Sunday, June 14, 2015


by Luke Batty
I read up on Italian men’s fashion before packing. The consensus was to lean towards more formal wear. Specifically, pants are always preferable to shorts. I even found horror stories, and witnessed, men turned away from churches for shorts. I brought several pairs of “manpris” but expected to mainly wear pants. Italians have fairly consistently reaffirmed the pro-pants position. However, both cities being unseasonably hot have forced locals to wear shorts as well.

In Florence, I attended Corpus Christi mass in the San Lorenzo church. The service was staffed by a local scout troop. Their summer uniforms include black, knee-length shorts for both men and women. One member of the congregation was visibly upset with their attire. She reprimanded their behavior and attire multiple times. During communion, the choir played a modern, pop-inspired church tune. An organist friend of mine once admonished the style as “happy-lucky guitar mass.” The woman plugged her ears to avoid the entire congregation’s singing, which was apparently familiar with the piece. At the end, she gave a “screw in the light bulb” gesture to the scout choir.

My perceptions of fashion (formality versus practicality) and appropriate church behavior (sit with quiet disapproval or display it) are difficult to examine with a purely cultural lens. Age certainly influenced her actions. The size and uniformity of the group created a community within the congregation. While their attire would be normal in my home parish, I similarly expected them to be more dressed up for the feast day. Information and cultural expectations will continually arise. But the existing co-cultures can only exist by rebelling against some of these traditions. Universal behavior is rare at any scale. The only solution is to continually absorb and adapt.