Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Templar Uniforms

From my early interest in the Templars of the Crusades, I always found their garments, and the distinction between the two, interesting as it was both simple, but highly symbolic. Fast forward to Fall 2008 and I have entered the Asylum for the first time to see the Sir Knights seated in their uniforms; one of a black jacket (similarly used by the Naval Petty Officer), a feathered Chapeau, and armed with a sword. I, as with many people, have found the difference in uniform styles to be weird (for lack of a better word). For such a prestigious order to commemorate themselves by taking the name of those valiant knights of the Crusades, but veering away from them in such a manner.

Before we delve into the history and evolution of the modern Templar uniform, one should have a basic understanding of each uniform individually. 

The Garments of the Knights Templar 

The best-known wardrobe of the Knights Templar is a white mantle (for Knights) and a brown mantle (for Sergeants) emblazoned with the red cross pattée, but I am getting ahead of myself.

As with any good and organized body there are set guidelines, regulations, or Constitution that establishes operating procedure as well as member uniformity. In the time of the Crusades, this was no different. Ecclesiastical and knightly orders worked under "Rules" which governed their lives.

When the Knights Templar were first founded in Jerusalem they received a copy of the Rules of St. Augustine, but at the Council of Troyes the Templar Rule was written, the most notable participant was Bernard of Clairvaux. The result of this Council was what is commonly referred to as the "Primitive Rule". This "Primitive Rule" established the garments of the members, but originally did not bestow the honor to wear the red cross. It wasn't until 1147 when Pope Eugene III granted the right to wear the red cross. While many pictures show the Cross emblazoned in many places around the uniform it was stationed over the heart of the left side of the mantle.

Their white mantle was said to be a symbol of purity and a reflection of the knight's vow of chastity. It has also been suggested (never definitively proven) that they were required to wear sheepskin undergarments and that were never to be removed as another symbol of their vows.

While many knights of the day wore their hair long, the Templars' hair was kept short and were forbidden to cut their beards. Being a member of the Armed Forces myself I can understand the practical need for short hair having worn an abundance of different styles of helmets or covers. It would be no different to apply this logic to the knights of the crusades where hair could obscure their vision in their helmets while riding into battle.

The Modern (Masonic) Templar uniforms 

As the Crusader's garments were defined by their Rule so too are our uniforms defined in the Constitution of the Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, USA. Now the description of the uniform changes with rank (ie subordinate Commandery officer, dais office, Grand Commandery officer, Grand Encampment officer, etc) so I will give a general description with some specifics of the Dress Uniform (not the Summer or Cap & Mantle). Also note, that a Grand Commandery may slightly alter the uniform within its own jurisdiction, but a subordinate Commandery may not (on its own).

The Templar Dress Coat, as the Grand Encampment refers to it, is a black double-breasted frock coat with crosses upon the sleeve (each different for members, officers, Grand officers, and Grand Encampment officers). For members and non-dais officers of a subordinate Commandery, there is nothing on the shoulders, but for dais officers, on up there are set shoulder boards depicting the rank. Jewels from meritorious service or rank are worn upon the left breast. The trousers shall be black broadcloth and of standard military cut (your average black dress pants).

The feathered chapeau always brings a smile to people's faces. It is trimmed with black velvet binding, and with two black and one white ostrich plume so arranged that the black plumes shall show at the edges distinctly and the end of the white plume shall not extend beyond the chapeau more than three inches, the length, and width to be in proportion to the size of the Sir Knights. The exact dimensions may vary with rank/position, but for the most part, the Chapeau extends to the front and rear a few inches from the head. The side is beveled, all lined with gold wire lace. On the left side is set a rosette which varies with rank.

The swords are ornamented from hilt through the blade and vary with rank (gold plate versus silver). Some jurisdictions wear a belt and some use a shoulder strap that hides under the coat coming through a pocket on the hip.

So how did we come to this?

The Evolution of the Modern Uniforms

Brother Brent Morris in his book "The Complete Idiots Guide to Freemasonry" describes the original uniform of the American Knights Templar as rather simple being composed of a black triangular apron with skull & bones, a shoulder-to-hip sash, and a sword, all of which would be worn over street clothes. American Masonic Templary from its earliest recorded conferral up into the 19th century hadn't spread very quickly owing to the scandal referred to as the Morgan Affair and the American Civil War.

After the Civil War though, would come an age where many fraternal organizations (not just the Masonic one) would flourish as well as the regalia companies who supplied them. After the war we see the Templar uniform updated into something more acceptable for the Victorian Age (ca. 1837 - 1901) where we see it go from a simplistic design to a black frock coat (similar to the Civil War-era uniforms), a feathered (naval style) chapeau, a sword & scabbard, and for some time a black triangular apron (no longer used by the Grand Encampment*).

While impressive when in procession, it is expensive, and Brett makes a certain comment in his book that I must share as I find it pertinent as well as comical:
"If expense is widely held (if inappropriate) measure of prestige, then Knights Templar topped the popular scale with their uniforms (unsuitable for anything but Templar meetings) and their exclusive membership in and fees for Lodge, Chapter, and Commandery."
* - Some jurisdictions still use the apron


1. (n.d.). Chapter XIX - Uniforms - Subordinate Commanderies. In Constitution, Statutes, Disciplinary Rules, Standing Resolutions, Ceremonies, Forms and Approved Decisions of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America (p. 173). 

2. Dafoe, S. (2010, April 01). Masonic Templar Regalia. Retrieved from

3. Dafoe, S. (n.d.). Garments Of The Knights Templar. The Working Tools magazine, pp. 39-40. 

4. (2006). Chapter 8: The York Rite. In B. Morris, The Complete Idiots Guide to Freemasonry. London: Penguin Group. 

5. The Primitive Rule of the Templars. 

6. (n.d.). Retrieved from Project Beauceant: (n.d.). U2. Uniforms. In Constitution, Laws, and Regulations Of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho (pp. 50-51).


  1. I have often thought that it would be kind of nice to allow one alternative uniform for a commandery to choose from. Levant Perceptory wears period garb to confer the Order of the Temple. I think commanderies should be able to choose if they want to wear period costumes for meetings.


  2. The Grand Encampment does allow a modified uniform that is a cap and mantle which is worn over a suit. The entire Commandery must wear the same uniform.

    There is also the "summer" or "parade" uniform made popular by Milford (CT) Commandery. There are a couple of Commanderies in FL that use this as their standard uniform (they updated their bylaws before Grand Encampment dropped it as an "official uniform," and are grandfather'd in.)

  3. @ Nick, other Commanderies could do exactly what Raper Commandery did and form a conferral team (Levant Preceptory). I think if every Grand Commandery had at least one we could really revitalize Templary with this stunning presentation and ritual delivery. As always though, it comes down to money and with the current state of the economy I don't blame anyone for not starting more clubs like Levant Preceptory.

    @ Ron, I am trying to move my Commandery to the Cap & Mantle uniform to help save some money so the new members are not shelling out so much money for the Jacket & Chapeau. I've seen the Summer uniform, but I am indifferent to it.

    1. From what I understand from Chris Hodapp's write up of Levant, it was actually cheaper to get the full Medieval uniform than a single regulation chapeau.


    2. I think it was cheaper for the period armor than it was for the Chapeau and Jacket combined. It just depends on where you buy it from.

  4. From the article in the August 2011 Knights Templar, "The greatest surprise to most participants is that equipment can be had to
    fully outfit a medieval knight for as little
    as $300, not much more than the cost
    of a regulation chapeau these days. It is
    common for Knights who are unable to
    arrange their schedule for every event
    to share their equipment with new men
    entering the group." Page 12


    1. As I had the money, I spent close to $500 for a brand new jacket and chapeau. I'd gladly spend $300 for a period-set uniform.

  5. Thank you for the elightening article, Companion Sir Knight KSigMason!

  6. Great article!

    I believe a team could begin with tabards, surcoats, mantles, and more traditional swords, and perform a most impressive Conferral. Chainmail armour could be invested in as time went on.

  7. To all who think that chainmail and all the rest would be wonderful.. just wait till you pass age 40 and the knees aren't so good.. and what about those even older knights in your commandery? I wore chain mail and surcoats and such in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and that was fun.. but no more..

    How come no one suggests a monastic habit with a cross on it and sword? That might be what the historical Knights Templar wore most of the time.

  8. If one looks carefully, you can find jackets and even chapeaus much cheaper than the typical price.. if price is a problem. I bought my chapeau for about $130.

  9. Hi! I have a quick question for ANYONE that can answer it!! My father was a member of the Knights Templar Commandry Yorkrite Body, my mother Eastern Star, and my sister and I were Rainbow Girls and both later members of Eastern Star, so I feel dumb asking this question, ( you would THINK I would KNOW the answer),...but, I have alot of memorabilia of my father's and some of his friends' that they gave him. I was trying to make a "display" wall box, and CANNOT find any dates as to when these were worn. I have 6 short sword? chains, and 4 long that are silver Malta cross links. Can ANYONE give me a little info on these, please, so I can label them correctly?? I have tried to research them and have yet to find chains like these. They are NOT barrel links, but Malta crosses. ANY info would be GREATY appreciated!!

  10. Susan,

    This isn't a dumb question; it's actually quite common. If you know the name of the bodies he was a member of, you could approach them. If you don't know, go to this site: and go to the website for State your father lived in and find the contact information for the Grand Recorder/Secretary who will be able to assist in you in finding the dates. If you still have trouble please let me know.

  11. My name is William Perkins and I am a PEC of Belvidere Commandery #2 in Alton IL. We are traditional and while I prefer same we need change due to costs. Cap and mantle is not the answer. I have seen a number of these and many look as if the man ran through the lingerie section of the store. I am working on a proposal that I hope to bring before the Grand Encampment. Initial cost would range between $286 and $341 not including sword.

  12. Companions, Brothers, Sir Knights...
    I am looking to be stationed at our newest Commandery in NJ and am wondering the cheapest (for the best quality) way to find a uniform. I have found the Jacket for 130 which would need a sword slit modification. I have yet to view other prices of individual items, as I am having a hard time finding uniforms in GENERAL! IS there any websites or fellow brothers you can vouch for that have quality for a brotherly price?

    I see some of you talking about purchasing it all together as one unit for cheaper than individual, I have not seen any of these offers? Please send me your suggestions!

    1. I am assuming that the $130.00 uniform that you refer to is from Mayo's Discount Suits as this is where I obtained mine. The quality is excellent. I had previously ordered a red Chapter blazer from them and was very satisfied.

  13. Great article! Have been a Sir Knight for 14 months but have just now saved the money for a nice uniform and accessories. Three days ago I participate in my first uniformed ceremony, the annual inspection of the Commandery opening on the long form.I loved it. Looking forward to more. It was interesting to read about the history of the uniform.

  14. Sergeants also wore black.
    ..."The best known wardrobe of the Knights Templar is a white mantle (for Knights) and brown mantle (for Sergeants) emblazoned with the red cross pattée, but I am getting ahead of myself."

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