Rules and Recommendations for Hat Etiquette

  • , by Elizabeth
  • 6 min reading time
Rules and Recommendations for Hat Etiquette

In years gone by, our society put a much greater emphasis on etiquette. Whether you were getting dressed, having a meal, or visiting someone, there was a right and a wrong way to do things. Doing things correctly meant you were seen as respectable; doing them incorrectly might earn you a one-way ticket to ridicule.

These days, we’re much more live-and-let-live about the little things. Still, there is something to be said about using a little good old-fashioned etiquette in your everyday life, especially where your headgear is concerned. If you want to add a little respectability to your style, here are the rules and recommendations for hat etiquette that you should know.

History of Hat Etiquette

These days, hats are typically worn purely for practical or stylistic reasons. But only a few decades ago, nearly everyone wore a hat as part of their regular ensemble when they left the house. In those days, taking your hat off was considered a sign of respect, hence why you were supposed to take your hat off in certain scenarios.

Hat rules differ between men and women for a number of historical reasons, but the most major one is practical. Women’s hairstyles of yesteryear were coiffed under their hat and secured with a long hatpin, and ladies often didn’t take too kindly to having a hat taken off and put back on again.

These days, the rules for proper hat etiquette still tend to differ between genders, though with some slight changes that will be addressed later.

Men’s Hat Etiquette

Sorry, gentlemen, but you definitely have the most rules to follow as far as taking your hat off and putting it on. However, if you keep in mind why people used to wear hats and why they would take them off, it’s easier to get a handle on the pattern of when to wear or not wear your hat.

When To Wear Your Hat


Given that hats are designed to keep the sun and rain off your face, it makes sense that the great outdoors is the perfect place to wear a hat. This includes when you are walking down the street or engaging in outdoor activities like golf or hiking. Spectating an outdoor event or game is also an appropriate time to wear a hat, even if you have to enter a stadium to do it.

In Transit

In the olden days, transit typically meant being outside, either riding a horse or driving a carriage. So, any type of transit is typically also considered an appropriate time to wear a hat. This includes traveling in an enclosed vehicle like a bus, car, train, or airplane.

In Indoor Public Spaces

Most of us learned that taking your hat off when you walk into a building is proper etiquette. While this is a good rule of thumb, there are actually several scenarios that wearing a hat inside is perfectly acceptable. This is usually in places that are considered public spaces, such as:

  • A hotel or theatre lobby
  • A reception area
  • A house’s foyer or entryway
  • A hallway or corridor
  • A bar or restaurant

Stores are also considered public spaces; however, it is considered courteous to take off your hat when you are being helped by a salesperson.

When To Take Your Hat Off

Entering a Home or Office

As we mentioned, the foyer, lobby, or reception area of a building are considered public spaces. However, once you leave this space, you’ve entered someone’s private space, and you are a guest. As such, taking off your hat is your way to show your deference to your host.

There are some unconventional private spaces that you should also take your hat off when you enter. For example, cubicles, elevators, and theatres are also considered private spaces.

At the Dinner Table

While restaurants and bars are considered indoor public spaces, this is only true until you sit at the table. Whether in public or in someone’s home, you should take your hat off when you sit down to dinner. The only potential exception is eating at a picnic or outdoor restaurant. In this case, you can choose whether to take the hat off.

During Patriotic Events

If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, you’ve heard the garbled voice of an announcer instruct a crowd to remove their hats during the singing of the national anthem. But Flag Code also dictates that you should remove your hat anytime the flag passes. This includes during parades.

Hat Tipping

It’s very rare to run into someone who actually tips their hat on this side of the 20th century. However, if you want to fully embody the image of an old-fashioned gentleman, it’s useful to know when to tip the hat. A hat tip is appropriate when:

  • Greeting friends
  • Acknowledging a stranger
  • Thanking someone for a small favor
  • Apologizing for bumping into someone
  • Being introduced to someone

If you are meeting someone particularly noteworthy, it may also be appropriate to take your hat off completely.

Women’s Hat Etiquette

As mentioned, ladies are often exempt from many of the hat rules listed above. However, this can make it a little trickier to know when to remove your hat and when to leave it on. Here are some general principles to keep in mind.

When To Wear Your Hat

In almost every circumstance mentioned above—the dinner table, theater, inside homes, etc.— a lady is allowed to keep her hat on. This is even true during the Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, and while the flag is passing. However, this rule may change depending on the type of hat a lady is wearing.

When To Take Your Hat Off

Remember, ladies originally kept their hats on because they were wearing more formal hats that were fixed to their hair with pins. However, since then, ladies have started to wear hats that are more unisex, such as baseball hats. As such, many ladies see fit to remove their hats at appropriate moments, such as during the national anthem or at the dinner table.

Even if you are wearing a more formal hat, it may be appropriate to take it off if it gets in others’ way. For example, if you’re going to see a play and your hat makes it impossible for people behind you to see the stage, it would be polite to take it off.

A Note on Religious Services

Different religions have different traditions regarding wearing headwear during their services. For instance, some services dissuade men from wearing hats while recommending women to wear them. Others have special headwear that both men and women are encouraged to wear. The best practice is to ask ahead before attending a service.

Hat etiquette may be antiquated to some, but having strong hat style is absolutely timeless. That’s why Fashionable Hats has all the classic hat styles you know and love, including some incredible flat caps for sale from Walrus, Kangol, and Stetson.

Rules and Recommendations for Hat Etiquette

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