History of Hat Etiquette

by Daniel Post Senning on May 15, 2013

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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginger May 15, 2013 at 7:28 am

Such an interesting history — I wasn’t aware how this tradition started, but I’m thankful you addressed this. I can’t tell you how often I’m in church and a young man fails to remove his cap. It’s distractingly disrespectful.

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Mariette's Back to Basics May 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Chapeau or hats off to you for this posting!
Sadly so many gestures of respect seem to be lost in today’s society. But I must admit that when doing consulting work in South America, hats (even caps) got always removed when entering a restaurant or office! Big plus for our southern neighbors on that.
Keep it your classic etiquette and everyday manners coming!
Mariette’s Back to Basics

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Mike March 20, 2014 at 11:40 am

I have always hated this particular rule, I’m a guy by the way. You see, I began balding at a young age, and was able to hide it more or less until high school when it began to get worse, so I started wearing hats. If baldness were my only problem I would have just shaved my head, however It was just the beginning of a medical condition the left my head obviously disfigured and scared. I wear hats to hide this, and to preserve a little dignity. As you can imagine, going through this as such a young age is quite crippling to ones self-esteem.

I try to wear hats tailored to each occasion, but still encounter people that take offense to it. I now avoid situations in which etiquette would require I remove my hat rather than go through the embarrassment of taking it off, and the awkward confrontation. I should not have to detail my personal medical history to every person that finds my hats disrespectful. Is there no etiquette rule about minding ones own business?

I am curious what advice you have for someone in my situation?

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Alicia March 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Yes you should take off your hats indoors. That said people should not comment or give your odd looks over your appearance.

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