Modern Hat Etiquette for Men and Women

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Modern Hat Etiquette for Men and Women

Why It’s Important to Understand Hat Etiquette

Once upon a time, hat etiquette not only governed the actions of every man and woman, but it dictated a level of respect that if blatantly disregarded, people’s livelihoods were at stake. Medieval knights that refused to remove their head covering were brutally punished, if not killed. During the 17th century Quakers were beaten, fined, imprisoned, or lost business because they were unwilling to remove their hats. Women that appeared in public without a hat in the 1920s and 30s were seen as committing an act of brazen impropriety. Social times have certainly changed, repercussions lack in severity, and as a result the rules that dictate when and where to wear hats are no longer common knowledge.

Modern day hat etiquette is as important as wearing the right hat for the right occasion. To help our current society and future generations uphold practices that many view as a sign of respect, we look to the etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute. Below is a list of places and occasions that detail when it's appropriate for women and men to wear or take off their hats. Each situation follows a general rule of thumb: wear your hat in public and take it off in private spaces. But there are exceptions. Please note that cancer patients are exempt from all hat wearing rules and can freely wear them at any time, in any place.  

Ladies Hat Etiquette First: You Have Fewer Rules

As socialite Emily Post once wrote, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” In this case it’s no matter what hat you wear. 

These words ring true as women sport their favorite fashionable accessory, the hat, to an array of occasions. With fewer restrictions on when women are required to remove their hats you’ll learn what basic awarenesses matter and how to showcase good manners. Whether you are wearing a straw fedora, a ruby pork pie or a wide brimmed sun hat to a fun festivity, keep these rules in mind...

Women’s fashion hats (aka not baseball caps) can be left on when in the following situations…

  • Any public space, such as outdoor parks, beaches, public transportation, lobbies, etc.
  • At events, such as athletic games (indoors or out), luncheons, weddings, or parties
  • Within someone’s home
  • Religious services, indoor performances, and movies (so as long as it doesn’t block someone else’s view) 
  • When the national anthem is being played
  • When the United States flag is showcased in a parade 

Women must take their fashion hats off when..

  • It blocks someone’s view, as noted above 
  • You are indoors at work

“I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it’s a conversation piece.” Famous words by the 1940s American gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Let’s make sure those conversation pieces are positive! 

Men’s Hat Etiquette: Sorry Guys You Have More Stipulations

“Have you noticed when you wear a hat for a long time, it feels like it’s not there anymore? And then when you take it off it feels like it’s still there?” - Comedian George Carlin

Let’s keep Carlin’s words in mind and disregard how bad of a hair day you may actually be having as we look at the various situations in which guys are expected to remove their hats. General guidelines for wearing your bowler, cowboy, topper, or any other hat are as follows:

Men’s hats (including baseball caps) can be left on in the following situations…

  • Any public space, such as outdoor parks, beaches, public transportation, lobbies, etc.
  • At events, such as athletic games (indoors or out), luncheons, weddings, or parties
  • In public buildings such as post offices, airports, and elevators

Men must take their hats off when...

  • You are in someone’s home
  • Mealtimes whereby you are seated a table, especially restaurants and coffee shops
  • While being introduced to someone new (indoors or out unless it’s casual and freezing outside)
  • You are indoors at work, especially an office unless its is required for the job
  • Religious services, unless a hat or head covering is required
  • At indoor performances and movies 
  • In public buildings, such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall
  • When the national anthem is being played
  • When the United States flag is showcased in a parade 

The tradition of being a gentleman dates back further than the codes of conduct written by Benjamin Franklin or George Washington, but they hold just as much relevance when you’re looking to impress. When it comes to your hat, make sure you get the raise, the girl’s number, the fatherly approval, and the social respect from applying cavalier actions.

Unisex Hat Etiquette: For Everyone to Keep in Mind

Women’s fashion and dress hats are perceived slightly differently than baseball caps. The casual nature of wearing a team or trucker hat mimics the same rules given to men. So whether you identify as a woman or man, please keep the following situations in mind when it comes to wearing your baseball cap. 

You must take your baseball cap off when...

  • You are in someone’s home
  • Mealtimes whereby you are seated a table, especially restaurants and coffee shops
  • While being introduced to someone new (indoors or out unless it’s casual and freezing outside)
  • You are indoors at work, especially an office unless its is required for the job
  • Religious services, unless a hat or head covering is required
  • At indoor performances and movies 
  • In public buildings such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall
  • When the national anthem is being played
  • When the United States flag is showcased in a parade 

Modern Hat Etiquette

Hats will always be a fashionable and functional accessory worth utilizing. Knowing what, when, and where to wear the right hat is just as important as knowing when to remove it. Have some manners. Be sensitive to your public or private surroundings. Utilize your intuition if you ever have any doubts. Apply these guidelines for proper hat etiquette. When you are doing all of these things you and your hat are sure to have both style and class.