Q: Can you tell me the reasoning behind a man taking his hat off, for example, when he meets someone or taking it off when in a restaurant? Today I noticed that neither are done and wonder if the rules of etiquette have changed on this.
A: Basically, hats are removed when going indoors as a measure of respect. Therefore, caps and hats should be removed when entering a home (which includes while eating at the table), when entering a place of religion, or when going to a restaurant (a sign of respect toward the other diners at the restaurant). When entering a store or other public area like a train station, the hat or cap may remain on. This applies to baseball caps worn by men or by women. Hats and caps are always removed for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.
Women’s hats that are part of their ensembles and therefore fashion accessories may be worn indoors, including at a restaurant table, etc. If they are large-brimmed, they should be removed in a theater or other place where they block the vision of the person behind. Aside from garden parties and formal teas where hats are often left on, women generally remove their hats when dining in someone’s home. The guidelines for the wearing of hats by men and women is still an important part of our manners today.
Hat traditions and manners may have originated in medieval times when knights lifted their face guard to show who they were, or in the days of the cowboys when a hat was lifted and removed to show there was no weapon hidden underneath. It became a sign of respect to others that has always remained.