Knights of Columbus discarding ceremonial capes and chapeaus

Part of efforts to attract new members, particularly younger men; change approved by KofC board of directors in 2017 has met with significant resistance

(image from CNS/Knights of Columbus)

A long-standing tradition will end this summer as the Knights of Columbus discard the ceremonial capes and plumed chapeaus of its fourth-degree members.

July 1 will mark the end of a 79-year era when the Knights change the ceremonial Color Corps regalia long associated with the fraternal Catholic order. The Color Corps, which acts as an honor guard at religious and civic functions, is distinguishable by its official regalia of tuxedo, cape, chapeau, white gloves and sword.

The preferred dress for fourth-degree members worldwide will no longer include the cape and chapeau. The new uniform will be a jacket and beret. The ceremonial swords will continue to be part of the uniform.

It’s all part of the Knights’ efforts to attract new members, particularly younger men, said Dan Heffernan, Ontario state deputy for the organization.

The Knights have undertaken extensive research in how to attract new members and have heard one constant from men as to why they won’t join the order.

“If I had to wear that regalia, I wouldn’t join the Knights,” is the refrain Heffernan said he has heard often.

It was a major point raised in a roundtable in March at the Archdiocese of Toronto chancery when the Knights gathered a group of men to discuss their impressions of the organization. Several men noted the cape and chapeau as drawbacks.

Many believe all Knights must wear the regalia, but it’s only for fourth degree members. The uniform of the fourth degree has undergone several changes since it was adopted in 1900. But it has remained relatively the same since 1940, consisting of a plumed chapeau, a tuxedo, a cape and a ceremonial sword. The modernized version will be a blue blazer with the fourth-degree emblem, dark gray slacks, a blue tie and a black beret.

Full story at Catholic Herald.


  1. Trumpovsky says

    No capes? Oh no! Thank God they kept the swords!

  2. Adults playing dress-up. This is a step in the right direction for the Knights to attract younger members. The outfits I’ve seen do look ridiculous, and no young man today wants to be seen wearing such a get-up. Knights and Dames of Malta are even more ridiculous. Like the Catholic equivalent of dressing up for Civil War reenactments or something.

    • Geoffrey says

      The uniforms of the Knights of Columbus do not compare with the robes worn by the Knights and Dames of Malta. The Knights of Columbus are a fraternal organization. The Order of Malta is a lay religious order, and their robes are religious dress, equivalent to any other religious order. As they are lay men and women, they only wear their robes at liturgical events.

    • Tom Byrne says

      So in America we all have to look like Ward Cleaver? Older style uniforms impress me with a sense of the history of a unit.

      • You make some good points, Tom Byrne, Perhaps some compromise could be worked out. I do not know since it is not for me to decide. God’s will be done.

  3. I think all the men look much younger and slimmer in the new uniforms. Black and navy blue always makes a person look much slimmer.

    • Anonymous says

      Correction: make a person look much slimmer.

      I am working on conjugating verbs in Latin, so I had better get my English straight. (Laughter.)

  4. Tom Barbarie says

    Well, sure, discard old traditions and we always get more people to sign up, right? That worked with all the Vatican II reforms. The liturgy was brought up to date and conversions skyrocketed, right? We had rock and roll Masses and the kids flocked to church, right? Nuns stopped dressing like nuns and vocations went up, right? Right? Right? Tell me I’m wrong.

    • As I said Tom, you make some very good points.

      It reminds me of the time my husband and I decided to go to Mass at night. Unknown to us it was a rock Mass. During the Mass I overhead a woman far younger than I, in her early twenties, say out loud, “This is horrible.” She was appalled.

      My husband and I stuck through it, but when we got out he said to me, “Don’t ever bring me to one of these things again”. I answered him that I had had no idea that was what it would be.

      • Sorry, I answered the wrong Tom. Now I need to stay off of here so I do not get into an endless conversation.

  5. Anonymous says

    Even though it’s better than the goofy, frilly current uniforms, I don’t like the new uniform. It’s like fake military. A young man has to think about attracting the ladies, and that’s not the way to do it. The knights are for those already married and much older.

  6. Why not change the name to the Columbus Fraternal Organization and ditch uniforms altogether? Why have knights and ranks and orders?

  7. I love the capes and plumed chapeaus! Another beautiful tradition is being cast away.

    • Anonymous says

      Let me guess, you’re not a young, single, millennial Catholic woman looking for a husband, are you? The point of this article is that young, single men think the uniforms are weird and they are right. Dressing up in weird outfits is not the way to impress the ladies. Not many guys who dress up as Star Trek characters are successful with the ladies. This is similar.

    • SirKnight says

      Peggy—-then why not wear them?

  8. The Knights are kidding themselves if they think getting rid of the current uniforms and converting to uniforms that look like so many other modern-day outfits will attract new members. Truth be known, the Knights for many years have been inept at recruiting new members. As an example, my parish has a K of C chapter, and I have been an active parishioner for 14 years. I have never been approached, nor have I seen any organized attempt to recruit new membership. As for me, I will miss those cool uniforms.

  9. Anonymous says

    A young, single Catholic man, mature enough to join a good religious organization in his parish, and do much good for his Church– will only attract very fine Catholic young ladies, who will respect and admire them!– young ladies that hope to find a suitable Catholic young man, ready for a fine Catholic marriage and family, someday! How many pretty, young Catholic ladies admire the young, handsome Swiss Guards, at the Vatican, proudly dressed in their 15th century uniforms– designed by Michaelangelo??

  10. Discarding even more traditions, like kissing the Papal ring, will not propagate the Faith. I loved seeing those capes at certain masses. Vatican II moving forward relentlessly while the pews empty.

    • I was approached by a KofC shirted, clip-board carrying, fellow church member as I was leaving Mass one Sunday. He asked me if I’d like to join. I told him I didn’t think I was old enough (I was 72). He scoffed and said entry into the Knights begins at 18. “How old are you?” I asked. He said, “83,” I walked away.

  11. Aren’t we missing the word “Ceremonial” here?
    You might even say that the Knights new approach is, “Don’t Stand on Ceremony.”

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