In reference to changes in the conventions of clothing Mennonites in general have been characterized by two tendencies: (1) resistance to cultural change, even to the point of adding a religious sanction to what was at one time a new form of clothing or a new convention of daily life; (2) the adoption in the long run of what has become generally accepted in society and is no longer regarded as in any sense a new fashion or style.
This is illustrated by the history of the necktie in the Mennonite Church (MC). In the 19th century when the old-style colonial cravat was displaced by more modern forms of the necktie, the Mennonites often clung to the bow tie as more conservative, as being less of a conformity to a worldly style than the four-in-hand or long tie. The tie, however, was universally worn by the Mennonites in the East. About 1890, as a result of the influence of some non-Mennonites in Kansas who advocated a certain type of "holiness," sentiment arose in certain parts of the Mennonite Church (MC) against the wearing of any form of necktie. The editor of the unofficial church organ of the group, John F. Funk, objected vigorously to the new view in the Herald of Truth (1891, p. 231), but it had considerable influence in the Mid-West nevertheless. In one of the largest conferences (Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference) a prohibition of the necktie for ordained men was introduced in the 1920s. In the East, especially in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, the tie was never fully banished, even for ordained men. In the East the bow tie was to some extent the "approved" form of the tie in so far as ties were approved at all, and it was worn by some of the members. In the Amish Mennonite congregations founded in the first half of the 19th century from Alsace-Lorraine, the general practice was for the men to wear the standard lapel sack coat, but no neckties or white stiff collars, the shirt with attached soft collar being used instead. In the final synthesis of the "plain" attire for Mennonite Church (MC) ministers, which came in the first quarter of the 20th century, the costume became the "plain" or collarless coat with no necktie but a stiff white collar. In many cases in the second quarter of the 20th century the plain or clerical vest was added to this ministerial costume. Then some preachers adopted a costume which included the clerical vest with stiff white collar, but a lapel coat instead of the "plain" or clerical coat. The final product appeared much like the standard clerical attire worn by certain Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic clergymen. Another trend was the dropping of any clerical garb altogether, which resulted in the wearing of the standard American male costume in the mid-20th century, which was lapel coat, shirt with soft attached collar, with or without necktie.
Most lay Mennonites by the 1950s were no longer recognizable by the kind of tie they wore. In congregations with an Amish Mennonite background many of the older men wore no tie at all, but among the young men of the Old Order Amish in Lancaster County in the mid-1950s a small black bow tie was commonly worn as a part of the Sunday attire. As to color, among the conservative-minded black was preferred in any kind of tie.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 817-818. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Wenger, John C. "Neckties." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N435.html.
APA style: Wenger, John C. (1957). Neckties. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/N435.html.