Many American men sported stylish hats as part of their daily clothing ensemble until the early 1960s. The majority of men today who wear hats don baseball caps. Whether you prefer a stylish fedora, or a sports cap, hat-wearing etiquette remains the same. Men, unlike women, are expected to remove hats indoors. There are many reasons why the act of removing one's hat started, and why etiquette continues to dictate this practice.
History of Headdress Removal
The gesture of removing ones hat, headdress or helmet dates back to ancient times -- however, the exact date of origin is not known. Knights removed helmets in the presence of a king as a display of vulnerability and trust that the king would not kill them. Knights also removed helmets in church as an expression of security in one's sanctuary. Knights displayed chivalry by removing headpieces in the presence of a lady. The practice of removing ones headdress evolved to represent a show of respect and courtesy in various situations -- including the removal of the hat when entering a home, courtroom, restaurant or church.
The U.S. Flag Code addresses hat removal, stating that during the national anthem, when the American Flag is displayed, "men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart." The Flag Code also addresses hat removal for civilian men in situations in which the American flag is raised, lowered or passed, stating that they "stand at attention with the right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart."
Practical Reasons for Hat Removal
Hats worn by men for fashion purposes outdoors offer protection from heat, rain and the sun. They also provide warmth on cold days. They offer no such function indoors. Wearing a hat indoors, especially in the presence of older people who honor the tradition of hat removal, may be viewed as disrespectful.
When to Leave Hats on
According to the etiquette website emilypost.com, a man may wear his hat outdoors, at an athletic event (indoors or out), on public transportation, in public buildings such as airports, post offices, and in hotel and office lobbies. Women may wear a fashionable hat in most situations except inside an office or when it is obstructing the view of another person. Women are expected to follow the same hat-wearing etiquette as men when it comes to wearing sports caps. People with certain health conditions which result in hair loss, or require having their head covered, are not expected to remove a hat.
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