Habits, Neckties, and Blue Jeans
Of all the symbols of consecrated life for men in the Catholic Church perhaps none is as central or as confusing as how religious men dress. Some men wear habits while others choose clothing that seems appropriate for a particular ministry. Some consecrated men may wear a roman collar or other vestments that are often associated with ordained ministry while others will be seen in casual or professional clothing. Many men wear different clothing at different times depending on the context. There is no single guideline for the clothing worn by consecrated men.
Professional clothing. Many consecrated men are members of institutes in which professional standards of dress are consistent with the institutes charism or mission.In fields of ministry such as business, education, medicine, or social services you may find consecrated men who wear clothing that common to their area of expertise.
Habits. Some communities have a particular habit that is the original or traditional clothing of its members. There many different kinds of habits. Some are quite distinct such as the black and white habits of the Dominicans or the brown habits of the many communities of Franciscans. Other communities wear habits which resemble clerical garb and may give the impression that the wearer is a priest whether he is an ordained minister or religious Brother. In some communities the use of a habit is flexible depending on circumstances or optional all together.
Casual clothing. For some consecrated men wearing a habit does not reflect the institute's charism. For instance, there are some communities of men who find value in wearing clothing similar to those to whom they minister. Others choose to wear clothing that reflects the culture in which they find themselves. And for others casual clothing is simply the most comfortable and practical option.
Clerical clothing. In many men's communities some, most, or even all the men may be involved with sacramental ministry, parish administration, or another aspect of Church life that makes clerical garb appropriate. If the member is a deacon or priest he may also wear vestments during mass. It is important to note that in some mixed communities lay religious Brothers may also wear some clothing that is often associated with ordained ministry.