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Hats on or hats off?

What’s the deal on when it’s okay to wear a hat and when it isn’t? This question has come up often enough that I thought it was time to set the record straight.

Firstly, just a little history:

Removing one’s hat has always been a sign of respect. This hat protocol has military overtones. When a man entered the home of a person of higher rank, he removed his hat or helmet. Baring one’s head was a sign of vulnerability and enabled the higher ranked person to see there was no threat posed. If one can follow up the hierarchy ladder, the only person left with a hat on was the king/queen wearing a crown.

From the mid 19th century on, everyday hats were designed to keep one’s head warm, protect it from the sun, and keep the dust out of one’s eyes. The hat was removed when one went indoors to prevent the dust on the hat from getting on the furniture and floor of the house.

So now let us fast forward to 2019. We have the fashion hat, the toque (or beanie), the retro style fedora and the evolution of the baseball cap being worn everywhere. What is the new protocol? Here are some easy to follow guidelines that will put your head at rest!

1. When wearing a hat outside or in public places both men and women may keep their hats on. This includes:

  • public transportation,

  • athletic events

  • when required for the job

  • public buildings such as airports, post offices, retail shops,

  • elevators

  • office and hotel lobbies.

2. Men’s hats, no matter what style, and women’s sports caps should be removed:

  • while being introduced (indoors or out),

  • in someone’s home

  • indoors at work-unless it is an accepted accessory according to the dress code

  • in place or worship

  • school, library, courthouse

  • the dining table

  • restaurants and coffee shops

  • movie theatres and indoor performances

  • during the nation anthem

3. Women’s fashion hats may remain on everywhere except indoors at work. This includes all types of work except where a hat is required for the job. A women should remove her hat if it is blocking someone’s view at a wedding or funeral. Fashion hats should not be worn at a business meeting or lunch.

Just to note:

1. Cancer patients are exempt from all hat etiquette rules.

2. Religious or cultural head coverings are not usually removed indoors.

3. When attending a religious or cultural ceremony, be sure to check the expectations regarding covering one’s head.

I hope that clears some things up regarding when to don and doff!

Jeannie Vaage, Etiquette Consultant, VIP Protocol
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