Today brings the second installment by our Grand High Priest, based on thoughts and observations of the excellent recent article by Texan Mason, Brother Lance Kennedy, “10 Propositions for Texan Freemasonry.” You can read the whole article here.
Brother Kennedy’s second recommendation in his article is entitled, “Aristocrats of the Soul.” He makes the point, by an observation of the casual dress brethren now often wear to lodge, that American Freemasonry may have lost its exclusiveness and has become commonplace. I would support this observation; after all, it was just 200 years or so ago that men were proud to be Freemasons, whether a statesman making policy and direction for a fledgling new country, to the simple farmer, craftsman, or shop owner who came to lodge dressed in his “Sunday best.”
By relaxing the dress code of our members — for the sake of the promise of their attendance — we have diluted the exclusivity of the Craft and the fraternity in general. We often say how Freemasonry is different from other fraternal organizations (the Elks, Moose, etc.) and service organizations (Rotary, Kiwanis, etc.), yet we are judge that exclusivity solely on our unique ritual focus and portrayal, ignoring that we were once a fraternity that was selective in its membership, proud of its image and prestige, and defined by certain characteristics and habits, one of which was a sort of “uniform,” consisting, at a bare minimum, of a button down shirt, suit or trousers and sports coat, and tie.
Today, though, we encourage members to “come as you are,” often saying that we welcome a warm body in whatever attire than a host of empty seats at our meetings. We have comprised our exclusivity — what Brother Kennedy calls our aristocracy — for the sake of membership and plain attendance. We have diluted and even lost yet one more distinctive characteristic that ties us together — the simple respect of dressing well for your Brother/Companion and the fraternity in general.
Think about it. When you look cleaned up, dressed in your best, and acting like an upstanding Mason, you not only feel better about yourself and the fraternity, but you portray a certain demeanor that results in respect and admiration for the fraternity. That admiration may elicit desire from non-members to ask about the fraternity and that, in turn, may bring members who see the value, history, and traditions of our Craft as something to aspire to.
In the Chapter, our usual dress is black slacks, a white button-down dress shirt, black or (preferably) red tie, and either red or black jacket or sports coat. This “uniform” defines us as Royal Arch Masons and not only serves to give us a common appearance and purpose, but also shows respect the organization and your fellow Companions. You care enough about your special appearance that you made an effort to wear our common uniform.
Think about your dress the next time you are preparing to go to Lodge, Chapter, Council or another Masonic Body. Remember the traditions and history of our fraternity and that, not too long ago, it was difficult to become a member, an honor to share some time with a Brother, and the respect each of us showed to each other, through our temperament, courtesy, and, especially, attention to our appearance.