

Bro. J.D.F

Anonymous said...

Gentlemen,
this article has helped me a bit in the moment. Not even a candidate yet.. but with so much homework, studying, and honest care, I've taken the time to search the WWW. for the world's opinion on Freemasonry. I reside in Northern Ontario, Canada and I can say while stopping by the small town lodge before the summer shut down, every man was dressed to his ultimate best! Everyone was equally dressed too it seemed. The shine of every man's shoes were equally as appealing to me as the work attire. I'm doing absolutely everything I can within these few months before I fill out my application, and then be interviewed, to do everything the best I can, for anyone involved. This is an absolute honour and if this is truely in your heart, please, do everything the best you can. Within and with-out. Once you're a Freemason (from what I've studied) we all represent one an other.

Sincerely, with love and care,
Adam F. Langdon, (27 years of age)
Beaverton, Ontario, Canada
Murray Lodge, No. 408, G.R.C.

I greatly hope^^^ lol