Church of Sweden Lutheran priest Sven-Erik Brodd [sv] wearing a clerical shirt with a "tab collar".
An Anglican military chaplain wearing a "dog collar" (full collar) during World War I

A clerical collar, clergy collar, or, informally, dog collar,[1][2][3] is an item of Christian clerical clothing.[4]


The clerical collar is almost always white and was originally made of cotton or linen but is now frequently made of plastic. There are various styles of clerical collar. The traditional full collar (the style informally described as a dog collar) is a ring that closes at the back of the neck, presenting a seamless front. It is often attached with a collaret or collarino that covers the white collar almost completely, except for a small white rectangle at the base of the throat, and sometimes with the top edge of the collar exposed to mimic the collar of a cassock. Alternatively, it may simply be a detachable tab of white in the front of the clerical shirt. The clerical shirt is traditionally black (or another color appropriate to a person's ministry rank, such as purple for Anglican bishops), but today is available in a variety of colors depending on the wearer's preference. When clergy are delivering sermons, they sometimes attach preaching bands to their clerical collar.


According to the Church of England's Enquiry Centre (citing the Glasgow Herald of December 6, 1894),[5] the detachable clerical collar was invented in 1865 by the Rev. Donald McLeod, a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) minister in Glasgow.[6][7][8]

By 1840, Anglican clergy developed a sense of separation between themselves and the secular world.[9] One outward symbol of this was the adoption of distinctive clerical dress.[9] This had started with the black coat and white necktie which had been worn for some decades.[9] By the 1880s this had been transmuted into the clerical collar, which was worn almost constantly by the majority of clergy for the rest of the period.[9]

Henry McCloud stated that the collar "was nothing else than the shirt collar turned down over the cleric's everyday common dress in compliance with a fashion that began toward the end of the sixteenth century. For when the laity began to turn down their collars, the clergy also took up the mode."[10] Invented in the Presbyterian Church,the clerical collar was quickly adopted by other Christian denominations, including the Anglican Church, and subsequently by Methodist churches, Baptist churches, Catholic churches and the Lutheran churches.[7][4] It was mandatory for U.S. Catholic priests starting in 1884.[11] In the 1960s, many clergy who lived in countries where Catholicism was the dominant religion also began to wear the clerical collar rather than the soutane or cassock.

In the Reformed tradition, which stresses preaching as a central concern, pastors often don preaching tabs, which project from their clerical collar.[12] Preaching bands (an alternative name for tabs) are also worn by Anglican clergy, particularly on occasions such as inductions when choir dress of cassock, surplice, preaching scarf and the academic hood pertaining to degree is worn, as well as at Mattins and Evensong. Methodist and Lutheran clergy also sometimes attach preaching bands to their clerical collars.

In the United Kingdom (and other British-influenced countries, such as Canada), full clerical collars have been informally referred to as "dog collars"[2][13] since the mid-nineteenth century.[14] The term Roman collar is equivalent to "clerical collar" and does not necessarily mean that the wearer is Roman Catholic.[15]

In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, non-Christian clergy, such as some Jewish rabbis in England (such as Rabbi Abraham Cohen, the editor of the Soncino Books of the Bible) would also wear clerical collars.

During the 1950s the Reverend Alec Vidler began to advocate the abolition of the clerical collar in favour of a black shirt and white tie, but whilst some clergy adopted this mode of dress it did not become widespread.[16]

Non-ordained clerics are usually not entitled to use the traditional clerical collar with a different color to the clerical shirt, but in some denominations are beginning to using the same design shirt and collar as ordained priests, but with matching clerical shirt and collar (i.e. black shirt with black collar, white shirt with white collar, purple shirt with purple collar).

Members of religious orders will often wear a "Brother's Collar" or "Brothers Collarette" which is very similar to a typical clerical collar, but revealing a noticeably smaller amount of the white band.

Use by denomination

A plastic clerical collar


In the Catholic Church, the clerical collar is worn by almost all ranks of clergy, thus: bishops, priests, and deacons, and often by seminarians as well as with their cassock during liturgical celebrations.

Among the Eastern Catholic Churches and Eastern Orthodox Church a band collarette with no "notch" in front may be worn by seminarians, although the norm is still a standard clerical collar. However, as the cassock is more commonly, if not mandatorily, worn to classes, often a plain white shirt will suffice, or a band collar with no collarette. Slavic cassocks button to the side, and thus a collar is often pointless, whereas a Greek cassock buttons to the front and has a higher collar, so the collar prevents chafing—as was its original function under a cassock. Eastern deacons and sometimes subdeacons, but rarely readers or other minor clerics, also wear a clerical collar, with subdeacons and readers often having a style with no notch, or a tab shirt with no tab. Most Orthodox clerics do not wear a clerical collar; those who do are usually to be found in Western Europe or North America.

Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran

Collars are typically worn by clergy of other groups such as those of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran traditions, although many Danish and some Norwegian Lutheran clergy wear the ruff instead.[17]


See also


  1. ^ Brookes, Ian (2004). Chambers Concise Dictionary. p. 345. ISBN 9798186062363.
  2. ^ a b Percy, Martyn (2006). Clergy: The Origin of Species. p. 89. ISBN 9780826482877. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  3. ^ Peyton, Nigel; Gatrell, Caroline (2013). Managing Clergy Lives: Obedience, Sacrifice, Intimacy. p. 68. ISBN 9781441121257. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b Slattery, Kathryn (28 November 2017). 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids. Thomas Nelson. p. 294. ISBN 9780718085650. While it may seem old-fashioned, the clerical collar is fairly modern. It was invented in 1827 by a Presbytarian minister in Scotland! Today is it worn by both male and female clergy from a wide variety of Christian churches around the world, including Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and many others.
  5. ^ Article from The Times, 14 March 2002, reproduced online at SaltForSermons.Org.UK Archived 2009-07-17 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Article on Donald McLeod from Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909, reproduced online at Glasgow Digital Library
  7. ^ a b Rev. Kenneth W. Collins (19 October 2009). Vestments and Clericals. Hemera Technologies, Inc. The Rev. Dr. Donald McLeod of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) invented the neck-band shirt style. Protestant clergy had been wearing white preaching bands for quite some time; McLeod combined them with the detachable collar that was in use at the time. The Roman Catholic Church did not adopt them as streetwear for clergy until later. They modified Rev. McLeod's design into the tab-collar style.
  8. ^ Viola, Frank; Barna, George (2010). Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Tyndale House Publishers. p. 153. ISBN 9781414341651.
  9. ^ a b c d Clemens, Theo H.J.; Janse, Wim (19 October 2009). "The Pastor Bonus: Papers Read at the British-Dutch Colloquiumat Utrecht, 18–21 September 2002". Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis / Dutch Review of Church History. 83). Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 978-9004131736. ISSN 0028-2030. Although in England at least, less so in Wales, he belonged by education and birth to the middle or higher echelons of society, by about 1840 he was developing an increasing sense of separation between himself and the secular world. One outward symbol of this was the adoption of distinctive clerical dress. This had started with the black coat and white necktie which had been worn for some decades. By the 1880s it had been transmuted into the clerical collar, which was worn almost constantly by the majority of clergy for the rest of the period.
  10. ^ McCloud, Henry J. (1948). Clerical Dress and Insignia of the Roman Catholic Church. Bruce.
  11. ^ Ruth Graham (11 May 2014). "How Catholic fashion got that way". The Boston Globe.
  12. ^ Peter W. Williams (19 October 2009). America's Religions: From Their Origins to the Twenty-first Century. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252066825. In the local churches, clergy are known officially as 'pastors' or 'associate pastors.' Although their functions are similar to those in other denominations, the Reformed tradition stresses preaching as a central concern, and 'preaching tabs', which project from a clerical collar, are still at times worn with a robe while performing this task.
  13. ^ "Dog collar clergy 'risk attack'". BBC News. 7 October 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  14. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. 'dog-collar'.
  15. ^ Webster's Dictionary definition of "Roman collar"[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Vidler, A. R. (1977). Scenes from a Clerical Life. London: Collins. ISBN 978-0002168090.
  17. ^ Gassmann, Günther; Oldenburg, Mark W. (10 October 2011). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism. Scarecrow Press. p. 425. ISBN 9780810874824. Many Norwegian and Danish pastors wore the ruff over a cassock.