What is the origin of vicars/priests wearing the white dog collar, and is there a scriptural basis for such an item?

Priest wearing "Dog Collar"

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    @Steve you know, the white band around their neck, colloquially known as a dog collar in the UK.
    – David
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 0:28
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    "Dog Collar" is an Anglican term, not a Catholic term. "An Anglican nickname for the collar that accompanies a neckband shirt—it actually does look something like a flea collar, when you think about it!"" It would be less offensive if you would call it a Neckband Shirt Collar. In fact, the Catholic Church did not adopt this idea until much later. It is of Protestant origin.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 1:06
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    In the UK dog collar is the most usual way to refer to these garments whether Catholic or Protestant and has no negative connotations whatsoever. It is certainly not offensive. (When lady vicars were first ordained in the C of E there was some discussion about using an alternative expression given that dog is a masculine noun but the feminine equivalent was considered potentially offensive in a facetious sort of way and not adopted. ) I am sure OP did not intend to cause offence.
    – davidlol
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 11:19
  • related, if not a duplicate (although has tag only for Catholicism): christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/30979/…
    – user19845
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 3:09

2 Answers 2


First of all, let us deal with the origins of the term "dog Collar".

The term "Dog Collar" is a nickname of Anglican origin for the neckband of a clerical shirt or a Roman Collar (of the Catholic Church) in the UK.

Dog Collar

An Anglican nickname for the collar that accompanies a neckband shirt—it actually does look something like a flea collar, when you think about it!

Wikipedia has this to say about the "dog Collar":

In the United Kingdom (and other British-influenced countries, such as Canada), clerical collars have been informally referred to as "dog collars"since the mid-nineteenth century. The term Roman collar is equivalent to "clerical collar" and does not necessarily mean that the wearer is Roman Catholic.

The clerical collar seems to be of Protestant origin:

Neckband Shirt

Clergy shirts are Protestant in origin. The Rev. Dr. Donald McLeod of the Church of Scotland invented the neck-band style. (The Church of Scotland is Presbyterian.) Protestant clergy had been wearing white preaching bands for quite some time; McLeod combined them with the detachable collar that was in use at the time. The Roman Catholic Church did not adopt them as streetwear for clergy until later. They modified Rev. McLeod’s design into the tab-collar style.

This article is also interesting:

Where did the clerical collar originate from?

The collar has always been and still is the dress code for Protestant preachers and Lawyers in Europe. In days past, these individuals wore black and chose a white sweatband (cravat) to wear around their necks for the purpose of riding on horseback. This became personified in the UK by John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, who rode on horseback the length and breadth of England preaching the Bible. It was also the normal mode of dress for the Protestant Churches of Europe and it was not until the turn of the eighteenth century that the Catholic Church adopted it also. It was never a Roman Catholic style of clergy dress code before that time and not one picture of a Pope or member of the clergy can be seen wearing one. Sadly today most fundamentalist Protestants and particularly those from other nations erroneously think that the clerical collar is a Roman Catholic instituted style of dress code for their clergy and that Protestants should not wear it, because it represents the Roman Catholic Church, "religion" and "tradition". This type of thinking is wrong. The clerical collar is a Protestant clergy dress code.

Are there any scriptural basis for the use of a clerical collar? In this article, The true origins of the Clerical Collar, it has a long section on the scriptural importance of the collar:

Today, when you look at the clerical dress of the majority of religions, you will see that the leadership attire is very similar. The adaptations in headgear may be different but the style of robe and neckband are ostensibly the same. Because the Judeo-Christian faith is born out of middle eastern customs the origin of Christian clerical attire can be narrowed down to a very definite style.

The thirty ninth chapter of the book of Exodus describes in detail how the Lord commanded Moses to make "the garments of ministry". Again in the book of Leviticus in the eight chapter and verse thirteen, tunics were brought for ministry. The most abominable thing to God is for someone to minister to Him in a secular dress code, using the system of the world's style of attire to flaunt in worship before Him. The spiritual significance of the garments, or covering, before God when conducting Worship, is of absolute importance and reverence in His presence and will affect His presence.

For more information read the entire section on this subject: A distinct dress code is Scriptural!

A Catholic seminarian wearing a cassock with a clerical collar

A Catholic seminarian wearing a cassock with a clerical collar

The terms “Roman collar” or “Roman shirt” refer to style, not origin. Clergy shirts are Protestant in origin. The Roman Catholic Church did not adopt them as streetwear for clergy until the 19th century.

  • good answer, but i would still like to know more about the origins of the protestant collar.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 17:37
  • @Ken Graham Superb Answer; I especially like the Exodus verse "the garments of ministry" included here. This answers my question; thank you very much Sir.
    – David
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 21:59
  • @Ken Graham What is the reference to the Catholic Church in your second sentence please? Are you suggesting "dog collar" is a form of sectarian abuse? It does not refer to Catholic or Protestant neckware specifically as they are both alike (as you point out). Whatever may be the origin of the term, both Protestants and Catholics refer to their own and each others clergy neckware the same. It is fascinating that this phrase is not used in north america, but that does not render it inappropriate where all understand it as is the case in the British Isles.
    – davidlol
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 0:15
  • @MikeBorden My answer deals with the question at hand: What is the historical origin of vicars/priests wearing the white dog collar?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 15, 2020 at 0:06

I am aware of two distinct styles of clerical collar: the all-round style, which sits over the top of the shirt – this is what I would nowadays (C21) usually understand by 'dog collar' (and may I confirm that in British English, the term 'dog collar' is the standard way of referring to this item and has NO pejorative overtones). This was still the overwhelmingly predominant style for Anglican and many other non-Roman denominations until the last third of the 20th century.

My recollections from mid-C20 are that the 'tab collar' inserted into slits at the front of a clerical shirt with a vertical collar in the same fabric as the shirt was originally characteristic of Roman Catholic and some Anglo-Catholic ('high church' Anglican) clergy, and that is what I have always understood by the term 'Roman collar'.

I agree with the earlier commentator that there was certainly a perception that it was distinctively Catholic – hence the name. (At that time, incidentally, Baptist clergy did NOT wear clerical collars at all.) But in the C21, the all-round dog collar has almost disappeared in western and northern Europe, replaced by the Roman collar (tab collar) among Anglicans and Lutherans and many other denominations – including many Baptist clergy – as well as in the Roman Catholic Church.

The striking context where the all-round collar continues to be the norm is in the (Anglican) Episcopal Church based in the United States; perhaps one could go so far as to say it has become distinctively Episcopalian. Anglican clergy in Canada, however, seem to be following the shift to Roman collars. I suspect this is not least because they are much simpler to wear.

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