Hats: The who, when, and where of hats

by EPI Staff on May 29, 2009

Q: I was taught that men do NOT wear any type of hat/ball cap inside at any time, unless they are a Rabbi or the head covering is a formal part of their uniform. Where did this rule of respect start? Why has it fallen by the wayside? Everywhere I go, men/boys/teens are wearing hats inside a building. I do NOT allow it in my house. All of the boys on my son’s ball team know that wearing a hat in my house is a sign of disrespect. And I tolerate NO disrespect. (I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to manners.)

Any background would help, please? I still feel odd not covering my head when I enter a church – I was raised my early years in the Brethren Church, and Grandmother always had a handkerchief for me to cover my head with.

A: Hats are not the essential article of clothing they once were but are still worn by both sexes for fashion and for function. Knowing when to remove a hat is as important as wearing the right hat for the occasion. If you were a medieval night who failed to remove his helmet or lift his visor and identify himself the consequences could be fatal. During the industrial revolution, as capital and class structure became more fluid, a hat could serve to identify social standing. While these standards are no longer set, there are still guide lines to follow that take into account today’s casual culture.  The following shows when it’s fine to wear a hat and when it’s not.

Men – Hats can be left on…

  • Outdoors
  • At athletic events
  • On public transportation
  • At religious services, as required
  • In public buildings (post office, airport, hotel/office lobbies)
  • On elevators

Men – Take hats off, including baseball caps…

  • In a home
  • Indoors at work, especially in an office
  • At mealtimes
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Women – Hats and nonbaseball caps can be left on…

  • In a home
  • At luncheons, weddings, garden parties
  • At religious services
  • In a theater, movie, auditorium, or other large gathering place if no view is blocked
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Women take hats off…

  • Indoors at work, especially in an office
  • Anywhere hats may block other’s view

Women remove baseball-style (unisex) caps…

  • In a home
  • Indoors at work
  • At mealtimes, at the table
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or play
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Marti May 29, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Hats? WHO TALKS ABOUT HATS?? This is so cool! I love hats! And I love knowing the ins-n-outs of wearing them!

Now about texting at the dinnertable…



Kirsten June 1, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Thanks so much for posting! I LOVE etiquette and recently bought a vintage hat…this answers all my questions!


Daniel Post Senning June 2, 2009 at 9:01 am

You are most welcome!


Art Jaffee October 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm

I love your column. It is the first thing I look for in any magazine I pick up. I am an Orthodox Jew and we are required to wear a head covering if we walk more than 6 feet indoors or outdoors. You don’t have to be a Rabbi. In my profession I go to many homes and a hat serves a dual purpose for me in protecting my head, and eyes while I perform my work which requires me to drill in walls, and go into crawl spaces in attics. Many work man wear hats for this reason. Thanks again for all you do. The world needs more kindness which good manners brings.


someone lee March 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

um i kinda think its weird to post something about hats. hats really?


Daniel Post Senning March 2, 2010 at 4:19 am

You might be surprised. More than one person really liked this post. Different strokes I guess.


Publius. June 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

I think the “in public buildings” bullet needs to be modified to be clear about the difference between public *space* in a public building, and a *private* space in a public building. While it does specifically note “lobbies” as a qualifier (and I would add corridors, staircases, atriums too) as space where men can wear hats without any concern, it should be clear that when one enters the personal space of a particular office occupied by a person – for example – a man’s hat should be removed, regardless of the public element to the rest of the building.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: