Men's hat etiquette in the modern age November 29, 2017 07:49 2 Comments

As the modern man embraces the wearing of hats I am often asked “what is the contemporary etiquette in men’s headwear…. should hats be removed when entering buildings…. how should I hold my hat when I am not wearing it….?”

I have chatted to a number of men about this.

Older guys respect some notions of hats off indoors but younger ones seem less concerned about this old sartorial practice.

 Legal Ethicist and committed hat-wearer, Neil Watt has honed his hat wearing practices to a fine art:

“For me, it’s all about showing respect – and avoiding disrespect.

So, when entering a private space (such as a home, or a private room such as a hospital room) I do remove my hat at the door. This does not apply to public spaces, like office buildings, shops or cafes (though higher-end restaurants may require a hat to be removed and I do remove my hat when entering a private office).

My mother would have slapped me for wearing a hat at the table and, while I adhere to this as a general rule, I’m happy to leave the hat on in a burger shop.

Sacred places, however, generally require removal of a hat – except for synagogues where the opposite applies!”

 Rosie says: “As a hat maker I agree that it is about the wearer showing their respect with the way they wear their hat, and I would say that it is also about respect for the hat itself – a good hat has a great presence and needs to be looked after.”

The dilemma for the modern man out and about in a hat is where to stow it if needing to remove it indoors. In the old days a hat and coat were taken by staff at reception and placed in a cloakroom until departure – but cloakrooms no longer exist.

Steven Lewis, owner of a copywriting agency explains: “I wasn't around when wearing a hat was the norm, not the exception. But I imagine in those days the etiquette went both ways: you removed your hat and your host provided somewhere to put it safely. That is something I've said in more than one RSL or restaurant: you want me to take it off but you're offering me nowhere to put it. With a cap, I can put it in my bag (but that's something many men don't carry) but with a Borsalino, I'm not putting it on the floor to get dirty or be trodden on! When I'm going somewhere like that, I try to remember to wear a hat I can stow easily.”

Neil Watt has come up with his own solution to this problem.

“I’ve taken to swapping my brief case and satchel for a canvas bag when I’m dining out. It’s big enough to stow my hat in and I hang it off my chair. When travelling I have a fabulous old Stetson roll-up fedora. Otherwise I place my hat on my lap for the duration of a flight (and stick it on my head when the tray table is down) or I wear a cap (8 panel, not baseball!). I never place a hat in the overhead locker.”

 Steven Lewis adds:

“In a place where I'm not asked to remove my hat, I generally won't because it's part of who I am. I'm not a clotheshorse. I put on a hat because I want to wear it, so that's what I'm going to do! But, frankly, I'm annoyed when asked to remove my hat because I've felt like I'm being treated as if I'm rude or disrespectful when my host has no intention of living up to their side of the arrangement."

 Web designer, Simon Judge wistfully reflects that:

“Gone are the days when a man learned the art of doffing their hats or touching their hats when greeting a woman in the street.  All that hat etiquette has disappeared in this new millennium. I am often asked why a man is supposed to eat bare-headed in a restaurant while a woman may wear her hat.  Well, the answer is simple.  The man's hat is supposed to be a practical head covering; the women more often than not is decoration.”

 Neil adds: “I remove my hat when being introduced to a woman for the first time (again, it’s a respect thing). Subsequent meetings with the same person receive a ‘tip of the hat’. Yes it’s old-school but it still has charm. In the glory days of the hat the rules were many and complicated but I suggest you keep it simple – be respectful – and leave it at that.”

 With the casualization of dress and changed attitudes around gender roles, these sartorial rules are no longer compulsory, but they might suit the way you want to project yourself.

Rules aside, I believe there is a psychological notion of taking a hat off indoors to bear oneself truthfully or equally to others in the room - no obstruction to eye contact.

 For the modern man hats are often a definer of their character. I believe the modern etiquette is defined by the motivation of the wearer. Hats can be worn as an expression of the individual – stating ‘this is who I am’ and the hat-wearer will find their own individual language about when and how to wear it.

What are your views on this?