The Suits and Ties Controversy

Matching suits are practically synonymous with Southern Gospel quartets. Controversy arises any time a quartet does an outdoor summer event in jeans.

We ask: Does formal clothing display appropriate respect for God? What attire is appropriate to wear in the presence of God.

Advocates of wearing jeans emphasize what Jesus and His disciples wore during His time here on earth. Of course, jeans hadn’t been invented, but most of the disciples came from the jeans strata of society. (Matthew, Zacchaeus, and Nicodemus would have been exceptions.) We have every reason to believe that Jesus dressed appropriately for the audiences he spent most of His time with; a Son of Man who had nowhere to lay His head was rather unlikely to wear upper-class or royal robes. Some say it is appropriate to dress as Jesus did when reaching the lost and training His disciples—and as His followers did in His presence.

Meanwhile, suit advocates emphasize that that Jesus is now glorified. They would advocate that formal clothes are far more appropriate to honor Jesus as He is now than casual clothing.

This might surprise anyone who knows the extent to which I’m a fan of traditional quartets (and matching suits), but I’m not entirely convinced by the second position. If we stood before the President of the United States, we would indeed wear our best formal clothes out of respect for the office. Yet when we stand in the presence of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe, our best is so far from good enough that it is comparable to the filthy rags of our own righteousness. No Armani suit or bow tie from my sister’s needle could impress God.

I am unconvinced that the best possible clothing to wear to worship is our most impressive outfit. Yet I also doubt that the best possible clothing to wear is our most comfortable outfit. Clothing that indicates our best efforts is no way to prepare our hearts to worship the God for whom our best effort is a great chasm from sufficient. But clothing that indicates no effort is hardly an improvement!

Are we best off wearing clothing that reminds us to rely on His righteousness instead of our own? If so, what is that clothing?

(Please, please don’t advocate showing up in fig leaves—or less. God does want men and women alike to dress modestly.)

* * * * *

One more thought. What God desires is most important, and what is in our heart is second most important. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at our hearts. That said, even if it of tertiary importance, what others think is a valid consideration. That is a large part of the reason God calls us to dress modestly.

We are Christ’s ambassadors to the lost. How should we dress when representing Christ? We could probably take cues from how Jesus’ first followers dressed. With the few exceptions outlined above, most of Jesus’ earliest apostles were fishermen or similarly poor laborers. Early Christianity spread fastest among the poor, to the point that outsiders sometimes called it a slaves’ religion; after all, as Jesus said, it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. When these early apostles, who weeks or months before had still been fishermen, were preaching to those early slaves, were they more likely to wear fishermen’s garb or the sort of royal robes appropriate for a king’s court?

* * * * *

I don’t have all the answers. But these are questions worthy of serious consideration and discussion.

About Daniel J. Mount

Daniel Mount has written 3192 posts.

Daniel J. Mount is the founder and editor of Southern Gospel Journal.


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93 Letters to the Editor

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  1. There are two separate thoughts here to me. The first is on the dress of southern gospel performers when they sing. I think it’s pretty simple: look your best, as appropriate for the venue. If you are at an outdoor concert in the summer, I don’t think it’s worth sweating every ounce of moisture in you just so you can wear a tie. I know some groups still do wear ties at these types of events, and that’s OK. It’s not that big a deal. When in a church, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t put on their nicest clothes. That’s both respectful of the venue, and just good business, too.

    The other “rabbit” chased here in this post is the appropriate attire for worship. You’re right that God doesn’t look on the outward, but on the inner man. God doesn’t have a dress code, beyond standards of modesty and identity. However, when you are meeting with the church in communal worship, I think you should try to look your best. It’s not an issue of trying to justify yourself by your clothes or outward appearance. It’s an external indication, or display, of the importance you place on the worship. It’s an example to unbelievers that may be visiting…”these folks take this God stuff seriously.” Of course nothing we can do can measure up to God’s righteousness, but that doesn’t mean we don’t always try to present ourselves to Him as best we can. Sure, Jesus and his disciples didn’t “dress up”, but let’s be honest…the vast majority of us have some nicer clothes that we can wear once a week or so. They didn’t.

    • I also like to see quartets looking their best.

      As to worship, I generally wear one of the best outfits in my closet, with the exception of ties, which are often tight enough to be a constant distraction throughout the entire service.

      I actually would never wear jeans to church myself, so using jeans is somewhat hypothetical and partially a metaphor for clothing less formal than suits.

      You have a great point that the disciples didn’t have nicer clothes – of the sort that would have been worn in royal palaces. Even if our country is, on the average, richer than they were, that does underlie a large part of my hesitation to hold the position that suits and ties are necessary in public worship.

  2. Many people can not afford new clothes and suits. When I was a boy my Grandma said as long as your clothes are clean it is OK to wear hand-me-downs. Like you mentioned, God looks on the heart. I think people are more prone to look on the outside, while God looks on the inside. There are a lot of people wearing suits and fancy clothes who on the inside are full of dead man bones ( look at the Pharisees and Priests in the Old Testament ). I think a good policy to follow is this – In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

    • Surely if one doesn’t have the means to get nicer clothes, they should come in the best they have. However, I don’t think nice-looking clothes have to be expensive or new. When I was a kid, I wore a tie to church every Sunday, and I’m almost certain they were usually hand-me-downs or Goodwill purchases, etc. And again, there’s nothing magical about a tie. It’s just about looking the best you can. I think God is worth the effort.

    • “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

      I like that (to a point, at least)! :) Modesty is a matter of principle, and if it becomes part of the current of society to wear something immodest to church, I wouldn’t do it; however, among equally modest forms of clothing, it’s certainly worth taking culture into account.

      • I may have a tendency to go to the extreme – but look at John The Baptist ! What did he wear ? Jesus said of him – I tell you the truth; among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater that John The Baptist. We should of course dress appropriately nowadays – but clothes do not make the man.

      • That example brought a smile to my face! :)

      • True, but according to what we know from the Bible, Jesus, John, and the rest of the disciples did most of their ministry outside, in a climate that is not exactly friendly in a lot of places. Do you think if they had nice clothes, and were meeting in the temple to worship, they might have put them on? We don’t know. It’s worth thinking about.

        I’m just not so sure the attire of these Biblical figures is completely germane to the discussion.

      • I do think the attire of Biblical figures is germane. Of course, we don’t wear exactly what they wore, given 2000 years of historical and cultural separation.

        However, here is the area where it was germane: If it was a Biblical mandate or principle that one can only honor God by wearing attire fit to wear before a President, then I think it is fair to question whether they consistently wore the attire that would ordinarily be worn before Herod or Caesar when conducting their public ministry.

      • Well, certainly I don’t think it’s a requirement of Biblical mandate to wear any particular thing. As I’ve said, I think it’s appropriate to look your best when meeting for worship. I don’t think anyone would take up that President/Caesar argument, as you stated it. That’s quite a bit over the top.

      • Well, over the top or not, I have known more than a few people who would maintain that it is a necessity to wear a suit and tie to church, and that God is not properly honored if you do not.

      • Hasn’t everyone read the 12th and 13th commandments?

        12: Thou shalt not wear denim jeans inside a church building during worship services.

        13: Thou shall wear only suits – with ties – if you sing in an SGM quartet.

        What is and is not considered appropriate attire during worship services is not something we will find in the Bible. God didn’t put it in His list of rules to live by – the 10 Commandments. In fact I don’t recall seeing anything in there from God dictating – or even suggesting, for that matter – what we must wear when we worship Him.

        From the day I was born, right through my teens, I always had my “Sunday clothes” that were reserved for wearing to church and special occasions. Every Easter I had a new outfit because it was a special day, and it was essentially the start of a new season. When I finished school and was in the business world, my “Sunday clothes” and my “Work clothes” became inter-changable.

        I still like to wear my “Sunday best” when I attend church services…and I like to see others dressed nicely. Most of the people who attend my church do dress along the lines of what one would consider “business” or “business casual”. But that’s not everyone…and there are some who come dressed no different than they would if they were going shopping at the mall, or for a walk in the park, or just hanging with friends. But no one is treated any differently because of what they choose to wear. We are all the same in God’s eyes…and He wants us all to come together to fellowship and join our voices and hearts to Him in worship.

        And I have the same attitude towards the artists who minister in music…or any other ministry.

  3. I’m another one who typically takes the “conservative” side, yet I just think this one is made too much of. A couple thoughts, all the same. :D

    1. Don’t show up in $50 stonewashed jeans with strategically raveled holes and tell me it’s because you’ve taken a poverty vow to be like Jesus.

    2. My husband has PLENTY of suits that he picked up from Goodwill, and most of them are nicer than what my dad wore to my wedding!

    All the same, I think it’s ridiculous to go around wearing a suit all the time – especially summer. It serves no useful purpose. That’s what your shirt’s for, isn’t it? I don’t wear a sweater all the time. Clothing should be neat, clean and modest. A lot of us have personal convictions about what we wear to church, or just feel more comfortable in some outfits. For instance, because of the way my mom raised me, I’m not comfortable wearing a faded jean skirt in church. But when I see other ladies come in wearing clean, modest jean skirts, it doesn’t bother me at all.

    Get your heart right to worship God, and then stop focusing on what everybody else is wearing. (As Daniel said!)

    • Oh BTW the suit my dad wore to my wedding and my brother’s was from Walmart. Just if you’re interested! :lol:

  4. My first concern for OVER-advocating for suits and ties has basically been mentioned. Much of early Christianity was poor. They clearly weren’t around to impress anyone. You go most places overseas today and people don’t have suits to wear. I went to Dominican Republic recently, and there was a Haitian refugee there looking for work. The man had one suit. And wore it every Sunday. I’ll say, at the church…nobody was really wearing suits. He was one of the only ones to do so. And it was dirty, a little ragged, falling a part. It was a suit, but it didn’t necessarily look great. He was also wearing a fake gold watch…that was broken when he bought it.

    I was blessed by what I saw. Some of them obviously couldn’t afford suits. If you were to go over there, wearing a different suit everyday, they would think you were rich. Suits are great. Wall Street businessmen wear them. And many of them are alcoholics. But when the emphasis is on appearance, then that becomes a problem.

    But I’ll end by saying, whether it looks flashy or not, I’ll wear a suit. An old Cathedral mantra, “You could offend someone if you don’t wear a suit. But you’ll never offend someone if you do”. I would stick with that as a guide. At least it is modest.

    • Great points. Much of early Christianity was poor, and, frankly, much if not most of the global church today is far poorer than the American church.

  5. Let’s take the business model for the quartet/group suits. Odds are, Legacy Five or Greater Vision will show up in suits and ties whenever possible, simply because that is the image they project: conservitive SG artists who wear suits.

    Crystal River, on the other hand, will most likely be wearing more relaxed clothing, because that’s their image: younger guys dressing in modern fashions.

    Yes, southern gospel music is a form of worship for the listener, and often for the performer, but’s also still a BUSINESS….

    As for comfort in worship, if your suit/tie is gonna hold you back from worshipping, ditch it. It’s be the same as wearing handcuffs. If it restricts your worship, then it needs to go. Now, if your form of worship is sitting still and meditating, then the suit won’t cause a major issue. But worship is a personal experience, so how you look to others is irrelevant.

    Granted, growing up in a former two-car garage that was converted into a 5-pew pentecostal church, I saw quite a few people in suits/ties do some amazingly unrestricted worshipping…..

  6. Another perspective is women’s clothing. I agree with George and Glen that you can’t offend while wearing a suit and they always dressed the part! What about ladies? Are dresses always necessary? Recently on God Tube I read how distracting certain womens clothing can be to a man, even if it is ever so slightly revealing in any manner. While the ladies in SG are modest and lovely examples of Christianity, are dresses necessary for that reason?

    What do you guys think?

    • That is more a modesty discussion; I am entirely and strongly in favor of men and women alike dressing modestly. However, within the realm of modest clothing, there are certainly some outfits more flashy/showy/impressive than others, and that’s what I’m discussing when it comes to the men.

      When it comes to the women, and we’re discussing modesty, there are indeed some Southern Gospel female singers whom I wish would dress more modestly.

      • Who is the ladies?

  7. I don’t think God cares. :-)

    I think it’s all about the environment. In our church, a quartet would be expected to have on a coat and tie. Yet, if The Old Paths Quartet were to be invited to North Point (Andy Stanley’s Church), I would expect them to wear jeans.

    In our worship services, I have to wear a suit and tie. It’s probably more about what is expected from our people than anything else. Oddly enough, my drummer often wears jeans and that appears to be accepted. I enjoy “dressing up.” I like wearing a suit. That said, if I had the choice, I would wear jeans or khakis.

  8. Just last Sunday Pastor David (FBC of Orlando) called in the ushers from the foyer and told all the men to “ditch the jacket and ties” as it is too hot. He was ditching his too.

    I prefer that men/women dress according to the crowd they are ministering to. I was thinking about this subject last week and was wishing the men would ditch the fancy suits and be more comfortable on stage.

  9. Daniel,
    Great discussion. For SG groups, I advocate wearing what is appropriate for the venue and persons attending. At our monthly show, it is upline casual. No problem with shirts and no ties, but women who take the stage are not to wear revealing clothes. Men wear slacks and shirt or very nice jeans and decent shirts. Usually jackets as well.
    Now in church, some people think I am extremely conservative on this one, but I am really not. When our group sings on a Sunday morning I myself will wear a dress but make sure the skirt is long enough that I can do the work needed to be done.
    We attended a church many years ago wear the teenage girls (and some of the adult women) wore the shortest skirts they could find and flip-flops. I was offended by this because their clothing was designed to DRAW attention to themselves, and therefore the attention was drawn away from the Lord.
    My kids were never dressed to the nines, as it were, and they never wore ties, but they were required to wear their best. I subscribe to the belief that the sanctuary of the church is a holy place and the Lord deserves the best of what we have, with the caveat that it should be clean, free of holes, and not distracting to others.
    BTW, the final straw in leaving that church came when we got into the sanctuary late one morning after Sunday school and had to sit in the back where two deacon’s sons were sitting and playing blackjack during the sermon, which happened to be on gambling.

    • Probably nothing turns a visitor to a church off faster than hypocrisy!

      I am definitely an advocate of modest clothing – though as your comment notes and as I’ve noted elsewhere in this discussion, there is quite a bit of spectrum of how fancy and expensive and formal an outfit is within those outfits that are modest.

    • Mom wouldn’t let cards in the house because of the gambling association. I don’t thin the kids should have played them in church, but to me it isn’t gambling unless they were betting money. Saying cards are evil because they are used for gambling is about as logical as saying mugs are evil because some people use them for beer. I have never drunk alcohol, but am unconvinced in moderation that it is evil. That is a whole other topic though. :D

  10. When I was young (many years ago) it was appropriate for men to wear clean overalls to Church. Most did wear them with a white shirt and tie. Now the ladies did dress up in the best they had in those days. I think that is true for ladies today (no offense). You go to Church to worship and if you have your mind on what people are wearing to Church I think you are missing the true meaning of attending Church.
    My Dad wore overalls almost everywhere he went when he was alive. He did have a suit that he wore on special occasions, funerals, weddings, etc. When he passed away we thought that is was appropriate to bury him in overalls so that is what we did. That’s the way people knew Dad, in overalls.
    As far as gospel groups & ministers on stage representing the gospel they should wear nice clothes. I’m not advocating suits & ties but something nice looking. I hate to see anyone on stage in a pair of raggied jeans or any type clothes that are ragged, it’s just not appropriate. Some of the artist on stage today certainly do need to clean up their dress act.
    I do also agree that it’s not appropriate for a group to dress in suits when singing outside on July 4th with temperatures in the high 90′s. I know there are some groups (members) that think they must wear a suit no matter how hot it is. I remember one concert I had in June and the air conditioning wasn’t working like it should be in the auditorium. To say the least it was HOT. I asked the groups not to wear coats & ties, but one member of the group wore one anyway. I felt so sorry for him.
    Well enough said from the old folks corner.

    • Interesting observations! I do wonder if the group member who wore a coat and tie anyway didn’t have anything else clean, and perhaps had gotten a stain that week elsewhere on his shirt!

    • MANY years ago, I was attending an outdoor concert. It was hot and raining. The Rebels were on the program. John Gresham was the only singer wearing his suit. I asked him for his autograph, and he said to the other Rebels . . . “See, I wore my suit and somebody asked for my autograph!”

    • You have just described my grandpa Robert! My grandpa always wore his overalls every where he went. When he was saved and began going to church regularly, there was not a time that I remember him having anything but overalls on! Now he did wear a white dress shirt underneath and the overalls were clean. They did not have stains all over them or “snuff” stains. They were the best that he had. We also buried papaw in his overalls. Nobody would have recognized him without them. He was always worried about going to church in overalls before he got saved because he did not think that the church would accept him. He soon realized that the church did not mind what he was wearing as long as he dressed appropriately. This particular comment has made me miss my papaw again. Thank God for wonderful memories.

  11. When my grandmother was young, the general stores sold potatoes and maybe flour in burlap bags with floral designs so that they could convert those into dresses. That was usually the best they had and what they wore to church. For her to talk it was about being presentable and respectful.

    For me, I am a big fan of wearing suits, ever since being in speech & debate in high school and acquiring some suits from singing in a group. Also, my family was big on getting us new clothes for Easter, not necessarily suits, but at least a tie and new pants.

    I’m also most comfortable in a suit and tie, particularly when going to church and/or singing. But, I have sung in a Hawaiian-style, short-sleeve and khaki pants for outdoor sings in the middle of July. I don’t feel comfortable at all singing in jeans and shorts are out of the question (even just going to an outdoor sing). For me I think it’s a strong conviction instilled by my parents and family that I have come to appreciate.

  12. When I perform as a soloist, I typically wear clean, non-ripped jeans, a button-down shirt or pull-over, and a sport coat. I very rarely wear a tie unless it is specifically requested of me.

    When I sang with a quartet, however, it was always suits and ties, although not necessarily matching. In fact, we often made sure there was some distinction in our suits so we DIDN’T all look alike (if the tenor and baritone had dark suits on, I’d wear a light-colored suit, for example).

    • Just out of curiosity, why did you emphasize not matching?

      • Even though we were a quartet, we were still four INDIVIDUALS, each with our own unique sound. Plus, it was a little more eye-catching than four of the same suits. Four distinct colors caught people’s attention.

      • It also helps if someone who resembles you says something that doesn’t go over well. Even if the person riled can’t tell the difference, you can say “it wasn’t me, it was the guy in the navy suit.” ;-)

      • Ooh, good point!!!

      • I, for one, love for a quartet to wear matching suits. I think it looks sharp. I look at a quartet as one unit. It is four voices making up one note! I think that it is an awesome showcase of unity and symbolism. Whereas each individual person has their own distinct sound to their voice, they are all singing a particular note that makes up a particular chord. That is the way I have always looked at it. I would love for our quartet to wear the same suits but we have one member that WILL NOT wear the same suit because he said he never knew what color he wanted to wear until the morning of. LOL! I am not giving up on him though!! LOL!

  13. This is a great post. Speaking as someone who has sung in every possible denominational or non-denominational church or venue, I do believe that the best thing a male quartet can do is wear suits. However, I have also sung outside in 90 degree weather in a suit. UMMM, forget that! I actually had people come up and say, “y’all are crazy for wearing suits out here”. Couldn’t disagree with that. The matching suit thing is a gimmick….worked in the 50′s and works today.

    I’m not, at all, a fan of wearing jeans with holes in them and a button up shirt with skulls on it on stage. But, I don’t see a thing wrong with dress pants, a nice button up shirt and a jacket to top it off.

    I just feel there is a level of class that a group should bring with them when they walk into a place to sing about the Lord. Think back to when you were a kid and saw your favorite quartet for the first time. It was the excitement, the big bus and seeing that quartet on stage in a good looking suit. It was like seeing Superman in his costume. Gary Casto, my former employeer, also said, “you’ll never offend someone in a suit”. He’s old-school, but right.

    • I have to agree – nothing is quite like the buzz when you see a quartet stepping off a big bus in matching suits. :)

    • You just summed up my opinion there Brian! Great post! There is nothing like seeing your favorite quartet get off the bus and all dressed alike! I love it!

  14. All of the arguments on both sides of the question are based on a logical thought process — but neither is inherently biblical. The only biblical standard is modesty.

    The bigger question is, What is appropriate to the occasion and venue? Standards of dress are changing. In today’s culture, more and more often you see men wearing suitcoats but no ties. It is sometimes considered acceptable to wear jeans with a sport coat. (Even certain anchors on TV shows dress this way at times.) Yet obviously in more formal or dressy settings, this would be considered dressing down too much. (You wouldn’t go to a state dinner at the White House dressed like this!)

    I have seen some pretty nasty comments on various SG blog/message boards toward SG singers who were dressed down on some particular occasion. Some have even indicated they have a hard time listening to someone not dressed up. I think we (the fans) need to get over it. Let’s turn the tables the other way: What if the artists refused to come sing unless the audience was all dressed a certain way. I can already hear the howls of protest!

    BTW, as for the argument some people use that SG singers need to be dressed up because they are in the presence of the Lord — let’s not forget that the Lord is wherever we are — mowing the lawn, taking a shower, sleeping at night, etc. Am I supposed to wear a suit & tie 24/7 just because the Lord is there? Do you suppose Peter was wearing a suit on the day of Pentecost? Or did Philip ask the Lord to wait before he went to speak to the Ethiopian Eunuch so he could have time to put his suit on? Give me a break.

    • Pretty good comment. I liked your last paragraph.

      My husband occasionally wears a suit coat over jeans, and I think it’s kinda weird. (I haven’t told him yet! :D ) I guess I haven’t got used to that trend.

  15. The matching attire is more of a concern for the faithful over the years.
    It is all about minitries changing with times without watering down the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

    The southern gospel music movement started out with groups barnstorming from churh to church. Groups were formed in Bible schools where uniformed attire was the norm.
    Those days saw everybody going to church with suits, ties and Easter dresses every Sunday.
    You would expect the visitors to have on their Sunday’s best.

    Woodstock in 1969 changed all that thinking in society forever.

    It seems now like it is more common to see “dress down” attire than the Easter Parade evebn on Easter Sunday.

    But ministry is like a business because its all about location, location and location.
    You dress for the location.
    Let me add, for the todays of the future.

  16. By the way, one of the things that prompts this: One of the fathers at my church has showed up several times in a dress-shirt, dressy shorts (!), and flip-flops (!). My immediate reaction was: “He’s wearing that to CHURCH?” :)

    And then I thought, “Well, does the Bible say he can’t? Is it modest? If it’s modest, then why can’t he wear it?”

    Just so the readers know that I generally err on the side of caution, I virtually never step outside my house even in short pants, to err on the side of modesty!

    • Lot of our thought process is based on our surroundings and settings of our heritage.
      Long time an ago, my church would not allow a car wash for our youth group.
      We find out at our district summer youth camp a sister church 50 miles away had car washes for their youth group’s projects.
      Yes, it was even before the Woodstock’s days.
      No, we didn’t ask questions at home because we knew the answer.
      Even now, I might feel the same way about flip-flops these days unless I’m down on Cape Cod in the summer.

      • Yeah – and I guess I can understand that someone who has always worn a suit and tie might be as shocked to see me without a tie as I was to see this father (probably 12-15 years my senior!) walk in in flip-flops!

      • Folks wear flip flops at my church all the time. I never wear a tie. Ever.

      • Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. :)

      • There is a difference between being immodest and simply being comfortable. I wear shorts whenever it gets too hot to wear pants, not because I want to show everyone my chicken legs, but because pants would be way too hot for me. Same for flip flops. Much more comfortable than shoes and socks in 90+ degree weather.

        Two weeks ago, I arrived at church to prepare for the service as worship leader, and I was wearing khaki shorts and flip flops with a collared pull-over. I brought jeans, shoes, and socks to change into, but after going through setup/rehearsal, we realized that the heat for the building was still on, and everyone was sweating buckets under the platform lights. I went to the pastor and said, “Look, I have jeans and shoes to change into, but it’s burning up in there….”

        He looked at me and said, “I don’t have a problem with what you’re wearing.”

        Personally, the argument that shorts and/or flip flops are immodest is kinda bogus to me, unless they’re Daisey Duke shorts. Some clean, nice khaki shorts are fine. The only time I would ask someone NOT to wear shorts is if there is something I would prefer to see covered up….

      • Kyle – just to explain myself further, based on the Biblical comments that it is an abomination to God for men to wear women’s clothing and women to wear men’s clothing, my family decided to
        play it safe, leaving no room for question, and asked the ladies in our family to wear dresses.

        Then, for modesty reasons, the ladies ended up wearing beyond knee-length dresses.

        After a year or two of this, my family decided that, to be consistent, it wasn’t fair to ask the ladies to wear long dresses and the men to just wear shorts. So it ended up being primarily a consistency thing. :)

    • As a woman, I will say that I do not want to see a man’s legs. Men may not be aware (like a lot of lady’s aren’t aware) but when they’re sitting across the room from a lady and wearing loose shorts above their knees, that lady prefers to look in about any other direction.

      This isn’t my personal minimum standard, but it is what I consider a minimum for modesty: Limbs should be covered past elbows and knees. Otherwise you will be in positions in front of other people where they can see a lot more of your body than what you’re aware.

      • Agreed; that’s also what my family settled on.

      • “ladies”!!! Maybe I should take up coffee. :(

      • Yes, maybe!

        All the while I was posting my reply, I was thinking: “AMY, of all people, said lady’s? :o :o :o For real? I will be polite and not mention it, I will be polite and not mention it, I WILL be polite and not mention it… ” :)

      • :) :) Thanks for your politeness. It jumped out at me from the recent comments sidebar. When I’m typing fast I make the most awful homonym/apostrophe mistakes, but if I look at them I catch them. This age is just too instant for me.

      • No problem. I also make mistakes when I’m going too fast!

  17. Well, since SG is both a business and ministry… it’s all on what/who you represent.

    If you work in the ministry, and you’re representing your church, would you not dress up? Or would you wear your around-the-house clothes.

    Same thing when you’re a business man and you need to sell for your business.

    SG groups are both presenting the gospel and selling the music. It’s a ministry and a job. It’s all about who you are representing. What you wear, whether you like it or not, is what you believe you represent.

    No matter what company you work for, your appearance shows hows you think of that company. Most have handbooks with what you can and cannot wear during work hours.

    Even as Christians, we should dress modestly, yes. “Christian” means Christ-like. It is now up to your conviction on how modest you need to dress.

    It is true that your walk talks more than your talk talks.

  18. Our group usually in a tent revival we wear sportsjackets with jeans…or just jeans with a nice shirt. In a church we go with either a suit and tie, or jacket and more formal slacks…and sometimes even jeans..when we’re singing at a youth-service or something..you don’t wanna look to stiff..with these young ones.
    But all that is for the folks..not God..i’m convinced it makes no difference to Him.

    Auke

  19. As someone who spent 18 years traveling full time, and has sung in everything from the local 100 seat church, to the local auditorium, to the state fair and the 10,000 seat mega churches, and yes even in the lingerie department in a Walmart,(that’s another story) I’ve enjoyed reading these post. Much could be said about many of them, and much of it all comes down to personal preference. I believe the main thing is to know your audience. Obviously, if you are working a fair outside in the middle of the summer, it’s going to be hot, but more so, you are going to have a very diverse crowd. Personally I see nothing wrong with wearing either nice slacks, or nice (not worn out) jeans and a nice shirt. You would not offend anyone in either. But when it comes to an inside date, I think you need to go with what your crowd expects. If it is a true SG loving crowd, they expect you to be wearing your very best, be it matching suits or sport coats and ties. But if you are singing at a church where even their minister of music and pastor dress casual, and that is what the crowd is used to, then I think it is ok to dress in nice casual clothes to sing. You can actually turn people off dressing to nice too, strange as that sounds. Greater Vision, Legacy Five, The Hoppers… all know their crowds and how they expect to see their favorite artist. If it’s a big event, (NQC, Major Concert) go all out and give the people something to remember you by. But always remember, God can use you if you go into any service with the right heart and motives dressed in a full suit and tie, or dressed in jeans and a polo shirt. Hey he used a donkey!

    • Thanks for the insight! Umm, that Wal-Mart concert must have been quite an odd and interesting situation!

      • Let’s say it’s very hard to be serious singing “Jesus You Just Made My Day” beside Connie Hopper while standing in the middle of the women’s lingerie department! :-)

      • I was almost afraid to ask if it was the Hoppers! Oh, my… :o :)

      • I was going to ask you if you sang “Open my Eyes that I Might See”. :D

    • “give the people something to remember you by”

      Like that Canadian group at NQC?

  20. Personally, I like matching outfits for quartets. I grew up with that and I think it is very professional.

    Most of the folks that attend my church don’t wear a coat and tie. I do. It’s just me. I like to dress up for church. It’s the way I was raised. You wear your “Sunday best”. If that’s not your thing, then that’s ok.

    When I attend gospel concerts (or the symphony or the choral society concerts, or the local theater), I wear a coat and tie. I think it’s a special event and I treat it as such. If you don’t want to do so, then it’s ok with me. However, I look bad enough dressed up . . . I don’t want to think about what I look like “dressed down”!

    • I can understand different sides. It does sort of make a group stand out these days to have a uniform look (used to it was the norm). If not the same colors, the same designs with different colors (like either the Singing Americans did on their Black and White cover or the Oaks did with their “doo dah” suits. Those were obviously uniform, but with the different colors of designs and shirts etc. also made each member unique.

      I also understand each member dressing to their taste and style. That does maybe make each person appeal to certain fans, but as a group it doesn’t make the group as a whole compliment each other.

      Groups today seem often to wear suits, but they don’t match. That might leave a certain degree of personalization, but still doesn’t make the group identity quite as obvious.

    • Well stated and that’s the spirit of Christ showing through John!

  21. Oh the myriads of complications in tertiary issues. :)
    In esentials unity, in non-esentials liberty, in all things grace :)

    There is a lot to consider on both ends of this issue.

    Great Post

    • Blane Jr., it’s great to see you here! Thanks!

      There is indeed a lot to consider on both sides of the issue, and as I indicated in the post, I haven’t fully made up my mind, either.

  22. I promote many concerts every year. Each one of them is a “Special Event” for my audience. And I want the singers to look fabulous! For male quartets, yeah that means suit and tie. For the ladies, I really like those sparkly sequin long sleeve tops. It’s a performance folks, not a cookout.

    There are exceptions. Just had The Bowlings last week. The girls were modest and fashionable, and Mike wore slacks, a jacket and no tie. Exactly what the folks expected. And when Chris Unthank comes to sing, I’ll just explain him ahead of time!

    There seems to be an undercurrent of thought here that suit and ties are intrinsically uncomfortable. Not so. Not if the suit fits properly and you have the right size collar. A ties doesn’t have to be pulled up tight as a noose.

  23. I was asked not long ago to drive a “name” Christian rock group to a concert in East Tennessee, and since we were off during the time, I agreed as a favor to the owner of the garage that harbors our coach, when we are not on the road. During the trip the owner of the group and I had this very discussion. He said, “I suppose you guys wear those matching suits and ties like good little soldiers.” And I replied, “it is our work uniform just like your ragged jeans are to you….you are playing to your audience and we are playing to ours.” And I went on, “I bet we hear “You guys clean up nice…much more than you”.

    Suits and ties, matching or otherwise, is not to try to dress to reach God’s approval, for all of us fall way short of that. But instead, it is a way of showing respect to our audience, to the art form we love, and to try and look, and be our best when presenting the message of the Lord in song. I really miss the day when men and women dressed up for Sunday morning. It showed a diginty and reverance for the House of God. Our casual dress and our casual attitudes have placed the worship of God into some quaint relic of the past rather than the dynamic force that it can be. In allowing and condoning a more casual attitude toward worship, we have also allowed much of the world to dominate our churches. It is true suits and ties do not make you a better singer, nor a better Christian. But they do garner respect that jeans cannot. We do not dress in the style of Christ, nor should we. But we should dress in a way that says to all “we believe and live what we say. We love the music of God and we honor its people.”

    • I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to witness that conversation!

    • . . . and I don’t know of a classier group of men than Ben Harris and his “little soldiers”. Keep up the good work, Ben, and I’ll see you in August.

  24. Hey John C…GOGR is the highlight of our year. See ya there!!!

    • Ben, you guys are a class act for sure!

  25. Okay, I’ve sat on the sideliens of this for a couple of days and I just can’t help myself. I pastor a church which is a western heritage, or cowboy church, construct. We wear jeans and the typical western attire; think George Strait in his prime. Does that mean that we aaren’t giveing it our best? Not in the least. In fact, we are reaching a group of people for Christ that the traditional chruch has overlooked for decades. If I were to wear a suit to church (which I did for 27 years of my minsistry) the people would look at me as if I’d lost my mind.

    Let’s not try to place biblical mandates of things which are truly nothing cultural standards.

  26. In the Bible Jesus told a parable about a man who prepared a great banquet and invited many people, who refused. And so servants were sent out to invite people from the streets. Among those who came, one wasn’t dressed for the occasion and he was cast away.

    For Jesus to have used that illustration, it shows what great importance was given to dressing for the occasion, even among the poor of those days. The house of the Lord ain’t your house. Just as you wouldn’t go to the whitehouse dressed in flip flops and khaki shorts even if its a 100 degrees celcius, so shouldn’t you to the house of the Lord. Even if its hot inside the church building, you should look presentable, especially if you are ministering to the congregation, in song or preaching.

    Sometimes comfort isn’t the best thing. I dread the church pews at my church, they are too hard to sit in for a long time. Nevertheless I don’t bring a pillow to sit upon so I could feel comfortable. The same goes with clothing. Wear shoes at church, its not like you’re gonna die if you do. And wear pants, they aren’t toxic. The church ain’t your house where you can walk around naked if you like. If God didn’t care about your outward appearance then why do we agree that cleanliness is next to godliness?

  27. I agree that audience that is being presented to should reflect the groups dress. I had read that a while back that when Tim Riley came out of retirement that Gold City seemed to go back to the suits which people appreciated. I guess the thought is that it is more professional looking. However as others have said I am not opposed to them dressing more casual if the venue merits it. I saw GC last summer at the WV State Fair outside grandstands and they were casually dressed (hot and humid day) and it was perfectly acceptable to me.

    Very interesting discussion hearing everyone’s input!

    Keep up the good work Daniel!

    • Thanks, Scott!

      Yeah, hot and humid, in an outdoors concert, is an interesting situation of its own!

  28. Matching suits say it all… class.

  29. I have been singing in a quartet for 6 years now. I have always been a fan of matching suits for the group. However, I know there are some that do not want to dress alike. That is ok too. It is my feelings that if we are singing in a church for a homecoming or special event and it is inside the church building, suits should be worn. However, like has already been said, if you are singing at a fair or some other outside event such as a fish fry, then I can see wearing some nice jeans and dress shirts or polo shirts. We have been to churches before where every man there was wearing a suit and then we have been to churches where the pastor was in a button up shirt with jeans. We were definitely the most overdressed at the latter church. I think that we should always give God our best! I love the fact of dressing alike because I think it shows unity and it helped people remember the group better in some instances. Great post Daniel and some great comments from so many people! I have thoroughly enjoyed this discussion!

  30. Interesting discussion. I love suits and ties, but I don’t feel it is absolutely necessary, especially in the summer. I think SG will eventually trend away from them.

    • I agree that they are not always necessary but I do not think that they will ultimately go away. As long as there is Southern Gospel, I think there will be suits and ties! It is just the classy way to go. Just my opinion of course!

  31. I guess have been a bad influence on Archie Watkins.

    We sang at an event with him this past Monday, and it was about 95 degrees when we were setting up at 4:30 PM. As we were hooking up cords, Archie wondered out loud if it would be OK to not wear a coat and tie. The promoter told him he didn’t think anyone would be offended. The promoter told Archie that none of the other singers were planning to wear a tie and certainly not a coat in that kind of weather!

    Archie said it was the first time in 48 years of singing that he had sung in public without a coat and tie. 95% of the audience was either in jeans or in shorts.

    By the way, Daniel, I entirely agree with your opinion on this issue. A good rule of thumb for singers is to dress slightly better than the audience dresses when they come to a concert.

    I use the same rule for a church service, since I’m the music director. I usually wear a coat and tie on Sunday morning, since a few of our members still do that. For other services, I usually wear a polo shirt and khakis.

    • The first time in 48 years! WOW!

      • That is a staggering figure!!!! 48 years!!

    • David, it’s funny, when I show up in a coat and tie on Sunday morning, our Deacon chairman always says “Your dad must be out of town and you’re doing music this morning.” Your pattern pretty much holds true for me as well. If I’m not leading music, I go more of a business casual (polo shirt or dress shirt and slacks). In the summertime heat though, I typically don’t even do a coat and tie when I’m leading music. It’s just too hot.

  32. Why not matching tuxedos? I say go hard or go home!

    • When I was involved with the “Un-original Master’s Five” at GOGR a few years back……..we wore tuxedos. And, maybe to your surprise it was very well received.

  33. Unfortunately, Ben Harris, I’m not the least bit surprised. I am a little bit surprised you went back to the suits though. I mean, once you’ve dressed your best for God, isn’t it sinful to downgrade?

    • This is funny!

      By the way, I’ve seen the video of that performance, and a large part of the response had to do with the singing!

  34. Flip flops are not immodest, but they are rude shoes that announce themselves at every step. Imagine how much more distracting it would be if every other piece of clothing made a racket…pants that creak like a door, a belt that makes galloping sounds like a herd of horses, underwear that quacks, and a necktie that sounds like it’s gasping for its last breath of air.

    • Rude is just one letter away from being nude, and THAT IS immodest. ;)