"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, August 07, 2017

Knights of Columbus Finally Giving Up Their Chapeaux

Not to niggle an old tooth or anything, but fellow Knights Templar take note: our friends in the Knights of Columbus have made the decision at long last to make a major change to their Fourth Degree 'Patriotic Degree' dress uniforms (photo above). The KofC got sold essentially the same uniform that we did over a century ago based on Civil War-era military patterns with the incongruous naval-influenced 'fore-and-aft' chapeaux, complete with ostrich plume (known derisively in some circles as the "chicken hats"), along with similar ceremonial swords, just perfect for marching in drill team formations. In many cases, with the exception of different colored plumes and the addition of a cape, the KofC uniform looks from a distance virtually identical to the primary 'Class A' uniform worn in the majority of U.S. Knights Templar Commanderies.

Knights of Columbus

Knights Templar

Well, it seems the KofC has finally decided it's time to move on from the feathery past, give up their chapeaux, and adopt an all new look. And it sounds like the internal bickering is already raging, with a VERY familiar ring to it. Sounds remarkably like Masons...

From the Catholic Sun on 8/2/17:
The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.
The traditional regalia worn by the Knights’ Fourth Degree members will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson during the Knights of Columbus 135th Supreme Convention being held in St. Louis Aug. 1. The address was available via livestream on EWTN.

In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the Fourth Degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. There was no mention as to whether the swords would remain a part of the uniform.
“The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree Uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, Assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for Color Corps at public events and Honor Guards in Liturgical Processions. However the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree, including Color Corps and Honor Guards, is the new Uniform of jacket and beret.”
Throughout the years, the regalia of the Fourth Degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said. When the Fourth Degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.
Robert Earl, a member of Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.
“I feel it is significant that the Order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl said.
“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the Patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”
Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes which has generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Fourth Degree.
“I have been a Fourth Degree knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the Fourth Degree outfits. These [new] outfits look bad.”
Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.
“If we get a new uniform like this you will see a lot of knights leave the degree. A lot of your knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.
Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”

“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.

Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There are also members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms.
In the 1870s and 80s, the old military uniform companies realized they were all out of a lucrative gig once the armies were largely sent home, and sent their salesmen forth into the hills, hinterlands, and cities to dig up new business. Either through deliberate coaxing or by happy accident, the war veterans and their sons were hankering for a whole new fad in fraternalism: the marching drill team. The Grand Army of the Republic didn't need any coaxing to jump back into uniform, and the Masons had the Knights Templar—we just needed some tinkering with our former outfits (then white suits and black, triangular memento mori aprons) to add swords and make it more military-esque; the Odd Fellows invented their Partiarchs Militant; both the Knights of Pythias and the Knights of the Macabees each developed their Uniformed Rank. And the Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar teams followed the same practice.
Knights of Macabees Uniformed Rank

Odd Fellows Patriarchs Militant

Knights of Pythias Uniformed Rank

Prince Hall Affiliated Knights Templar

The Red Men had a problem going all martial, since their highest degree, the Chieftan, literally culminated with "burying the hatchet," making it tough to rationalize the whole "carrying swords" business in a parade... but rationalize they did, and created their Chieftan's League drill teams. (Somebody send me a good photo - I can't track one down.)

The Forester's Team of the Modern Woodmen of America

The Modern Woodmen of America decided to ditch the moldy, old army uniforms, navy hats and swords, dressed their teams instead as forestry workers, and drilled in formation with long-handled axes. And so on...

Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Team

The Catholic Knights of Columbus were late climbing on board the 'marching in fraternal formation' train, and didn't get around to developing their Fourth Degree with its patriotic theme and matching drill teams until around 1898 or so. But that didn't stop them from buying out of the very same supply houses and ostrich plume farms. A couple of decades later, they made an alteration in the actual uniform itself by ditching the Civil War-era long coats and replacing them with simple tuxedos, white shirt, and black bowties, with colored sashes. It at least cut down on the expense a bit, since tuxes can be had for $99 online or from Kohl's these days. Now that they are abandoning their longtime uniform altogether, I think that might leave only our Masonic-derived Knights Templar Commanderies who still wear the Class A style, and not all of them do.

Raper Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar, Indianapolis

My home team, Raper Commandery No. 1 in Indianapolis, has retained the right as the sole KT group in the state of Indiana permitted to wear the older style long-coat, instead of the shorter one the rest of U.S. Templars now favor (as well as others that use the optional 'cap and mantle' uniform). Our guys have earned it—Raper No. 1 is the most decorated drill team of Knights Templar in the U.S. (an achievement I have had zero to do with accomplishing in any way), and we predate the founding of the Grand Commandery of Indiana, being chartered by the General Grand Encampment, K. T., U. S. A. on October 16, 1850.

But for effect, we also occasionally go totally old school...

Levant Preceptory of Raper Commandery 1


  1. Outstanding post.I would love to see a picture of a group of Catholic Knights of Columbus in their new uniforms. Interesting and courageous decision by their leadership.

    U.S. Masonic Knight Templars look great in their 'Class A' uniforms but it does take work and discipline to do so. Work and discipline is an inseparable part of the Christian life and our uniform is a symbol of our commitment to that lifestyle. But I must admit, the "old school" style of Levant Preceptory of Raper Commandery 1 and the British style of Masonic Knight Templar uniforms is a highly welcome addition to any Masonic Knight Templar gathering.

    Tom-P.E.C. Ivanhoe Commandery#4, WA.

    1. Wonderful post. The British orders such as the Bath and Thistle and Garter have long used cloaks, which some Masonic groups also use. The Garter still has the Queen awarding an actual garter.

      Some years ago I arrived at a hotel for a Knight Templar meeting and asked where it was. Follow the trail, said the concierge. Sure enough, here and there a white feather made a trail to the meeting.

  2. Take note Grand Encampment & Grand Commanderies! I have long maintained that if it's a military look they want, they should go with the modern military beret. That Chapeau has always looked over the top. Keep the present uniform, drop the Chapeau and follow the KofC with a beret!

  3. We here in Mobile, Alabama still wear the Class A uniform.

  4. The main difference between the (soon to be old) KofC 4th degree uniform is that the "black suit" is just a plain black tuxedo that could be purchased at any formal wear shop. The discontent over the change is less over the change, than the fact that it was effected with very little consultation of the membership. Supreme Knight Anderson announced the change and that was the first the majority of 4th Degree members heard about the change.

  5. As an added comment about the "late to getting around" to forming the 4th Degree in 1898: the Order itself was only founded in 1882, so it was still quite young as a fraternity when they did that (though I'm sure part of it was to "keep up with the Jonses").

  6. There new uniform reminds me of a preppy. I find it as bad at the mantle many Commanderies have stooped to wearing.

  7. As a Canadian Forces veteran I await the site of Knights with berets askew. Wearing a beret properly, so one does not look ridiculous, requires training which I suspect most Knights with a civilian background do not possess and will not take the time to learn. The beret itself needs to be immersed in hot water and shaped to one's skull, or it looks like a pie hat on a clown. Finally, swords do not go with blazers. They have a sartorial disaster in the making here. Per ardua ad astra. A

    1. John, Knights of Columbus, at least those who would be wearing the beret in the Color Corps, actually receive excellent training for proper dress code as well as drill protocol, usually from members who are ex-military members as well. It is highly discouraged to be a member of the Color Corps without having the will to properly learn how to be.

  8. The new uniform does not stand out like the old uniform did, it now makes us look like prep school or British veterans organization. Just think if the Old Guard gave up their Revolutionary War uniform the current US Army uniform, Buckingham Palace guards gave up their uniform for current British Army uniform or the Swiss Guards giving up their colorful uniform for a modern military look uniform.

  9. The new uniform looks like a prep school uniform or a British veteran uniform. The change is equivalent to the Old Guard changing their Revolutionary War Uniform for the current US Army uniform, Buckingham Palace guards giving up their Red Coat and wearing the current British Army uniform, or the Swiss Guard giving up their colorful uniform for a modern army uniform. THE pageantry, mystic, and immediate recognition would be gone.

  10. I do think it way beyond time that the Shriners look for a completely new identity... the Arab theme is not the most popular thing around today and could be the reason for the huge decline in membership.

  11. A well written article to be sure which does point out several well appreciated factors (which I appreciated as an old sailor that misses the sea and the service) about the Class A uniform still in use. The main dissension within the rank and file of the 4th degree Knights of Columbus lays in the fact that very little if any input from any of the Assemblies or said members was asked for. Instead of gathering information the board of Directors made the decision to change the Color Corps Unifom of the 4th degree (which was always optional as has always been participation in the Color Corps) and mandate that ALL members of the 4th degree purchase the uniform. Switching to a new Blazer based uniform does nothing to gain membership (one of the reasons members have been given for the change) in a climate of Anti-Military culture of the 18-30 something age groups.

  12. How is it that one can place a order for 10,s of 1000,s of blazes,caps and slacks. Sell them at cost and they cost $510 Do they really think knight are that naive?

  13. What are the differences between the Knights of Columbus Chapeau and the Knights Templar Chapeau. Other then the emblem and not having the black feathers, are the chapeaux the same sizes? Could they be modified for Knights Templar? I know the KOC suppliers may have extra inventory on hand, perhaps some KT could get some Chapeaux cheap.

  14. Thank God and our Supreme knight for the change. It's about time. Out are the embarrassing " chicken hats" and in are the tough masculine Black berets, just like the Ones worn by U.S. army and Special forces. That old red Count Dracula cape is gone too. Amen!! Vivat Yesus.


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