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Hats Off Etiquette 101

June 28th, 2018 · 1 Comment

Before the start of a recent career panel discussion, I was surprised when a panelist told several students to remove their hats. After they promptly complied, the speaker asked if they understood why she made that request. That brief 90-second discussion may have been the key takeaway from that particular panel.

I admit to cringing a bit when people wear hats indoors, but I rationalize they are doing so to show their excitement over the latest Cubs win or, most likely, to cover up a bad case of bed head. Still, it breaks etiquette rules that others will notice–especially in business settings. The panelist made that very point. Wearing a hat is fine if you play by the rules.

Having met etiquette guru Lizzie Post and purchased her latest book, The Etiquette Advantage in Business, I decided to look up and share her take on “hat rules” in public:

The Who-What-When-Where of the Hat

Hats aren’t the essential article of clothing they once were but are still worn by both sexes for fashion and for function. Knowing when to remove a hat is as important as wearing the right hat for the occasion. If you were a medieval knight who failed to remove his helmet or lift his visor and identify himself the consequences could be fatal. Throughout history hats identified social standing and removing a hat was a gesture of respect. In the “old days,” men took off their hats in Christian churches, when they entered someone’s home, when greeting a boss, and always in the presence of a lady. Ladies were entirely exempt from “hat rules,” wearing them whenever and where ever they wished. While some of these customs are now historical footnotes, even in today’s casual culture men and women still remove their hats as a sign of respect. Cancer patients are exempt from hat rules. They may keep their hats or caps on at all times if they wish. Here’s when it’s fine to wear your hat and when it’s not:

Men

Hats can be left on…

  • Outdoors
  • At athletic events (indoors or out)
  • On public transportation
  • In public buildings such as post offices, airports, and hotel or office lobbies
  • On elevators

Take hats off, including baseball caps …

  • In someone’s home
  • At mealtimes, at the table
  • While being introduced, indoors or out (unless it’s frigid!)
  • In a house of worship, unless a hat or head covering is required
  • Indoors at work, especially in an office (unless required for the job)
  • In public buildings such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or any indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Women

Fashion hats (not baseball-style caps) can be left on…

  • In someone’s home
  • At luncheons, weddings, garden parties
  • At religious services
  • At a movie or any indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Take your fashion hat off…

  • Anytime it blocks someone’s view, such as at a wedding or in a theater
  • Indoors at work

Remove baseball-style (unisex) caps…

  • In someone’s home
  • At mealtimes, at the table
  • While being introduced
  • In a house of worship, unless a hat or head covering is required
  • Indoors at work, unless required for the job
  • In public buildings such as a school, library, courthouse, or town hall
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or any indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

Full disclosure: I sometimes wear a hat when I go to the grocery and hardware store on weekends. 

Tags: Q&As

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Kevin Petschow // Jun 28, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Take hats off on the 18th green when shaking the hands of other golfers in your group.

    Thanks for sharing, Ron. I am tipping my cap to you.

    Best, Kevin

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