The Etiquette of Wearing a Hat

Spring is upon us, Easter is coming soon, and baseball season is about to begin here in the U.S.  It is the time of year many people wear all sorts of hats, until winter hats are again needed. Actually, this topic has been on my mind for months, waiting for just the right month to do it, and here it is!

Indoors: So… how can I say this nicely without yelling in all capital letters: No man or woman, young or old, should ever, ever, ever, ever wear a sports hat — especially a baseball cap—indoors. Not in restaurants, in someone’s home, at the dining table, at church, a funeral, in a classroom, in a museum, at a movie or performance theatre… on and on. There is absolutely no purpose to keeping your hat on… not even when you are having a bad hair day or need to cover up a bald spot on your head.  It’s all about when it’s proper or not proper to wear a hat.  It’s purely out of laziness and a false sense of looking cool and in fashion… not! There is equally nothing cool about wearing your baseball cap backwards… again especially indoors.

Except In Public Places: You may wear a hat indoors (yeh… even a baseball cap if you absolutely must) in public buildings, such as airports, public lobbies, and crowded public elevators. However, historically a gentleman will always remove his hat when a lady enters or is in the same elevator. We don’t see this much anymore. When in an apartment building, even though somewhat public, gentlemen will take off their hats while in the company of ladies… another dying art.

[SIDE BAR:  A foreign visitor kept seeing Americans wearing their baseball caps indoors, and at times backwards. He determined this style indicated a direct correlation to the wearer’s apparent I.Q (intelligence quotient). Wearing a baseball cap indoors meant an I.Q. was reduced by 50%. Wearing the cap backwards meant an I.Q. was reduced by another 50%... so what’s left? These findings make total sense to me.]

During a Pledge or National Anthem: Another major peeve of mine is how men and women don’t take off their hats and caps during the playing of a national anthem. Regardless of which country’s anthem is played, hats must come off, period.  Parents… please train your kids!

During a Prayer at a Ceremony or Event: Display your respect and take off your hat.

In Places of Worship: Some places of worship require head coverings for both men and women, such as Muslim mosques and Sikh temples. Do your research or ask someone before entering such places of worship. Women should always pack one large scarf and one long skirt when traveling internationally for such a need to cover your head. I sure needed them in both Mexico and Greece.

At a Church: Historically churches required women to wear hats or scarves. Now, it is not as required. However, some churches encourage women to wear hats, and in some places it has become quite a lovely display across the entire sanctuary. It is considered disrespectful for men to wear hats in a Christian church.

At a Jewish Synagogue or Temple: Men are required to cover their heads with a “yarmulke,” a small round skullcap, also called a “kippah,” meaning dome or cupola. There is great symbolism and deep meaning behind wearing a yarmulke. Observant men wear theirs during all waking hours, except when bathing and swimming. Doing so bears witness to their faith. It’s a constant reminder of their humility before God and strong belief in something greater than themselves.

How to Take off a Hat: When taking off your hat, hold it so only the outside of the hat shows, not the inside and lining. Hold it in your right hand across your chest and heart, or place it on your seat while standing tall and respectfully.

Exceptions

People in Uniform: People in the military, Boy Scouts, police and people in other uniformed organizations keep their hats on during “full dress.” Many other interesting regulations about hat wearing in the military exist, so hat etiquette is a required course in the military.

Women’s Fashion Hats: Traditionally, women wearing fashion hats are not required to take them off. That said, unless they are small and tight around the head, they too should be removed when at a dining table or in a theatre, sporting event, or other places where they may hamper someone’s view or be disruptive to others. Large hats are generally for the outdoors, not indoors. Think hat civility!

Question of the month: Have you ever been the subject of or a witness to someone being disrespectful or rude by wearing their hat inappropriately? If so, I’d love to hear from you.  Enter your comments and questions below for me to reply.

 

Happy Practicing!


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234 Responses to “The Etiquette of Wearing a Hat”

  1. Syndi Seid says:

    Mike: You are a bit mixing apples and oranges in the analogy about equal pay for men and women as being the reason you would not take off your hat or open a door for a woman. By today’s more modern standards taking off your hat and opening a door for someone has nothing to do with being sexist. It’s more about choosing to show someone else a little kindness and courtesy. As a woman, I have often opened doors for men and women and I have taken off my hat when indoors. I have stood up from a seat on a bus to give it to an elderly man or woman. Showing respect and courtesy is showing you care about someone else more than yourself is truly the point.

  2. Mike says:

    Fair enough! I too do not hesitate to give up my seat to anyone I feel could benefit from sitting more than myself, on a bus, especially (as in almost always) a crowded airport tram or waiting area.

    I’ve always held entry doors open for other people coming in behind me (those that do not take the door from me as they pass through, and instead, just keep walking with their hands at their side as if I were their personal doorman truly irk me to the point of wishing I’d let it hit them in the first place, but most are polite and say thank you as they take the door).

    Conversely, I also would find it very awkward to open a car door for a female coworker, I feel that action could easily be miss-read and also find what’s socially acceptable in the work place is good practice in general society. I completely embrace the idea of empowered women, with the power to open their own car doors.

  3. Mike says:

    Richard’s comment above is interesting, as not wearing a hat while dinning shows a concern for not wanting to be rude, but yet, would hand said hat to the “waitress” making it that person’s problem to deal with.

    Now days, they are called servers, not personal coat-check girls. They bring you food, to treat them as if they should be responsible for the clothing you wish to discard it rude, and negates the principles of etiquette you were attempting to uphold. The server is there for your dining experience, to use your position as a customer for services outside their job title is rude.

    If there is a hostess at this eatery, then ASKING POLITELY of the hostess if they have a place you could shelve your hat while dining would be acceptable, if the answer is “no” then hold your hat, wear your hat, or go to another establishment, but do NOT expect anyone, or put anyone in the position of, having to touch your hat! it’s a personal item, and without knowing their daily grooming routine, I would not want to touch another’s hat, and would not assume someone would want to touch mine.

    Reading these comments, it truly believe we need updated rules of etiquette, as some rules now seem sexiest and rude in of themselves

  4. Richard says:

           I’ve been shot down!
    Mike is right. My thinking in giving my hat to a waitress was based on the idea that because the restaurant didn’t provide a hat-check or even a post to hang it on makes it’s care their problem to deal with. But since hats are rarely worn any more, I can see that a restaurant has no obligation to provide for the hat’s care and it’s still my problem?
    Thanks, Mike.

  5. Mike says:

    Or you could set it in the chair beside you, leave it in your vehicle upon entering the establishment, or, since you’re going out to dine and taking it off anyway, simply not wear one.

    I waited tables when I was much younger, and know I would prefer not to be made the bearer of responsibility for another’s garments, simply because I’m charged with bringing them food.

    Thanks

  6. Ron says:

    Your comments about the military are in error.
    Military in uniform (Dress or otherwise) will NOT wear any headgear indoors unless they are “under arms” on in a ceremonial position (Color Guard).
    This has not changed in many years.
    As with Scouts, should be similar, but depending on where you are and their unit, rules may differ. Most have no clue.

  7. JJ says:

    Lord knows we need a renewed level of respect and politeness in this world. However, the extremity of the “rules” in this blog are slightly if not grossly overstated; particularly the undertone of a baseball cap somehow being more offensive than any other type of hat.

    There are certainly times and places to remove ones hat: national anthems, formal affairs, religious locations, nice restaurants…etc. However, the socially acceptable rules aren’t quite as simplistic as the author would have you believe. Times, social views, and customs, do change and in this case have done so.

    I have been in the military, I am an Eagle Scout, I am highly educated (Masters of Finance), and yet I wouldn’t worry about, or even expect to, offend anyone by wearing my hat (lord forbid a baseball cap at that) while eating at an informal location (e.g., McDonalds, Chipotle, In-N-Out..etc). Wearing a hat would also not be offensive or disrespectful when walking into my buddies home (who probably has a hat on also), or even at the movie theater (particularly as long as it WAS a baseball cap as it does not obstruct the view of those behind). Moreover, 99% of those under 45, perhaps even 50, and a large number of even those under 65, would not take any offense, or probably even notice, in any of these situations. In fact many of them would be doing the same or would not hesitate to do the same on another day.

    To say customs of respect and acceptability don’t evolve would be synonymous with saying women should not be allowed to vote, whites and blacks should still be segregated and certainly not have a mixed relationship, and women should follow behind their men and not speak unless spoken to in mixed company…etc., all in the name of respect and social acceptability.

    So, in the name of renewed respect and etiquette let us concern ourselves with that which really matters, like how we speak to and actually treat one another, as opposed to outdated gestures of flourishment.

    Don’t get me wrong, as I said before, it is certainly time for a renewed level of respect and etiquette in this world. However, let us focus on the “please(s)”, “thank you(s)”, “how do you do(s)”, “may I help you with that(s)”, “after you(s)”, “yes & no sir(s) and mam(s)”…etc.; as well as pulling our heads and faces out of our phones and devices to actually interact with one another once again, and not worry about something that doesn’t affect you directly like the color of another’s skin, ones sexual orientation, and especially not whether or not one is wearing a hat in a informal setting.

  8. Sean says:

    It’s a piece of cloth on your head. It makes impressions on people. It creates a massive comment list on a random page on the internet… but it’s more than that. You will rarely see me without a hat. I do not ask others to remove clothing or make up or earrings or anything else from their body. There is no actual harm caused by wearing a hat in front of someone who doesn’t like hats. And if I went around life doing all I could not to offend people I would have to lock myself down in my house.

    Sorry, my comment was more towards the other comments, rather than the article. I don’t agree with your points – but I respected your opinion and read it with the best subjectivity I could :) Thank you for creating a strong discussion on hats.

  9. Augie says:

    This rule is stupid. I’ve even read where it’s okay for women to wear a hat at the table but not for a man. Wow, no bias there.

    More importantly, please explain WHY it’s rude for a guy to wear a hat at the table? Is it because of religious reasons, political, socioeconomic, etc.? Saying “Because that’s the way it is”, or “Because etiquette says so” doesn’t fly. My parents grew up in an age when minorities had to sit at the back of a bus or gays weren’t allowed to marry because “that’s the way it’s done”. Prescribing a rule upon someone where you can’t back it up with a legitimate reason, or even worse, singling out one gender vs. another is idiotic.

  10. Syndi Seid says:

    Augie: You and others have missed the point of the article. It is not saying anyone is “never” to wear hats indoors. It’s more about what type of hat is to be worn. Historically men only wore outdoor head coverings which in this instance makes them inappropriate to wear indoors. Again, historically women wore fashion hats to accompany the entire outfit she is wearing. In this century, most women do not wear fashion hats and men do have appropriate indoor hats. Also, both men and women often must wear hats indoors for religious and medical reasons. The bottom-line to the article is how baseball caps, fedoras, and other “outdoor” type hats should not be worn indoor and for every reader to consider doing this out of respect and courtesy. Beyond this, it is up to the individual to choose how s/he wants to behave and to be perceived in society… which we call etiquette.

  11. Daniel says:

    Val, there are 3 wars being waged in the USA right now. Pretty much everything else you said is agreeable, but i gotta correct you on this even though it has very little to do with the subject at hand. The military has its own relation on hat wearing anyhow, and anyone disrespectful enough to correct a serviceman without being in the chain of command somewhere is just ignorant beyond belief. Hats are personal accessories and exhibit a person’s personality, how that’s interpreted by anyone else is their problem.

  12. Syndi Seid says:

    Daniel: I did not find Val’s comments to which you were responding. This message is to address the issue about hats exhibiting a person’s personality. Yes it is. However, if the hat the person is wearing was designed and intended for outdoor use, then the person should take it off while indoors… whether a man or woman and whether it is considered fashionable by the individual person. Being in “fashion” does not make it right.

  13. Augie says:

    From the research I’ve read, hats were taken off in the 19th century b/c they were used to minimize the dirt/dust that would get into a person’s hair. This was common in large cities where coal dust was prevalent and outside from doing farm work, living in the West, etc. The last thing you wanted was to sit down at the dinner table and get dirt/dust in your mashed taters.

    Flash forward 150 years and this isn’t an issue any more. Hats such as ball caps, beanies, etc. are worn as a sense of fashion, preference, fan loyalty, etc. It’s not an indoor/outdoor issue. To ask someone to take their hat off at the table b/c of some outdated sense of “etiquette” is idiocy.

  14. Lol says:

    is this article a satire or something? this article aggravates me… it’s like yall hate people to have some creativity. Who cares if someone wears there hat crooked or backwards…

  15. Syndi Seid says:

    Lol: Yes, we do live in a country where as long as something is not against the law you may do as you please. This article was merely pointing out subtleties to readers—who may not be as aware—so they have a choice of adhering to time-honored etiquette, or not. It is all up to the individual to make those choices and when they do, to understand the potential positive or negative consequences.

  16. Syndi Seid says:

    Lol: Yes, we do live in a country where as long as something is not against the law you may do as you please. This article was merely pointing out subtleties to readers—who may not be as aware—so they have a choice of adhering to time-honored etiquette, or not. It is all up to the individual to make those choices and when they do, to understand the potential positive or adverse consequences.

  17. Syndi Seid says:

    Lol: We do live in a country where it citizens are free to do as they please… as long as it isn’t against the law. The article is merely to share a perspective to consider. Thereafter the choice is yours whether you want to agree and do as the article describes, or not, and be fully informed of any consequences when making the wrong choice.

  18. Sylvia bailey says:

    My daughter is seeing a man that she says is a true cowboy. I am not sure what that means. He was going to join the entire family (none of us had met him) on Christmas Day. When we entered my daughters home he was sitting on the couch with a cowboy hat (large) on. I did not say anything but I could not believe he kept hi hat on all day except when we ate. Your thoughts?

  19. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Sylvia: I was pleased to read the man did take his hat off during dinner. Did he put his hat back on after dinner?… just curious. In our home it is a guideline not one wear outdoor hats indoors… especially a cowboy hat which was invented for outdoor wearing. That said, when I am in someone else’s home, it is not up to me to say anything… after all it’s their home. From this perspective you did well. People are allowed to do whatever they choose in their own home. The most—if you are so compelled—is to mention this to your daughter, because it was in her home this took place. Historically, good and bad cowboys were always depicted as having the best manners, by always removing their hats in the company of ladies and in someone’s home. The only time I remember cowboys kept their hats on was a saloon. I would suggest the cowboy in your daughter’s life watch a few old TV shows, such as “Bonanza” and “The Big Valley” for pointers on cowboy manners. Good luck!

  20. joe d. says:

    I have a condition called alopecia areata and I wear a hat to cover up a big bald spot in the back of my head. To me it’s embarrassing . Would this be OK for me to wear a hat ?

  21. Syndi Seid says:

    Joe: Absolutely, it’s fine for you to wear a hat indoors or out. The key is wearing a hat that is appropriate to the place and environment you are in. The emphasis to this article was merely to point out certain hats are meant for outdoor wearing and should not be worn indoors. Have fun finding hats you will enjoy wearing at all times. In fact have fun having one or more custom hats made just for you!

  22. Brent Nelsen says:

    Well I am posting some insight to my original question I posted a couple of years ago. First, let me say this is one of the most controversial blogs I have been involved in.

    Disclaimer: Because of the large amount of posts i will honestly say i have not read them all so i apologize if i am repeating an earlier post.

    My original question that got me involved in this discussion was, Why is it improper or disrespectful to wear a hat inside?

    I was speaking with a gentleman in the men’s fashion industry and i asked him that question. He basically said that a lot of our tradition comes from the English since our country was first developed by mostly English. It was disrespectful to be in the presence of the King wearing a hat. That’s it.

    So unless there is a King present, I will probably still wear a hat indoors at times. Well, even if a King is present…

  23. Annette Andrews says:

    My question is about dress hats with a tag inside. Does the hat go on with the tag to the back of the head? Or do you wear it any way you’d like? Especially those with feathers or a design where does that go? Just wondering….I love hats and want to make sure I’m wearing them right.

  24. Syndi Seid says:

    Annette: To my knowledge labels are generally worn on the back and is also an indicator which is the backside. All hats are designed and intended to be worn a specific way; however and of course the wearer may choose to wear it any way they choose. When wearing feathers and designs, my best suggestion is to ask the sales person who sold you the hat how to best wear the hat. Most designers and manufacturers will show sales staff how to then show customers the best way to wear their hats. Since you like hats—and I admit I rarely wear them—you may want to bring your hats into a millinery store to have them show and educate you about hats and hat wearing. They are the experts.

  25. Bob Rollins says:

    Wait! If your Minnie Pearl you leave the tag hanging out! However, a woman who buys a hat should know which end is the front and which is the back. the Tag should have nothing to do with it. Some tags are on the right or left so It”s better to identify the front and back before you buy it.

  26. Giro says:

    Who invented that “hat off” rule? How did it started?

  27. Stephanie says:

    I think people just don’t know what the etiquette is, not intentionally being an ass by being rebellious. Poor parenting, teaching, or society in general. I was always taught a woman may always wear a hat, regardless of situation and it is rude to ask her to remove it. Apparently not the case.

  28. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Bob Rollins: Thank you for the post. I agree if “you’re” Minnie Pearl you always leave the tag out which was a part of her “character image.” Also, a person should always ask a salesperson how a hat should be worn… according to the original designer. Yet also in today’s society many people go against norm and wear items according to their own sense of style and image… as you choose to defy conventional norm… yet it’s all about when to do something and when not to do it, depending on where you are.

  29. Kate says:

    Stephanie,

    What you were taught is correct if the lady in question is wearing a lady’s dress hat. Baseball caps and the like were were designed for men. As a result, men’s rules apply. Now, let’s say you decide to show up at a sporting event like Royal Ascot or Wimbledon in an elegant day or summer dress complete with a dress hat, nobody in her/his right mind would take offence. On the contrary, you would not be permitted to enter the Royal enclosure without a hat. The same rule applies for gentlemen, except that they wear a top hat, which comes off when they enter a building or meet a member of the Royal family. Troublemakers, including dress code violators, are taken away by security.

    P.S. I think you are quite correct in your assessment that most people just don’t know any better. Those who defy etiquette and manners deliberately are in the minority and should be ignored.

  30. Jim B says:

    I was recently attended a wedding. For the trip there, for the part outside, I word my hat. I took it off for the indoor wedding ceremony (Boat House in Central Park, NYC). Back outside, I wore the hat. We went back inside for dinner, there were no empty chairs to place it on, the waitstaff had no place to put it, so I wore it. I received multiple compliments on the hat, but also comments from two people because I was wearing the hat indoors. In NOLA, where I purchased the hat, it was not unusual to see people wear hats inside in restaurants.
    This wasn’t a cap, it’s an expensive Stetson straw hat. Fashionably, it went with the suit. What should I have done with the hat?

  31. Frank says:

    I don’t believe all hat etiquette should be followed unless there is a practical reason out of consideration.

    When a man walks with a girl on a sidewalk, the man is supposed to walk between the woman and the road. This rule has a practical basis in consideration for the woman. In case a car swerves off the road, the man will get hit instead of the woman. So, this rule makes sense…out of courtesy.

    But hat etiquette is not based on any practical courtesy. Removing a hat has NO PRACTICAL benefit in being courteous or considerate to anybody. These rules are only based on only what has become a custom.

    For this reason, I think men should be able to wear hats whenever they want. And there is no logical reason for anybody to be offended by a hat unless it smells like shit.

  32. Syndi Seid says:

    Dear Jim B: Thank you for writing. You appeared to have learned that regardless of what other people may do wherever you are, it’s not something you necessarily have to follow… as in the case of folks in your area typically wearing hats indoors.

    I understand the dilemma and commend you for all the effort you took to “not” wear a hat indoors. Among the choices for the future include… and depending on your own preferences: Place the hat under your own chair for safety from getting crushed by others. If you don’t prefer it being on the floor, bring a handkerchief/cloth to lay on the floor first; Locate a place in the room to place it safely… can’t imagine the boat house didn’t have a coat closet or hook someplace; or request the waitstaff person take the hat to keep it safe. The key is not to place it at the center of the table and as you learned… not to wear it. Good luck!

  33. Dustin says:

    You guys realize when you say “poor parenting” is offensive right?? This entire threat is a matter of opinion, and every culture has different traditions. There might be a civilization there it’s customary to take your shoes off in any indoor areas and they find it “offensive” that your wearing your dress shoes in the church, wedding, restaurant, or whatever. Non of you are right and non of you are wrong. It’s up to the person visiting your house to ascertain what your cultural rules are and do those out of respect. If you come to my house please leave your hats on, but do please take those dirty shoes off before you track animal fecal matter all over my lovely home… And whatever else your shoes pick up in public restrooms.

  34. Dustin says:

    You guys realize when you say “poor parenting” is offensive right?? This entire thread is a matter of opinion, and every culture has different traditions. There might be a civilization there it’s customary to take your shoes off in any indoor areas and they find it “offensive” that your wearing your dress shoes in the church, wedding, restaurant, or whatever. Non of you are right and non of you are wrong. It’s up to the person visiting your house to ascertain what your cultural rules are and do those out of respect. If you come to my house please leave your hats on, but do please take those dirty shoes off before you track animal fecal matter all over my lovely home… And whatever else your shoes pick up in public restrooms.

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