Since the establishment of the Patriotic Degree in 1900, the Color Corps have provided honour guards for religious and civic functions, an activity that has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights of Columbus. They are distinguishable by their official regalia of tuxedos, capes, chapeaux, and swords.
The Color Corps of the Knights of Columbus are the uniformed members of the Fourth Degree. They are the ones that are most noticeable at church and public functions, parades, etc.
The Color Corps consist of two parts:
- Honour Guard
- Color Guard
Honour Guardsmen are those members who have mastered the Manual of the Sword. All others are Color Guard.
The Corps basically follows a naval theme with ranks and insignia. Note that the chapeaux, which are never called hats, are similar to the old naval uniforms.
Cape colors are an indication of rank.
- Vice Supreme Masters wear blue capes and chapeaux.
- Masters wear gold capes and chapeaux.
- District Marshals (District level Color Corps Commanders) wear green capes and chapeaux.
- Faithful Navigators (whether a member of the corps or not) wear white capes and chapeaux.
- Commanders wear purple capes and chapeaux.
- Other Color Corps members wear red capes and chapeaux.
Within the local assemblies, the Master more or less sets the rules. In the Assembly, the highest ranking Color Corps member is called Commander; some areas call him by other ranks such as Commodore. Former vice Supreme Masters, Former District Marshalls, and Past Faithful Navigators are all permitted to wear their respective capes and chapeaux when they finish their term of office.