History of Christian Clothing

Christian clothing has been around since the earliest days of the Christian church. Members of the clergy have traditionally worn special vestments to distinguish themselves from lay worshippers and church members during Sunday services and to project an image of piety and humility. As such, religious dress has traditionally been marked by simple, modest garments in somber colors.

For church-goers and congregation members, Christian fashion is best described by the phrase "Sunday best" and has traditionally meant saving one's finest clothing for Sunday services.[1] In the early days Churches not only fulfilled the religious needs of communities but often served as the main social center for local residents. As such, dressing in fine clothing for religious services ironically was often dictated by a need to project status and influence among peers. Church clothes also helped members feel a sense of cleanliness and pride that carried through in worship and in fellowship.

Various Christian holidays such as Easter have traditional clothing associated with Sunday celebrations today. Women often wear their new, white, or colorful Easter dresses and bonnets, while men don their best suits and ties. Christmas features clothes in greens and reds.

Over the past several years, many churches have encouraged a more informal dress code, especially with the rise of non-traditional churches and Mega churches around the country. In fact, many clergy have abandoned the traditional robes and vestments in favor of business casual clothing to close the perceived gap between clergy and layperson.

In the late 1990s many brands designed clothes which appealed to mainstream consumers and were rooted in faith values. Many of these brands sought to distance themselves from the "Christian clothing" moniker and instead prefer the term "faith-inspired" or positive lifestyle brands. Today, the Christian apparel market has developed into a full-fledged apparel industry in its own right.

Message-related clothing

For the most part, there are few differences in fashion between Christians and non-Christians outside of the church. But, with the advent of screen printing, many companies have started printing graphic T's with faith-inspired messages. According to Baxter Chism, a United Methodist pastor in Dadeville, Ala. "I consider this a window of opportunity to proclaim Christ to people by using a topic they understand. Jesus spoke to us in stories that were culturally relevant to those listening." [2]


By the late 1980's, several Christian t-shirt companies started selling parody t-shirts which modified familiar brand logos to reflect Christian ideas or messages.[3] Some commonly seen Christian parodies of brand logos include "Meant to Die" for "Mountain Dew", "God is My Hero" for "Guitar Hero"[4], and "A Breadcrumb and Fish" for "Abercrombie and Fitch". Jason Anzalon, the vice president of marketing for Kerusso, a foremost company among parody Christian apparel commented, "It's interesting how many of our parodies do end up as best-sellers. I think people like the fact that they can get a little chuckle out of something and at the same time express their faith." [5]


But there is a lot of backlash against Christian parodies of brand logos. Many have accused these parodies of unoriginality, diluting the Gospel, or even outright copyright infringement. [6] [2] Rod Dreher, in his blog on beliefnet writes about a Christian t-shirt that copies the Starbucks logo, replacing the siren with Jesus. He questions, "Do you really think that comparing Our Lord to a frappuccino-monger is going to make people want to follow Him?" [7]

Many Christian clothing companies are bucking the trend of world-inspired designs, opting for more original concepts and artwork. Zoe Threads, a Christian t-shirt company that endeavors to offer unique biblically-inspired apparel describes their work, "So many Christian t-shirt and sweatshirt designs take something from the world ('Got Milk?') and make it religious ('Got Jesus?'). The Bible is full of wonderful similes, metaphors, concepts, encouragements, etc! Why not take ideas from the Word?" [8] Another unique designer with a more gothic look is Not of This World. The Legacy Movement advertises, "Bold, artistic designs inspired by Christian themed messages offer wearers a chance to represent something more than just a brand; The Legacy Movement is the call to a movement within our own lives." [9] Other prominent Christian designers with original designs include In His Net and Ephraim. The market for original Christian designs is growing as consumers tire of reformulated commercial logos and look to something expressive and individual.

Christian Clothing Fashions

Original Christian usually fall into one of several categories. Some companies on the West Coast of the United States take their fashion cues from skate and surf culture. Other companies, like Zoe Threads focus on cheerful designs inspired by Biblical messages or clothing for babies & infants with lighthearted, humorous, or inspirational messages. Still others, like The Legacy Movement blend modern urban fashion with Biblical messages. Not of This World is probably the most widespread of Christian clothing brands and leans more toward gothic fashions.

Market for Christian Clothing

To support the growing number of faith-inspired clothing brands, retail outlets have been springing up around the country to carry clothing for Christian teens and adults alike. Online retailers seek to gather the best designs from the top faith-inspired brands so consumers can find the newest styles available, while Christian designers provide unique clothing targeted at delivering a Christian message. Although many communities also have Christian bookstores (Family Christian Stores being the largest in the US), Christian clothing stores are unusual. However, some are beginning to emerge, C28 being one example. Sales at Christian retail stores totaled $4.34 billion in 2004 while apparel sales accounted for just $84 million (less than 2%) of the total.[10]


  1. Christ In Y' - Studies - Dressing Up For Church
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jay Reeves. "Some in $4.6B Christian industry copy designs, logos". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  3. In His Net - History of Christian T Shirts
  4. "God is My Hero". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  5. Joseph Tartakoff. "Logo look-alikes: Saving souls in Starbucks' image". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  6. Michael Atkins. "Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reports on Starbucks Logo "Parody"". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  7. Rod Dreher. "Starbucks Jesus". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  8. "Zoe Threads". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  9. "The Legacy Movement". Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  10. CBA :: The Association for Christian Retail

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