While the hey-day of the hat seems to have gone from our daily lives, there are many people who still wear hats (e.g. baseball caps, beanies, fedoras, trilby’s etc.) there are many types and styles to be enjoyed.
However, to truly enjoy wearing a hat it’s good to know and use the correct etiquette – you’ll be amazed at how much people will notice your manners. Your good hat etiquette, frequently ignored by others, will demonstrate your warm and welcoming uniqueness.
The baseball cap is probably the most common hat worn by men today and often receives a bad press (by “style” experts) for being the ultimate casual head covering (and sometimes denigrated for the general decline in hat etiquette). If you wear a baseball cap this is the opportunity to raise your and its profile by applying correct hat etiquette.
The first two pieces of hat etiquette
(touching the brim and raising the hat – see below), is said to come from
medieval times. Knights in full armor, when meeting each other, would lift
their helmet visors, enabling them to identify each other (as a friend or
enemy). Lifting their visor in this way proved to be a sign of respect (and
friendship - if a friend), which promulgated itself to the etiquette of hats.
The salute, in the uniformed branches of the military, is said to share this direct origin also. A salute is given to show respect for the position held by the person (of superior rank) and not necessarily for the person! So, in parallel, a gentleman applies hat etiquette to all, regardless of how they may feel about the individual.
At about 5 paces away, bring your right hand up to touch (a light grasp between your thumb and first finger) the brim of your hat (just like a salute) – this is a sign of friendship and respect. If the hat is brimless then just touching the hat, still like a salute, is suitable. You may still go on to shake hands after touching your hat.
This is used exclusively for meeting male
acquaintances or friends, or male friends of friends.
1. Passing a male acquaintance or friend in public.
If you stop and talk, touch your hat again, at your parting.
2. Walking with a male or female in public, when they pass a male friend of theirs.
As in no.1 above, if they stop and talk, touch your hat again, at your parting.
3. When you interrupt an unknown male in public.
This may be in order for them to perform a service for you (e.g. to ask for directions, purchase something from them etc.). In these circumstances you start the conversation with a suitable salutation (e.g. “Good morning…”, “Excuse me…”, “Forgive me…” etc.), whilst touching your brim. At the end of this interaction conclude with a suitable ending (e.g. “Thank you”.) and touch your brim accordingly.
Raising your hat to males can be considered an insult, as it may be inferred that you are “saying” you consider them to be a female. Please note the exception to this is when you meet a male: in authority (e.g. policeman), of note (e.g. Clergyman), or of superior position to yourself (e.g. a senior employee, a politician etc.) – see raising your hat, below.
As you reach the person or people in question, take hold of your hat (by the brim for baseball caps and by the crown for all other hats). Raise your hat (by about a palms distance), slightly in front of your head and slightly tilted forward and look at the person you are greeting. This action of “tilting” ensures the interior of the hat is not shown, as this is considered rude – no doubt due to the possibility of sweat marks, hair, grime, dirt etc. being on display.
This is generally used for meeting females in public but there are also
other situations your hat is to be lifted:
1. When passing a female friend in public.
However, if you stop and chat you remove your hat - see removing your hat below.
2. When with a male or female friend in public and they pass a female friend.
However, if they stop and chat you remove your hat - see removing your hat below.
3. When you perform a service to a female.
For example: giving up your seat for them, retrieving a dropped item of theirs etc. - and they thank you – you reply: “you’re welcome” (or similar) and raise your hat.
4. When you interrupt an unknown female in public.
In order for them to perform a service for you (e.g. to ask for directions, purchase something from them etc.). In these circumstances you start the conversation with a suitable salutation (e.g. “Good morning…”, “Excuse me…”, “Forgive me...” etc.), whilst raising your hat. At the end of this interaction conclude with a suitable ending (e.g. “Thank you”.) and raise your hat accordingly.
5. When you do something, which requires your apology.
For example: accidently bumping into someone, treading on someone’s foot etc. In these circumstances: you give your apology and raise your hat accordingly – this can be to a female (always) or a male (at your discretion – e.g. if a male friend you might touch your brim only, if an elderly male you might raise your hat etc. - you decide the level of respect to be shown to the male, as appropriate to the circumstances).
6. When passing a male in a position of authority, of note or of superior position.
For example: authority (e.g. policeman, member of the military in uniform etc.), of note (e.g. Clergyman), or of superior position to yourself (e.g. a senior employee, a politician etc.). Please note, they may not return this etiquette, due to existing restrictions e.g. people in uniform have specific rules as to when they may remove their headgear or “cover”.
7. Catholic men raise their hats when passing a Catholic Church.
This is in reverence and worship to the consecrated body (wafer) and blood (wine) – of Jesus Christ – held inside the Church.
Raising your hat can
be known as “Tipping your Hat”, due to the action of “Tipping” your hat forward
slightly as raising it. It can also be known as “Doffing your Hat”, which is a
colloquialism from British Middle English for “Doffen” – meaning: “to do off”
(or “to take off” in modern English).
The earliest reference, we have found to “doffing” one’s cap, is in: The Book of The Courtier by Baldassare from 1507. Although not from medieval times per se it is shortly after the end of this period, indicating it could originate from this time or earlier still!
The origin of the removal of one’s hat in certain circumstances is unknown. However, there is many a pointer towards medieval times. Knights would remove their helmet (when wearing armor) as a sign of respect, trust and loyalty (as this made them extremely vulnerable) when in the presence of a monarch. The removal of their helmet also extended to Church (as a display of safety in the sanctuary of the Church) and in the presence of a Lady. It was also a practical necessity to remove the helmet for eating!
Simply put, this is an extension of raising your hat (see above). Lift your hat off your head by the brim (baseball caps) or by the crown (all other hats) and bring it down in front of your body – keeping the interior of the hat pointing back towards your body. If you do this with your left hand – excellent, if with your right hand then transfer it to your left hand to hold (whilst still keeping the interior of the hat towards your body) so your right is now free to shake hands as necessary.
Given the above history you can easily guess the removal of your hat
is for when in the presence of a female, in church, when eating and before a
nation’s leader(s), flag or other patriotic circumstance. However, modern
etiquette has extended this further to include other circumstances.
1. When meeting a female you know and you stop to chat.
If it is raining, sunny or cold, the lady should tell you it’s OK to replace your hat but do not do so unless indicated to by her. If you both decide to walk together, whilst continuing to talk etc. then you may replace you hat, on your own cognizance (without any reference back to the lady).
2. When walking with a male or female friend and they stop to chat to a female friend.
As in No. 1 above, replace your hat if indicated to do so by the female(s) or if you join as a group and continue walking together.
3. When talking with a male in a position of authority, of note or of superior position.
For example: in authority (e.g. policeman, member of the military in uniform etc.), of note (e.g. Clergyman), or of superior position to yourself (e.g. a senior employee, a politician etc.). Please note, they may not return this etiquette, due to existing restrictions e.g. people in uniform have specific rules as to when they may remove their headgear or “cover”.
4. National Respect.
When the USA flag is hoisted or at the passing of the flag (“colors”) in parades, male citizens remove their hats (with their right hand), stand to attention and hold the hat at the left shoulder, so the hand is over the heart - this is outlined in the U.S. Flag Code. Even if you are not a U.S. citizen (or another flag is being hoisted or passed) we believe it is a great sign of respect to remove your headdress accordingly.
Whilst at a funeral men remove their hats in church, when the coffin is in procession and at the graveside. Men also stand still and remove their hats when in the presence of a funeral procession. This is a sign of respect to the deceased and those mourning the deceased.
It is also good etiquette and a sign of deep respect to remove one’s hat when in conversation and the subject is, or becomes, about a beloved departed person.
6. Religious Festivals.
When a Catholic procession passes and there is a crucifix displayed, remove your hat. A failure to do so back in the 16th Century could result in the death penalty; this demonstrates the strength of feeling regarding this, up until about 250 years ago!
It is also important to remove your hat during prayers at an outdoor religious festival/event.
Simply put, remove your hat whilst sitting down to eat and make sure you do not put your hat on the table. As mentioned previously this originates from the practical requirement of armored knights from medieval times. However, the hat is outdoor attire and is subject to collecting dirt and debris and, whilst especially true during the height of industrialization in the 18 and 1900’s, still holds true today.
8. Going Indoors.
Broadly speaking this is for all buildings: the basis for this being a hat offers practical protection from the elements (e.g. sun, cold, rain etc.); and thus is not necessary indoors. Removing your hat is especially true for entering the following buildings:
General: Domestic residences (including your own), offices, theaters (including movies), concerts, museums, libraries etc.
Church: Generally, this is as a sign of reverence and respect. However there are exceptions: people in uniform (e.g. police, military, clergy etc.) who have specific rules as to when and where they remove their headdress; and people with religious restrictions (e.g. Sikhs and their turbans, Jewish and their yarmulke or skull cap etc.).
Court of Law: It maybe considered Contempt of Court by the Judge if you wear a hat in Court. While the court bailiff or judge may remind/warn you, if you continue to keep your hat on without good reason, this will result in a fine and/or imprisonment!
Elevators: An elevator is suggestive of a room so therefore you remove your hat in an elevator. However, if the elevator is crowded, it is acceptable to keep your hat on because (due to lack of space and the possibility of the hat being crushed) this is the best place for it!
Restaurants: It is deemed by some as acceptable to wear your hat at the lunch counter of a diner or café – this maybe due to the lack of places to put your hat. However, we believe it is best to simply remove your hat in all restaurants, of any description or level including both indoors and outdoors. Also see Eating above.
Seating: If you are indoors and you sit down, then you remove your hat.
(a) When a man is “passing through” a public building he does not remove his hat e.g. train & bus stations, airports etc.
(b) In public places where he cannot sit e.g. shops, post offices, markets etc.
(c) Foyers and corridors of public buildings e.g. offices, hotels etc.
(d) When on public transportation, this is due to the difficulty of where to place your hat.
Once you have removed your hat
Standing. Keep it by your side with the interior facing in towards your body, either held by the crown or brim. Don’t fiddle or play with it! Let it be – it is an inanimate object and does not need to be animated by you, nor does it require any attention from you – it is neither a young child nor an adorable animal!
Seated. If there is no safe location to put it (hook, hat rack, shelf etc.) then place it (interior side down) in your lap or on your knee. If it is a brimmed hat, do not stand it upright on its brim, as this is a sure way of spoiling the hat’s shape. Be aware, if placing it on another seat, at some point, someone else may try (or succeed in) sitting on it!
The following exceptions to
raising or removing your hat are considered permissible and the individual may
wish to simply touch their brim accordingly:
When in a safety area where protective headgear is required e.g. construction site, operating a forklift truck, forestry work etc. However, once you leave that designated area, correct hat etiquette should resume.
When your hands are full e.g. carrying bags, boxes, furniture etc. However, once you have unloaded, correct hat etiquette should resume.
If you are a performer, actor, artist etc. in your role and the hat is part of your costume.
Where you are required to wear a uniform and you have existing regulations regarding your head wear, which overrule normal hat etiquette.
Where you belong to a religion, which has other observances that overrule normal hat etiquette.
Where there are health conditions requiring the head to be covered (e.g. scabs, hair loss due to radiation therapy etc.) which would embarrass you or cause others to recoil!
Although we have not been
able to identify why the following customs and superstitions exist, they are
believed by some to bring bad luck or misfortune. Our suggestion is to break them at
your own risk!
A hat should never be laid on a bed – perhaps due to possible dirt etc. spoiling the cleanliness expected of a bed and a possible disturbed night’s sleep due to grit in the bedding.
Feathers worn in the hat band, should (for men) be on the left side – looking from the back of the hat. On not account should a man wear a peacock feather – we can only think it has something to do with the “evil eye”, but if not, it is certainly over-sized and too ostentatious!
Wearing a Hat Backwards
Brimmed hats are designed to be worn one way round - most have a small fabric bow, or label, to indicate the back of the hat – and wearing a hat backwards is perhaps uncouth if not bad luck.
A Female Wearing Your Hat
This is not (necessarily) bad luck: it is said a lady who wears your hat, wishes to be kissed by you. We believe this comes from the perception the lady in question is being flirtatious…we’ll leave this one up to you to work out if it’s true or not, and if this pans out to be good or bad luck!