Clerical status or social status...
A few years ago our session received a formal request from a member of our congregation that the elders wear coats and ties when serving the Lord's Supper. We discussed the request at length and declined to honor it, not because we wanted to lower the authority of the elders or the solemnity of the meal, but because we believed this request, if implemented, would function as a statement of social status and class rather than serving to build the unity of the Body of Christ around the Table of our Lord. In other words, we were convinced suits and ties would encourage, not discourage, divisions among us (1Corinthians 11).
This is not true everywhere, I'm sure, but it is true here, and in my judgment, the dismissal of such decisions as pandering to the sins of our culture says more about the one making the accusation than those being accused.
Warning our congregation of the danger of pastors and elders wielding our authority far beyond the boundaries of Scripture, I've said that, were I to try, I believe I could make a good biblical case for painting the walls of our sanctuary black. And some would be convinced.
We all need to guard against the abuse of authority that grows out of what, in his form for the ordination and installation of ruling elders, A. A. Hodge labels "clerical tyranny."
There may be some contexts in which robes communicate more of the dignity of the office than the officer, more of humility than pride, more of reverence than class, but in my experience those places are rare. And similarly with suits and ties. For every church I've been in where suits are worn out of reverence for the Lord's Day and worship, I've been in scores where suits were only part of a much larger claim of social class and status--and went with many other similar signatures visible everywhere.
No one escapes such temptations, least of all myself. But only a fool would cultivate ignorance of them. This is the reason I often remind others (and thereby myself) that "All an Englishman's preferences are a matter of principle."