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​Is There Etiquette For Wearing a Hat?

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What is hat etiquette? Not a simple answer. Hat etiquette as it turns out can be a tricky topic.

There’s no other item of clothing that has as many rules that are often complicated and today, rarely followed. Do you remove a hat in an elevator, or, just sometimes? Men take them off for the National Anthem, but women don't.

Most hat etiquette rules are unknown to anyone who wasn’t born before Jimi Hendrix was rocking the  Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock. Because of this, more casual rules are followed today (if any at all), which can be appalling to some.

Largely which hat etiquette you follow, if any, will depend on whether or not you conform to modern perspectives, or, practice a more traditional way of dress and attitude. In either case, there are basic rules that everyone should think of and other rules that some may think old fashion or stuffy.

Hat style will often dictate etiquette and, often, hat trends defy the norm of what some may think as an appropriate style. Take the  Derby hats for example. It wasn’t too long ago that anyone under the age 70 generally wasn’t interested in wearing this classic British staple. Yet, many younger men and women are turning to the derby hat and pulling it off nicely. When wearing a derby, some of the stuffier hat etiquette rules - which some hat wearers find unnecessary – suddenly become more appropriate.

Removing your hat indoors is a good example; most  Baseball Ball Caps are worn inside and rarely removed. When wearing a formal hat, like a derby, removing your hat indoors becomes more appropriate, if not for etiquette’s sake, but to preserve the style that a derby hat shows.

Emily Post has a nice set of rules that seem to fall somewhere in between the hard-line rules and the “wear your hat anywhere, anytime” attitude. You can find Emily Post’s  Emily Post Complete Hat Etiquette.

Here are some of the more broadly applicable suggestions, even from a more modern perspective:

Keep your hat on …

  • Outdoors or any athletic event
  • When riding public transportation
  • Public buildings or lobbies
  • On elevators

Remove your hat off (including baseball caps) ...

  • At a formal dinner, especially at someone’s home (ball caps can look kind of out of place if you’re at a formal dinner)
  • Any place where respect should be shown (like a house of worship)
  • At a movie or any indoor performance (I’m sure you’ve been bugged when you can’t see the performance because someone has a hat on)
  • During the National Anthem or if the flag is passing by (the respect thing again)

In reality, your personal style and persona dictate what, if any, hat etiquette you’ll follow. Also, the style of the hat you're wearing needs to drive your actions as well. Just keep in mind that if respect is required, or, if your hat might bother someone or obstruct their view, it’s probably best to just take your hat off.

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