Hat etiquette for men can sometimes seem to represent a social minefield and it certainly
doesn’t help that the rules were, for the most part, written in a very different era. Consequently, it can be tricky to work out which parts are still relevant today.
What’s more, the rules of acceptable hat etiquette for women often don’t apply to men. In
short, it can be challenging to discern which rules you’re meant to follow and which may be safely ignored.
When is it considered proper to wear a hat? Conversely, when do you run the risk of
offending all present with your selection of headgear? Our guide to hat etiquette for
men will help you to make sense of the many bewildering rules.
The Dos and Don’ts of Men’s Hat Etiquette
Do Remove Your Hat for Christian Ceremonies
Even when outdoors, a gentleman should remove his hat at the passing of a wedding or funeral procession.
Do Remove Your Hat for the National Anthem
It is generally considered disrespectful not to remove one’s hat during the playing of any
country’s national anthem.
Do Remove Your Hat in the Presence of the National Flag
In the United States, at least, it is considered rude not to remove one’s hat if the national
flag passes – as during a parade, for example.
Do Remove Your Hat in a Hospital or Doctor’s Office
A doctor’s office and waiting room are both considered to be private spaces and, therefore, a man should remove his hat when entering these areas. However, if there’s a public
reception area separate from the waiting room, this is considered to be public space and one’s hat may be left in place. The entirety of a hospital’s grounds, however, is considered as private space and hats should be removed at all times on those premises.
Do Remove Your Hat for all Photographs
It is universally considered as bad etiquette not to remove one’s hat when being photographed. This is especially the case when being photographed in a formal group, such as often happens at a wedding or other social/work event.
Do Cover Your Head in Non-Christian Places of Worship
Unlike Christian churches, most other major religions expect males to cover their heads
when entering a place of worship. This broadly applies to mosques, synagogues, and Sikh
temples. However, bear in mind that the specific sort of headgear that a worshipper may wear is determined by each of these religions and your usual choice of hat might not meet the requirements.
Don’t Wear a Hat Indoors
According to the traditional rules of hat etiquette, a hat should not be worn inside any non-public area of a building, such as a lobby, elevator, corridor, or the concourse area of a station or airport. Therefore, a gentleman should always remove his hat when going into a private home, restaurant, coffee shop, theater, office, classroom, or library, etc.
Is it ever proper for a man to wear a hat indoors? In certain circumstances, yes. For example, in the case of hotels, the lobby area is considered to be public space and it is not
necessary to remove one’s hat when entering. However, individual rooms, guest lounges, and other resident-only areas such as swimming pools are classed as private spaces and, therefore, all hats must be removed upon entering.
Confusingly, although you might think that a hotel elevator would be considered as public
space, a hotel is effectively a form of “dwelling” and the elevator is deemed to be private space. Accordingly, a man should not wear a hat in a hotel elevator. Also note that, when removing your hat, it should be held in such a way that the internal lining is not visible, such as by holding it against one’s body.
Don’t Wear a Hat in Church
Although women may wear their hats inside a church, it is generally not acceptable for a
man to do so. Indeed, although women may often be seen wearing hats in other indoor situations, hat etiquette differs significantly for men and women. Hats off in church!
Don’t Wear a Hat in the Presence of a Lady
A hat should be removed if stopping to speak with a lady in a public space, such as on
the street. However, it is not necessary to remove one’s hat when merely greeting a lady on the street in passing. In this case, however, it is customary to tip or briefly doff the hat as a mark of respect when saying hello.
You should also remove your hat when a lady enters an elevator in any building that
would be classed as a residential dwelling (apartment building, hotel, etc.). However, if
the building would instead be considered public (for example an office building) then the
elevator, too, is classed as public space and the hat may be left on even when in the presence of a lady.
Don’t Remove a Hat When on Public Transportation
Although one might expect a train carriage or car to be classed as private space, when it
comes to transportation, hat etiquette follows rules laid down long before the advent of
mechanized forms of travel. In the early days of travel – by horse-drawn carriage, for
example – passengers would have been exposed to the elements and headwear was considered essential. So, regardless of the fact that most modern methods of transportation are covered, you may leave your hat in place.
All of this said, times do change along with many of our accepted social standards. The
rules of hat etiquette listed here have been around for centuries. Because our practices as a society have altered over time, some of these rules may now seem to be somewhat arbitrary and antiquated – if not entirely unnecessary.
Indeed, unlike some other rules of social etiquette, which may be based on sound
scientific reasoning – sneezing into a handkerchief, for example, rather than into one’s
hand – anyone who chooses to ignore hat etiquette today does not expose others to any
kind of danger. Today, of course, the only likely negative outcome of violating the rules of hat etiquette is the risk of offending the moral standards of those who still prefer to conduct themselves in accordance with traditional mores.
However, if you’re the sort of person who believes in doing things for good reason, rather
than simply because that’s what you’re meant to do, then the archaic rules of hat
etiquette might seem anachronistic or even pointless. After all, we no longer live in a world in which city streets are filled with the filth and pollution of the industrial age. As a result, any commonsense reasons there may once have been for removing one’s hat indoors – good hygiene standards, for example – are now largely irrelevant.
That being the case, if someone looks good in a hat, why insist that they take it off
indoors? Similarly, if a person feels cold, then why shouldn’t they be free to wear their
hat anywhere they wish without incurring the judgement of others? As for the habit of
removing one’s hat when in the presence of a “lady,” some may still find this custom
charming, while many others will likely view it as downright sexist.
These are all valid arguments and, so long as you’re not causing harm to others, you
should feel free to live your life as you see fit. This undoubtedly extends to how one chooses to dress and what one opts to wear on one’s head.
With that said, do keep in mind that some members of society still believe in the
importance of upholding traditional values and forms of social decorum; such people are likely to interpret any transgression of hat etiquette as a sign of disrespect. So, as illogical and unnecessary as much of hat etiquette may seem to many of us today, in the interests of social cohesion it can occasionally be better to just remain quiet and remove one’s hat when expected to do so.
We’ve provided this list of rules so that readers can become better informed about the
intricacies of hat etiquette. Ultimately, of course, each individual will need to decide for
himself whether or not to follow these guidelines.
Today much hat etiquette can seem to be rather antiquated and, inevitably, not all men will
wish to follow each rule to the letter. So long as you remain conscious of the fact that certain traditionalists will not approve of those who flout the rules, that seems entirely fine to us. Times change and traditions evolve. However, as with anything in life, it’s always better to make an informed decision.
Having read our guide to hat etiquette for men you are now in a position to choose for
yourself which elements of traditional hat etiquette you wish to follow, if any. If you’re
also on the lookout for a stylish hat – whether a classic model or a more modern look –
be sure to check out the wide range of men’s hats on our web store.
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The featured image is our incredibly striking Milan Hat in wheat straw.