If you’re a prospective missionary, you probably have questions about the clothes, shoes, and other supplies you need to buy before you head out to the MTC. Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered!
While each missionary receives a list of supplies they’ll need on their mission, the purpose of this guide is to help male missionaries make informed decisions as they buy their mission gear.
If you’re not a Latter-day Saint, by reading on, you’ll get a glimpse into the world of a unique experience undertaken by tens of thousands of young men and women each year.
Plus, much of my advice, such as how to choose the best dress shoes for walking a lot, applies to all men — even guys that aren’t planning on preaching door-to-door anytime soon.
First, A Few Disclaimers
First, this article is not an official, Church-sponsored resource. It reflects the opinions of the author, not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This article is intended for informational purposes only.
Second, this is not an official guide of items you’ll need on your mission. Consult the list you received with your mission call.
Third, I write from my own experience. Unless otherwise noted, I’ve personally tested each item that I recommend in this article. This article is not sponsored, but I did receive free clothing samples in exchange for my honest review.
What is a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) Missionary?
Prospective missionaries, feel free to skip to the buying guide.
Whether you live in Provo, Utah, or Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, chances are you’ve seen “Mormon missionaries” in your city.
While in the past Latter-day Saints embraced the nickname “Mormon,” today, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ask that people no longer use this term. Instead, we prefer being called “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” or “Latter-day Saints.”
Latter-day Saint men (ages 18-25) and women (aged 19+) often take time after high school to serve others and share their faith.
While missions are optional, men are expected to serve, and many women also serve.
This one-and-a-half to two-year service is called a mission. A male missionary is addressed as “Elder,” and a female missionary as “Sister,” followed by their last name. For example, on my mission I went by “Elder Hallstrom,” instead of “Ryan.”
Believe it or not, missionaries don’t choose where in the world they’ll serve. For example, I ended up serving in St. Petersburg, Russia, and learned Russian.
Before going to their assigned area of service, elders and sisters receive extensive instruction at a Mission Training Center (MTC).
This training may last anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on their needs. At the MTC, “greenie” (new) missionaries are taught how to teach, and, if necessary, they begin learning a foreign language. Immediately after the MTC, missionaries fly to their area of service.
During missions, young elders or sisters follow a 24-hour/day schedule and adhere to a strict code of rules, including detailed dress and grooming standards.
To prepare, they have to buy clothing and supplies for their mission. Generally, everything they bring for their two-year mission has to fit in two suitcases and a carry-on.
As you can imagine, serving as a missionary is a challenging experience. Having the wrong gear can make it even more difficult.
Clothing Guide for Latter-day Saint Missionaries
Speaking about why appearance is important for missionaries, Tanner Guzy, a returned missionary, men’s style expert, and author of the book The Appearance of Power, told me:
Clothing can shape our identity and help us be present in a given moment. Looking the part of a missionary every day helps put us in that mission mindset and helps us be the best we can [be] for the Lord doing those two years.
From personal experience, I can attest that I feel more confident and focused when I am dressed well and everything fits properly. As a missionary, I was sometimes distracted by my ill-fitting clothing or subpar supplies. Now I realize that I wasn’t as prepared as I could’ve been when it came to my mission gear.
In this guide, I’ll help you avoid making the same mistake by helping you head out to the MTC with all the quality supplies you’ll need.
Below, we’ll discuss each part of your wardrobe in detail. I’ll include the current Church guidelines and share my own experience and recommendations.
For reference, I’m 5’6” and 140 pounds.
Where I live, each missionary elder is told to bring two suits. However, depending on your area of service, you may not need a suit. As with everything else, check your official packing list to see if you need one.
“Suits and suit jackets (if worn in the mission) should be in conservative colors. They may have patterns such as pinstripes or checkers that are small, simple, and subtle in design. Suit jackets and pants should match.” (Guidelines for Elders)
In Russia, I wore a suit almost every day of my mission. Only when it got about 75 degrees or so would we go without our jackets.
When I was preparing to write this article, I contacted dozens of Utah-area menswear shops — including all the major “missionary stores.” I received four sample suits so I could share my honest reviews with you guys. Below I’ve listed the suits I’ve tested, from my least favorite to my top pick.
Mr. Mac PSJ Traveler Suits ($239)
In 2015, I bought 3 Mr. Mac suits for my mission. They were ok. Not great, but ok.
The salesman was kind of pushy. For example, I asked to have the jacket sleeves hemmed to show just a little bit of cuff, and he told me, “No, not for a mission suit. When you come back for a wedding suit we’ll do that.” I asked for other minor alterations, but the salesman only agreed to get the pants hemmed (even after hemming they were still too long).
I ended up with suits that were a size or two too big because the salesman thought I might grow (taller or wider) on my mission. He was quite insistent. (I stopped growing when I was 15). I ended up having to get the suits altered right after I got to Russia.
I had several buttons fall off my suits while I was still in the MTC, and the suits started getting shiny in places after just a few wears.
A few times during my first winter in Russia, I went street contacting at 6 AM in the bone-chilling streets (we got permission, it’s a long story), and I actually wore my pajamas underneath my suit. The suit was so baggy that I’m sure no one could tell.
Between the less than ideal in-store experience, poor fit, and buttons dropping like flies, that’s a lot of “cons.” However, Mr. Mac generally does have a good reputation.
I have to admit that they do have a huge selection of suits. I only tried suits from their Traveler line, so maybe a different line would’ve been a better fit for me.
Also, besides the buttons, my suits did hold up pretty well during my mission. I even wore two of the suits for a couple of years after I got home until I could get a better-fitting, better-quality suit. Even after alterations, they didn’t fit great and weren’t very comfortable, but I wore them until they were threadbare.
Knowing what I know now, would I have bought my mission suits at Mr. Mac? No. However, I suppose I could say that Mr. Mac suits were adequate.
Missionary Mall Robbins and Brooks Suit ($299)
This suit from Missionary Mall is made from a sweatpants-like material. This makes for a suit that feels like pajamas and is super stretchy. While some might like these qualities, I’m not a fan.
The problem is that they also look like sweatpants material, especially up close. Also, while it’s kind of hard to explain, this was probably the cheapest feeling suit I’ve ever tried on.
This suit doesn’t fit as well as some of the other suits on this list. The Missionary Mall in Orem didn’t have my size. I had the pants and jacket sleeves hemmed, but the shop doesn’t provide other alterations.
I personally wouldn’t recommend this suit. For what you’re getting, I really don’t think it’s worth $299. However, it might be an option to consider if comfort is your top priority.
Joseph A. Bank 1905 Suit (∼$300)
A few years ago, after my Mr. Mac suits wore out, my dad bought me a suit from Joesph A. Bank as a Christmas present.
This suit, being 100% wool, was higher quality than my Mr. Mac suits, but the fit still wasn’t great. The jacket fit better in the shoulders, but otherwise, it was too big in most places even after getting the sleeves and pants hemmed and having the pants brought in.
After getting it dry cleaned the first time, I noticed pretty severe “bubbling” on the front of the jacket.
This happens when the glued layers of the suit begin to separate over time (or when exposed to extreme heat, as in this case). “Bubbling” like this is game over for a suit as this is a problem that can’t be repaired.
I contacted Jos. A. Bank, and they offered me a gift card as a partial refund, but not for the entire purchase amount.
CTR Clothing Tempo Stretch Suit ($350)
CTR Clothing comes out on top of all of the Utah-based missionary-specific brands I checked out.
While they have many locations, I went to the Kater Shop in Logan, Utah. Their customer service was great, their showroom was clean and well-lit, and the suit I got fit was, in my opinion, of good quality.
The suit had the best fit off the rack out of the missionary stores I tried, but I still got the waist of the jacket brought in, the pants tapered, and the pants and jacket sleeves hemmed. For me, as a short, slim guy, these alterations are to be expected for off-the-rack suits.
The suit is made out of a stretchy material, but the stretchiness is not as exaggerated as it is on the Missionary Mall suit.
I wish the button stance (i.e., where the top jacket button sits) was a little lower, but it’s ok where it is. Also, even with alterations, the jacket is still a little bit boxy.
Perfectly Suited by Garth Mattarazi Suit ($595)
If you’re only getting one suit, or if you have a little bit of extra money, I’d highly recommend getting a suit with a canvas construction. All the suits I’ve mentioned thus far have been fused.
It’s kind of complicated, but a canvased suit has “guts” that are stitched together, while a fused suit is glued. A canvased suit can last a lot longer and won’t get unsightly “bubbling” over time.
This dark navy suit with pick stitching that Garth gave me is size 34s. It fit incredibly well off the rack. The only alteration that I needed was to get the pants hemmed. (That almost never happens!).
This is the best quality and the best-fitting off-the-rack suit I’ve ever worn. I can feel the difference and see in quality between this suit and the CTR clothing suit.
It’s a bit more close-fitting than I’d want if I were a missionary, especially in a biking area, but it’s great overall.
If you’re only wearing a suit for occasional baptisms and conferences, and to church on Sundays, I’d recommend a Mattarazi suit. You can also get custom suits at Garth’s.
Bespoke Custom Suit ($699 and up)
Another step up from off the rack is a custom suit. Custom (also called made-to-measure) is when a suit is made to your exact measurements. You can choose details like lapel style and width, fit, the number of buttons on the jacket, and so on. There are hundreds, possibly even thousands of options to choose from.
I came into Bespoke Custom’s SLC shop with a good idea of what I wanted. I brought a few photos to reference. Kolby from Bespoke custom asked me a lot of questions throughout the process.
I ordered a charcoal grey double-breasted suit. I opted for side adjusters rather than belt loops. While Kolby seemed to try to steer me towards some bolder choices, I went with a black lining with a subtle paisley pattern and dark brown horn buttons. It has generous lapels and working buttons on the jacket sleeve.
I prefer my suits to be subdued and let the tailoring, rather than have “loud” features like contrasting-colored buttonholes or a flashy lining do the talking.
Built into the Bemberg lining is a cell phone pocket, which is a useful addition that I’d never seen before.
Since I went with a full canvas construction, the suit would’ve cost $800.
This suit fit really well right out of the box. There is a little bit of collar roll in the back across my shoulders. This is an easy fix; I just haven’t taken it to the tailor yet.
To be honest, this is a really nice suit. If I were getting this for a mission, I would’ve gone with a bit of a looser fit. (I should note that tugging in the photo above is due to me having accidentally buttoned the bottom button of the jacket). It’s not a suit that I’d personally want to wear while riding a bike every day, but if I were in a driving mission, it would be pretty much perfect.
A made-to-measure suit is a great option if you have a little bit of extra money to spend and if you really want to look your best on your mission.
No matter where you buy your suit(s), if at all possible, get two pairs of pants. Suit pants tend to wear out faster than the jacket — especially for missionaries.
I’ve found that, generally, you get what you pay for when buying a suit.
If you’re on a tight budget or if you’ll be on a bike-riding mission, I’d recommend getting your suit(s) from CTR Clothing. While the Tempo Suit from CTR Clothing isn’t on the same level as a custom suit, the price is reasonable, and the suit was designed with missionaries in mind. If you go with the Tempo suit, be sure to get it tailored!
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money for a higher-quality suit, I’d stop by Garth’s at Perfectly Suited in downtown Provo. Perfectly Suited sells some of the best quality off-the-rack suits I’ve seen in the area. They also do custom suits.
However, for just around the same price, go to Bespoke Custom in downtown Salt Lake City. The custom process takes longer (typically around six weeks), but the suit you receive will be built to your exact measurements from a fabric of your choice.
A custom suit makes the most sense if you’re going to serve in a more fashion-conscious part of the world (think, Milan, Italy; or Paris, France), rather than in a place where business style isn’t as much a part of daily life (like Davenport, Iowa, or rural Africa). Also, if you’re very hard to fit, like, for example, if you’re 7’2”, going custom might be your only realistic option.
On your mission, odds are you’ll need 8-10 dress shirts. If you’ve grown up as a Latter-day Saint dude, you’re no stranger to wearing a white dress shirt. It’s the unofficial uniform of priesthood holders everywhere.
Maybe you’ve noticed that most guys wear white shirts that are way too big. Make sure that you nail the fit of your dress shirts. This is especially important because the odds are that you’ll be going jacketless a lot of the time, and you don’t want a giant muffin top around your midsection.
While nowadays I prefer the more streamlined look of pocketless dress shirts, as a missionary, I’d suggest that you try to get dress shirts that have a breast pocket. Not only is it a good place to clip on your nametag, but it’s also a good place to store a pen (although be sure to avoid overstuffing the pocket).
If you can help it, stay away from dress shirts with button-down collars, a classic “no-button” collar looks better.
Technically, a dress shirt always has long sleeves. In my opinion, Latter-day Saint missionaries and 1960s NASA engineers are the only guys who should be wearing “short-sleeved dress shirts.” If you’re going somewhere hot, you’ll need short-sleeved white shirts.
Alan Au — a stake missionary for 3 years, co-owner of Jimmy Au’s in LA, and a professional stylist — doesn’t recommend anything but 100% cotton shirts.
You want the breathability. Lighter shirts for warmer climates and heaver for cooler. Poplins are better for warm weather but there are also plenty of lightweight twill options for shirts, too. Today there are a lot of good cotton stretch options with 2%-10% elastane.
Depending on your mission rules, you might be permitted to wear blue dress shirts. The same general guidelines apply.
“Wear white dress shirts made of fabric that does not wrinkle easily, and avoid rolling up the sleeves. Dress shirts may or may not have a pocket.”
“As determined by the Area Presidency and mission president, elders in select teaching areas may wear a blue, collared, button-up dress shirt, with or without a tie, or a white dress shirt without a tie. Review the “What to Bring” section to learn if this option applies to your mission.”
Here’s my experience with different brands of white shirts.
Most of the white shirts I wore on my mission were from Van Heusen. I didn’t really like them. Even though they were labeled “slim fit,” they were too big for my frame. (I probably could’ve fit both my arms in one of the sleeves at the same time).
Their one redeeming feature was that they had a decent collar.
On the Church website, they sell white shirts. I could only find this shirt in the online shop, and I’m not sure if it’s the same model as in years past.
I’ve owned an “LDS Distribution” white shirt, and it was made out of very thin, almost see-through fabric and didn’t fit very well.
Jos. A Bank
I own a couple of white shirts from Jos. A Bank. What I like about them is that they have pretty good collars. What I don’t like is the fit. Even the slim shirts that they sell (supposedly in my size) are too big for me.
The sleeves are too long and very baggy. The waists of the shirts are constructed for some much larger than me in mind.
CTR Clothing Shirt
When I tried on this shirt, it was, up until that point, perhaps the best-fitting off-the-rack dress shirt that I’ve ever worn. The material is really comfortable and stretchy.
It is breathable and really comfortable. I like that it has a substantial collar. The size XS slim fit me well out off the rack.
However, it is practically identical to the &Collar shirt I tried.
I like the shirt that &Collar sent me (size XS). It looks, fits, and, as I mentioned, feels almost exactly like the CTR Clothing shirt. In fact, when having photos taken, I thought I was wearing the CTR Clothing shirt, but I accidentally put on the &Collar shirt instead.
However, upon close inspection, they are different. The &Collar shirt has different buttons and two pleats by the cuff instead of one. Also, the Tempo shirt seems to have become slightly grey, while the &Collar shirt remains white despite having been washed about the same number of times.
The main thing that stands out about this stretchy &Collar shirt is that it sheds liquid (like all other &Collar products claim to). It’s pretty cool! I put the shirt sleeve underneath a running faucet, and the water just rolls right off.
What’s remarkable to me is that this unique water-repellent property still works after several washes.
Bespoke Custom Shirt ($159)
When I was fitted for my made-to-measure suit at Bespoke Custom in SLC, I also ordered a custom dress shirt. While I chose a blue fabric, I could’ve just as easily chosen white.
This shirt has French cuffs (which means I need to wear a pair of cuff links with it) and a very sturdy collar. If I was getting a shirt made to wear on a mission, I would’ve gone with barrel cuffs (i.e., cuffs with buttons) rather than French cuffs.
The fit isn’t perfect (the sleeves are a little baggy, and I’ve had some problems with fabric wrinkling or bunching up near the top of the placket), but it’s pretty darn close.
This is probably the nicest shirt I’ve ever worn.
If I was to do it all over again, I’d probably buy almost all my mission shirts from &Collar. I’d also bring 1-3 high-quality 100% cotton shirts for baptisms, conferences, and other special occasions. I’d buy higher-end shirts from Brooks Brothers or have one specially made from Bespoke Custom.
Ah…ties! Surveys show that the average elder goes home from their mission with something like 55 ties. Actually, I just made that up, but it seems about right.
Don’t overthink ties; just find some that you like. This is one place within the missionary “uniform” where you can show some personality. The general rule when choosing ties is that, at their widest, they should match the width of the lapels of your suit.
Also, if you’re a relatively skinny guy, you’ll look good in skinnier ties. If you’re more stocky, go for ties that are a little bit wider. Similarly, if you’re short (like I am) try to find short-length ties, and if you’re tall, long ties. Once your tie is tied, it should reach down to right around the middle of your belt buckle.
“Ties and socks should be simple in color and design and should not distract others from your message.
Ties and tie pins or bars should be conservative in size. They should not contain pictures or characters or show any political or country affiliation. Bow ties or string (bolo) ties are not appropriate. Lapel pins should not be worn.” (Guidelines for Elders)
I went on my mission with a bunch of ties, I quickly got a sense of what types of ties I liked and styles that I didn’t care for as much.
&Collar gave me a tie to test out for this article. It’s a good “work tie.” By “work tie” I mean a tie that can stand up to the rigors of missionary life. I’m not generally a fan of polyester ties, but this one looks pretty nice.
Pretty much any menswear shop you visit will sell ties. I can’t really recommend one tie over another for missionaries as this is one area that ultimately comes down to your personal taste.
Don’t worry too much about finding “the perfect ties” when buying stuff for your mission. Find a few that you like and, trust me, you’ll pick up a few along the way.
Basically every MTC district and mission zone has an underground tie-trading market. (On the mission, ties are basically used as currency between elders).
Not only that, you’ll likely get ties as gifts from people you know (or from strangers) and find a few abandoned in mission apartments.
The list says to bring 3-5 pairs of dress slacks. Slacks, pants, trousers — they all mean the same thing here — a pair of professional-looking pants that aren’t paired with a suit jacket.
“As with suits, slacks should be conservative in color and may have small, simple, and subtle patterns such as pinstripes or checkers. Choose dress slacks that are professional and wrinkle resistant.” (Guidelines for Elders)
Since I wore a suit daily on my mission, I always wore my suit pants, even on the rare occasion that I went out sans jacket.
That said, I did bring an extra pair of pants from Mr. Mac, but I think I only wore them twice. The hem from Mr. Mac’s alterations department fell out almost immediately, and they were way too big.
&Collar also sent me a pair of pants to test out for this article. I didn’t really like these pants. Not only do they not stock my size, the pants seem kind of cheap.
While are somewhat water-resistant, water doesn’t bead up and roll off quite as well as it does on the & Collar dress shirt. I think there are better options out there.
If you’re looking for pants made from “tech-type” material, then Lululemon is a no-brainer.
I’d recommend either the ABC Classic-Fit Pant or their Commission Slim-Fit Pant. The “slim” pants are a little more dressy because the pockets are slanted, while the classic-fit pants pockets go straight across.
While I haven’t owned either pair of these particular pants, I’ve tried them on in the store.
Also, a friend in my mission frequently wore Lululemon pants. Today, they’re the only pants he wears. He swears that, while they’re pricey, they’re totally worth it.
Banana Republic Chinos
If you’re not a fan of stretchy pants, I’d suggest you get some chinos.
I like Banana Republic’s slim-fit chinos.
If you really want to up your style game, get a pair of charcoal grey wool trousers. They are kind of like suit pants, but just a little different.
They can be hard to find it stores, but you can order some online or have a pair custom-made.
If I was going on a mission and needed to bring 3-5 pairs of (non-suit) pants, I’d mix things up a bit. In other words, I wouldn’t get four pairs of the exact same style of pants.
I’d bring two pairs of Lululemon tech pants, probably in navy and in grey. I’d get a pair of Banana Republic chinos in either brown or olive green, and also a pair of wool flannel trousers.
Of course, no wardrobe is complete with a couple of pairs of shoes.
As a missionary, it’s highly likely that you’ll be on your feet a lot. Getting two pairs of comfortable, professional-looking dress shoes is an absolute necessity.
“Shoes should be comfortable, polished, and conservative in appearance. Shoes, including winter boots, should look professional and be appropriate for the climate and conditions of your mission.” (Guidelines for Elders)
I’ve tried out several different shoe brands. I’ve found some to be better than others for missionaries.
I rotated between two pairs of Eccos on my mission. I don’t love how Eccos look, but on a mission, function comes first. They held up pretty well, considering the climate and how much walking I did. I even wore one pair for a year or two after I got home.
Granted, one pair did get a hole in the upper where the stitching came apart, but I repaired temporarily repaired it with a needle and thread. I only lost just a little bit of blood (thimbles are important people!).
If you go for Ecco’s, be sure that you choose rounded-toe shoes — square-toed dress shoes don’t look good on anyone.
That said, here’s how my square-toed Eccos looked after two years of abuse. As you can see, the uppers were in much better shape than the soles which had started letting in water.
I haven’t personally worn Hush Puppies, but I know that they are a popular choice for missionaries as comfortable and durable shoes.
For example, here’s a photo of a display from the Kater Shop in Logan, Utah, featuring Hush Puppies after being worn for two years.
While they aren’t very good-looking shoes, they sure seem like they hold up pretty well!
This might be a good brand to look at if utility is your main concern.
Today, both my pairs of dress shoes are from Allen Edmonds, but I wouldn’t recommend them to most missionaries.
Why? While I really like their shoes, they just aren’t ideal for wearing for walking many miles a day in rough conditions.
However, they can be a smart choice for elders who know that they’ll be driving most of the time. Also, they’d make a good second pair of shoes for elders serving in an area where classic menswear is common (for example, in Italy). If you do opt for a classic pair of dress shoes, be sure to get a pair with a rubber Danite sole rather than a slippery leather sole.
Thursday Boot Co.
In the past few years, Thursday has soared in popularity. A lot of the reason why is that they get a ton of promotion from online style sites (like The Modest Man). That’s because they truly do craft high-quality shoes and boots at a very reasonable price.
For a missionary, I’d recommend getting a pair of Scout chukkas boots. While they’re boots, chukkas are low cut (check to make sure boots are ok in your specific mission). They’re comfortable, look good, and offer a bit more protection than a regular dress shoe.
You also might want to check out their Chelsea boots or their dress shoes.
If you’re told to have a pair of winter boots, I’d recommend getting them once you arrive in the mission field. (In fact, the elder’s list I’m looking at says they can be bought “in the field”).
Winter boots are bulky and take up a lot of luggage space. Also, once you get to your mission, the seasoned missionaries will be able to give you tips on where to get a good deal and if winter boots are really needed in your specific area.
What kind of shoes I’d recommend you bring depends highly on your location — the climate and how you’ll be getting around.
I’d advise going with getting either all black or all brown shoes for your mission. That way, you don’t have to think about matching each morning. It’s just one less thing to think about.
If you have only black shoes, you only need one black belt, and you can have a black leather bag and watch strap, and everything will go together.
The same thing applies if you go with all brown leather accessories (assuming they’re a relatively similar shade of brown).
If I was going back to St. Petersburg on a mission knowing what I know now, I’d bring 2 or 3 pairs of dress shoes. I’d take along a black pair of comfortable, round-toe Eccos, a pair of black Thursday Scout Chukka boots, and just maybe a fixed-up pair of black Allen Edmonds Park Avenues with danite (i.e rubber) soles for special occasions. Eventually, I’d get a pair of winter boots at the local market.
I’d recommend a similar combo for missionaries in major cities that do a lot of walking or biking.
For missionaries that will be preaching in rural areas, I’d recommend bringing a pair of streamlined Chelsea boots with a sole that has lots of traction, and a pair of round-toe, rubber-soled dress shoes in black or brown.
For even more ideas for comfortable dress shoes, check out this article.
Before you go on your mission, you’ll be endowed in the temple.
After your endowment, you’ll be expected to wear the temple garment throughout your life as directed.
The Church Handbook states that:
“The garment should not be removed for activities that can reasonably be done while wearing the garment.”
If you choose to wear the temple garment while exercising, make sure that your shorts are long enough to completely cover your garment bottoms while running, playing sports, or working out.
You should bring enough garments to last you a week or more between washes.
If you have any questions about wearing the temple garment or about garment styles, contact your local priesthood leader or talk to a trusted recently-returned missionary (they are likely to be up to date with the newer garment styles).
Since you’ll be on your feet a lot as a missionary, you need to take care of them. This means that you should invest in 10-12 pairs of good socks.
The most simple and conservative way to choose your sock color is to match the color of your pants or go a shade darker.
Although you could wear colorful socks, I’d steer you away from anything too bright or flashy. (Loud socks are kind of like the bumper sticker of the menswear world. You want people to be focused on your unique message, not your socks).
“Ties and socks should be simple in color and design and should not distract others from your message.” (Guidelines for Elders)
I’m a fan of Stance socks (pricey, but they last a long time) and socks from &Collar.
CTR clothing also sells comfortable, durable socks, but they have a huge logo on the top of the foot, which I don’t like.
While you’ll look your best if you wear thin dress socks with dress shoes, as a missionary they’re not always the most practical since you walk a lot. Consider boot socks, which are comfortable and don’t draw too much attention.
Personally, I’d get a few pairs of Stance socks, 2-3 pairs from &Collar, and a couple more pairs from whatever menswear store I bought my suit. I’d stick with socks that match or complement the colors of my pants.
If you’re like me, you might lose some weight on your mission. A sturdy belt will help you keep your pants up no matter what.
The Church advises missionary elders to wear “conservative belts with small belt buckles.” (Guidelines for Elders)
You’re going to need at least one good belt. By “good,” I mean one that looks sharp and that will take two years of heavy wear.
In my opinion, this means buying full-grain leather. While I won’t get into the different types of leather here, suffice it to say, full-grain leather is tough and ages well as you wear it.
Since missionaries tend to either lose or gain a lot of weight, it might be a good idea to buy a micro-adjusting belt. Since these kinds of belts don’t have any holes, you can adjust the tightness easily and with exactness.
On my mission, I had a Standard Leather micro-adjusting Mission Belt that I bought at Mr. Mac. Eventually, this belt broke in half.
The problem was that the leather quality wasn’t great. (From what I understand, Mission Belt will replace belts purchased at Mr. Mac if they break before you return from your mission, but I didn’t know that at the time).
However, for this article, I decided to give Mission Belt another chance. Talking to a Mission Belt representative, I discovered that they have quality, full-grain leather options.
I tested out two Mission Belts — a Western work belt and an Italian leather dress belt. After several months of wear, both belts are still in really good condition. (The leather of the light brown belt Italian leather belt has a few scratches from wear the micro-adjusting mechanism has scraped against it).
While I like both of these belts, I get more use out of the work belt because I feel that Mission Belts buckles are a little bit too big and eye-catching to wear with more formal clothes (for my tastes).
Personally, when I’m wearing a suit, I prefer a regular full-grain leather belt with holes and a minimal metal buckle.
See this article for more belt options.
Assuming I was going to wear only black shoes, as I mentioned above, I’d bring just one belt. I’d pack my black full-grain leather belt from Kaen Leather that was made to my measurements.
If you choose to bring brown shoes, bring a brown belt.
Brown and black shoes? Bring both a brown and a black leather belt.
While I prefer that my dress belts have holes, you might want to go with a micro-adjusting belt, like the ones sold by Mission Belt (just be sure to get their Italian leather version, their Standard Leather Belt isn’t worth it if you ask me and the Western work belt is a little too casual for a missionary).
As an Elder, you may be asked to perform a baptism. If you are, you should wear all white clothing.
The Church Handbook states that “a person who performs a baptism and a person who is being baptized wear white clothing that is not transparent when wet… Local units purchase baptismal clothing with budget funds and do not charge for its use.”
White clothing is available for purchase on the Church website or in person at a Church Distribution Center.
If you already have white clothing (shirt, pants, and tie) to wear in the temple, you can wear that with white socks or go barefoot for baptisms.
If you go somewhere cold, as I did, you’ll want to bring at least one good sweater.
“In cold weather you may wear sweaters…as needed.” (Guidelines for Elders)
I had a black acrylic v-neck sweater on my mission. I’m not sure what brand it was. I mainly wore it as a layer underneath my suit and overcoat when it got really cold.
I also found it handy to throw on when I was cooking and eating in the mission apartment because it protected my white shirts from getting stained.
Personally, today I’d choose a medium to dark charcoal gray wool v-neck sweater.
Try to get a sweater that fits you well. I wouldn’t recommend black because it will look a little bit too stark underneath a suit jacket. Also, stay away from bright-colored sweaters because they are hard to match and don’t look as professional as neutral-toned options.
Opt for cardigans or v-necks instead of crew neck sweaters. Crew necks don’t look good when you’re wearing a tie.
If you’re going to a place where you need to bring sweaters, chances are you’ll need a rain jacket and/or a winter coat.
“Outerwear should fit well, look professional, and be appropriate for the climate and conditions of your mission.” (Guidelines for Elders)
Your winter coat should have a zip-out liner for warmth. (Local elder’s list)
Besides suits, I bought a Mr. Mac coat that had an outer shell and an inner liner. The quality wasn’t great and, like the suits, the coat was way too big for me.
I ditched this coat for a thick wool coat soon after arriving in Russia. (In other words, for me, the Mr. Mac coat was basically a waste of money).
Once I got to Russia, I bought a heavy black wool coat with a zip-out faux fur liner. When I layer properly underneath, this bad boy keeps me “comfortable” (more or less) at -35 degrees.
This coat, along with another piece of winter gear that I mentioned in a moment, is one of the only pieces of clothing I still wear years later on my mission.
The only thing I’d change if I were in the market for a mission coat is that I’d try to find this overcoat in charcoal grey instead of black because grey is a little more versatile.
While I preferred wool, other elders in my mission went with tech fabrics. Both can work well at cold temperatures. The important thing is that your coat keeps you warm.
I will mention that while men’s formal wool overcoats don’t typically have a hood, however, as a missionary, you’ll want a hood. There were times that having that faux fur-lined hood quite literally saved my ears from frostbite when I was caught in an unexpected cold spell without a hat. Also, it can protect you from snow, sleet, and freezing rain.
Like winter boots, I’d recommend buying your winter coat in the mission field. However, if you only need a rain shell or lightweight jacket, go ahead and get one before you go to the MTC.
The advantage of waiting to buy a winter coat is that veteran missionaries and local members can help you gauge what style and how heavy a coat will work best in that locale.
Casual and Exercise Clothing
While odds are you’ll be wearing dress clothes every day, you can’t wear a suit all the time.
For example, you can wear casual clothes when exercising or doing service activities.
“Casual clothing and shoes are appropriate for activities such as service or exercise. Casual clothing should always be appropriate for the situation, fit well, and be comfortable.
For example, avoid clothing that is too tight or distracting or that has holes, words, pictures, or logos not consistent with your calling as a missionary. Mission leaders can help you apply these principles in a way that is culturally appropriate and maintains personal dignity and safety.
On preparation day, wear regular proselytizing clothing in public unless more casual clothing is appropriate for a specific activity, such as service or exercise.” (Guidelines for Elders)
In my experience, I wore casual clothes often during the second half of my mission. As volunteers, we frequently did service projects that would require our getting dirty.
I wore exercise clothing pretty much daily during the scheduled morning exercise time.
I’d recommend that you just bring whatever casual clothing you feel comfortable in — no need to buy new casual clothing for your mission. Bring a pair of
Make sure the casual clothing you bring includes a few sets of clothing that you feel comfortable exercising in.
Also, be certain that you bring at least one pair of casual pants (not shorts). For some service projects, you may need long pants.
In some missions, you can wear clothing specific to the area in which you’re serving. While I could wear a fur hat in Russia, in Upstate, NY, that probably wouldn’t fly.
Missionaries in other parts of the world may have different clothing standards. For example, in some places in the Pacific, elders can wear sandals and lava lavas.
Your mission president may decide to approve region/culture-specific clothing depending on where you serve.
Besides clothes, there are many other items that you’ll need on your mission.
Bring enough hangers for your suits, dress pants, dress shirts, and outerwear.
While quality hangers do actually help your clothes last, space is a major factor for a missionary. Therefore, I think that you should just use the hangers that come with your suits and use plastic, not wire, hangers for the rest.
I don’t think that there’s really a need to bring clothes just for sleeping (especially since space in your luggage is limited). Just wear your exercise clothes or sweats.
Shower sandals are on the list because you’ll need to wear them when you take showers at the MTC. It’s important not to walk around the bathrooms there barefoot because you might get athletes’ foot (or worse).
While you are permitted to wear jewelry like bracelets and rings on your mission, keep things simple. You can show some personality but it’s easy to go overboard — once again, you don’t want anything about your appearance to distract people from your message.
I’d recommend sticking to a max of just one ring and a watch or bracelet.
Pocket Squares and Name Tags
While you can wear pocket squares, once again, stick to the basics.
If you’re wearing the name tag that clips or attaches with a magnet to your suit breast pocket, don’t wear a pocket square because, in this case, the name tag should be the visual focus.
If you opt for the name tag style that clips to your lapel, you can more comfortably wear a pocket square. I’d stick to a plain white pocket square and a presidential or one-point fold. Anything more gets too distracting, in my opinion.
While these days, I generally (though not always) wear a pocket square when I’m wearing a suit, but if I were wearing a name tag-wearing missionary, I don’t think I would.
One more thing about nametags, don’t wear your tag on your tie (whether clipped on or stuck on with a magnet). It just makes it look like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Cold Weather Accessories
In many places of the world, not even the warmest coat will keep you protected from harsh winter conditions. You’ll need a few other winter accessories to stave off the chill.
The Church advises missionaries that “in cold weather you may wear… coats, gloves, scarves, and hats as needed. These items should be simple and conservative, without words, pictures, or logos (however, small, non-distracting logos are acceptable)… Hats and gloves should not be worn indoors.” (Guidelines for Elders)
While perhaps fur is an unpopular choice in many places, when spending long hours out in -20 to -40 degree weather, a real fur hat provides warmth that synthetic materials simply lack. I still wear this hat every winter when the mercury plummets.
Even though the lapels of my overcoat had functioning buttons for added warmth, a warm scarf was important to cover my neck (and face).
Surprisingly, on my mission I found that winter gloves weren’t essential until it got down to about -15 degrees or so. Putting my hands in my pockets was often sufficient. Of course, a great pair of gloves or mittens make life a lot easier, even in much more mild conditions.
Very few missionaries will need the level of winter protection that a Russian winter requires. Most elders will do just fine with a wool beanie and a pair of synthetic or, even better, leather gloves.
Ear muffs can be good if you don’t want to mess up your hair by wearing a hat.
A scarf is a good accessory to have if you’re facing a true winter. While you might be apprehensive about wearing a scarf, don’t be. It’s simply a tool to help you stay warm. In much of Europe, scarves for men are ubiquitous.
One often overlooked component of cold-weather gear is thermal underwear.
When I first moved to Russia, I made the mistake of street contacting in frigid weather without thermal underwear. Big mistake! Having an extra layer (or two) on your bottom half can turn a miserable day into a manageable day.
If you need to bring thermal underwear, I’d highly recommend getting a couple of pairs of thermal running tights. You can wear them when exercising outside, but you can also wear them underneath your pants throughout the day. They are thicker and offer much more warmth than regular long johns.
Like it or not, you’ll basically be living out of a suitcase for two years, so it’s important that you put some thought into your luggage.
Most missionaries will bring two suitcases and a carry-on bag.
One of the bags I had was a Samsonite suitcase with multi-directional wheels. Even 4+ years after my mission, I still use it.
I’ve moved and traveled extensively with this bag, and it’s still going strong. The only problem is that the handle no longer fully extends.
I’d advise against getting a hard-shelled suitcase, as I know people who’ve had the shells crack.
For your carry-on, try to bring something that has wheels and that you can easily carry while already lugging around two suitcases.
As part of your gear, you’ll need to have a messenger bag (those Book of Mormons aren’t going to carry themselves!).
The Church says to “choose bags that are professional, simple in style, and durable. Backpacks may be used for luggage but not for daily missionary activities. To keep yourself safe and to be sensitive of others, choose bags that are typical of those carried by others in your area. Consider purchasing your proselyting bag in the mission field. Carry only what is necessary, and be sensitive to others’ space when riding public transportation or in crowds.”
I carried a Timbuk2 bag similar to this one on my mission and it served me well. It’s still in good condition after all it’s been through.
For me, it was the perfect size because it could fit several Book of Mormons, pamphlets, an umbrella, a water bottle, and extra winter accessories. However, many elders in my mission carried bags that were much smaller.
I’d recommend that you don’t buy your messenger bag at one of the missionary chain stores. Pretty much all of the ones I’ve seen there either look tacky or are way bigger than necessary.
While I’m a fan of full-grain leather briefcases, for a missionary, a quality leather bag is probably out of the budget for a missionary.
Instead, for most elders, a well-built synthetic fabric bag will serve them best.
Make sure that your bag is water-resistant and that it has a place to store a water bottle, proselyting material, and an umbrella. If you’ll be in a walking or biking mission, you’ll likely need a larger bag than if you’re in an area that has cars.
An elder in my area says that a fanny pack works well for him.
Don’t forget that part of the missionary dress code is to be well-groomed. You’ll need to shave every day. Unfortunately, this means that you can quickly develop razor burn or rashes on a mission.
Irritation can be avoided by using a safety razor, disposable blades, a brush, and a quality shaving soap or cream. I switched from a cartridge razor to a safety razor while I was on my mission and it saved my face.
While there is a bit of an upfront cost, over time using a safety razor will save you money. Using one can take some practice, but it’s definitely worth it, especially if you have a thick beard.
Besides using a safety razor, use a good aftershave lotion or balm to help ward off razor burn. I discovered Nivea on my mission and it works great (even if it does smell kind of “lotion-y”).
Eyewear (Glasses, Contacts, and Sunglasses)
If you need corrective lenses to see, you’ll need to bring contacts or glasses with you.
If you wear contacts. Depending on where you serve, you may want to bring two years’ worth of contact lenses with you. However, you’ll be able to get contacts and contact solutions in many, if not most, areas of the world.
Even if you’re a regular contact wearer, it’s still important that you bring a pair of glasses on your mission. That way, in the case of eye strain, injury, or another type of emergency you’ll still be able to see.
However, no matter where you serve you’ll want to have a good pair of sunglasses. Don’t bring anything expensive, but bring a pair that you like and that fits your face.
Personally, my top choice would be a pair of Huckberry Weekenders.
It’s really good to wear a watch on a mission. You can use it to discreetly check the time when you think a lesson is going to go over and, depending on the watch, as an alarm clock.
Whatever you do, don’t get a flashy watch. It might’ve only cost you 30 bucks but if it even looks expensive to a crook, you’re more likely to get robbed.
I’d suggest getting an inexpensive field watch or digital watch.
Leave the duct tape wallet at home, instead, bring a nice-looking wallet with you on your mission.
Avoid bright colors because you really don’t want to draw attention to your wallet. I prefer a slim leather wallet.
Some missionaries like to carry a second, “decoy wallet” with a few bucks and some expired cards to appease thieves in the event that they get robbed. Depending on where you serve, carrying a dummy wallet might even be the norm.
While I never used a decoy wallet, I did have a passport pouch that served a similar purpose.
Where I served, it was crucial that I carried my passport with me at all times. I was required to carry it in a belt wallet or pouch. With this kind of wallet, it’s nearly impossible for thieves to steal your documents (unless they steal your pants, but if that happens, you have bigger problems).
I personally love the Kanga pouch. It was almost impossible to detect and was comfortable to wear. Even now, if I’m traveling abroad I’ll wear my Kanga pouch to keep my money and documents safe. After well over 500 wears, the zipper on the outer pocket is broken, but I still use the wallet with my things stored in the larger pocket when I travel out of the country.
Things NOT to Bring on Your Mission
As you might expect, as a missionary you’re going to have to leave some things behind.
- “Briefcases or similar items
- Any items not listed on the Missionary Portal (the missionary online tool)
- Packages for other missionaries at the MTC or in the mission field
- Weapons of any kind
- Unapproved mobile devices, including computers, tablets, or other devices that access the internet
- Smartwatches (such as Fitbit) that use an app to function
- Personal daily planners
- Playing cards, games, footballs, soccer balls, or any other sport or hobby equipment.”
Basically, if it’s not on the list, don’t bring it. If you’re wondering whether or not an item is allowed, contact your mission office.
Serving as a missionary is an important responsibility. You want to be able to focus on your stewardship and not have to worry about your clothing or other belongings. Therefore, do the best you can to get everything you need well before the day you report to the MTC.
If you have any questions about preparing for a mission, feel free to email me (ryan [at] themodestman [dot] com) and I’ll do what I can to help.
Also, check out latterdaysaintmissionprep.com for more mission prep tips. (No affiliation, but it’s a great resource).
Questions? Comments? Is there anything I missed? Leave a comment below!
JOHN MOTZI says
Wow you covered a lot of ground here!
Regarding Ecco shoes, I used Ecco Gore-Tex shoes and boots for many years of casual and business travel. My feet were always dry and warm while walking in the rain, snow, on cobblestone streets, grass, etc. However, as you indicated, the soles do not hold up and the shoes cannot be resoled. It’s such a waste to throw away an otherwise good pair of shoes. So after contributing many shoes to the landfills, I no longer purchase Ecco or any brand that has molded soles. I now only purchase properly welted shoes that can be resoled. It’s a stewardship thing.
Regarding Allen Edmonds shoes, I have a pair of weatherproof Allen Edmonds Hamilton boots and also weatherproof Strandmok shoes built on the same last. I have had no issue walking all day in the rain in NYC on cobblestones, etc. Of course they are a lot heavier than the Ecco, so I get to build up my legs muscles while walking! AE shoes are expensive, but they are often running online sales and one can purchase discounted seconds through their website as well.
Ryan Hallstrom says
Great comment! I agree that resolable shoes are more sustainable. Yeah, I think Allen Edmonds can work for walking all day; it’s just that they require more upkeep than molded shoes. Some guys who read this article will be living in a hut in Africa or a yurt in Mongolia, so it might be hard to get them repaired. That’s why (in my opinion) this is one instance where getting shoes that you plan on throwing away after just two years makes more sense than buying welted, resolable shoes.
However, for those who will be in more urban environments, AE’s are still a great choice!