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If you belong to one of the more traditional Masonic lodges, you probably wear a tuxedo to meetings, if not the more formal white tie and tails. Among the reasons that many American Freemasons wear evening dress to lodge is that it places everyone “on the level.” The uniformity of dress afforded by this custom encourages everyone to identify the internal characteristics of the other members, rather than merely the external. When everyone dresses the same, no one can show off their expensive cowboy boots, or sterling silver Ranger belt buckle.


However, there is often a tendency, on the part of some, to try and destroy the uniformity by customizing their tuxedo. One of the more tasteless embellishments is the practice of wearing shirt studs that consist of the insignia or one organization or another. A row of Square and Compass studs, or Scottish Rite studs, only advertise one’s cluelessness about gentlemen’s evening wear.


Nothing says “rented tux” more than shirt studs. However, if you have pearl buttons on your shirt, it implies that you own your own shirt. The one man who looks better in a tuxedo than anyone else is Sean Connery. Watch the old James Bond movies, and you will find that he typically has white pearl buttons, and not shirt studs, on his tuxedo shirts.


One of the more common variations seen is the ill-advised choice of a wing collar, instead of the standard collar that should normally accompany a tuxedo. For those that are unaware of the history of men’s eveningwear, the wing collar is properly worn with the formal white tie and tails.


The tuxedo, invented in the late 1880s, became more popular in the early twentieth century. In the 1920s, the Prince of Wales invented the soft, pleated-front shirt that we now know as the tuxedo shirt. It has the standard collar, just like the shirt you wear to the office every day. If you have a shirt with a wing collar, save it for wear with a white tie and tails.


(Also, see Miss Manners at Her most recent column addressed this very same issue.)


One Comment

  1. Love the article, the utility and history of shirt studs themselves is open to debate, but the matter of festooning oneself in Masonry regalia is not. Less is more, and the gentleman opts for simple decoration (a watch, or a pocket square, a watch fob perhaps) while the rest of outfit demonstrates an intelligent balance.

    It is the difference between dressing properly, and dressing well. Masons should always be properly dressed, and avoid being well dressed and displaying the gaudiness of fashion.

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