The classic ceremonial hats and capes of Fourth Degree members of the Knights of Columbus that you may have seen at Mass or at parish events will now be getting a major alteration. “This fraternal year, we make another historic change. The Board of Directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the Fourth Degree uniform,” Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus Carl Anderson announced on Tuesday at the Knights’ 135th annual international convention in St. Louis, Mo.
The Knights of Columbus is an international Catholic men’s organization with over 1.9 million members worldwide. The organization promotes four virtues of fraternity, unity, charity, and solidarity among its members. The Fourth Degree uniform is worn by those who have reached the highest levels of the Knights of Columbus, at least 18 years of age and having been a Third Degree member in good standing.
Each degree is associated with one of the four virtues of the Knights, with patriotism being associated with the Fourth Degree. Members of the Fourth Degree serve in honor guards for liturgical processions or in color guards at ceremonial events, hence the distinctive nature of their uniform.
The uniform of the Fourth Degree has changed throughout the history of the Knights, as previous versions included a top hat and a tuxedo with tails. However, it has remained relatively the same since 1940 — a plumed chapeau which can be worn with plumes of different recognized colors, a tuxedo, a cape, and a ceremonial sword.
Now, however, the Knights will be leaving behind the classic uniform for a “modernized” version, a blue blazer with the Fourth Degree emblem and dark gray slacks, a blue Fourth Degree tie, and a beret.
Vice supreme masters processed into Mass on Tuesday at the convention wearing the new uniform. Anderson then officially announced the change while delivering the annual report of the Supreme Knight. The board of directors for the Knights decided for the change, Anderson said, to “modernize” the dress uniform that is typically worn at ceremonial or solemn events.
“On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and for honor guards in liturgical processions,” Anderson said on Tuesday. “However, the preferred dress for the Fourth Degree — including color corps and honor guards — is now the new uniform of jacket and beret.”