Cap-tivating Rules of Hat Etiquette

As most of us continue to stay home a bit more than usual due to the pandemic - we can now review and practice some of the rules of hat etiquette so that when we do venture out to a baseball game, a wedding, a religious service, a garden party, or a ski lodge (you get the idea ...), we can wear our hats with confidence. Why are we talking about hats now? When the cooler fall weather arrives, most of us start adding additional accessories to our wardrobes, including hats - cap, beret, fedora, beanie, cloche, or a ski hat with a fun pom pom on top. Hats are a fun and easy way to add a sprinkle of pop and personality to an outfit. There are etiquette rules for hats – they turn on who is wearing what and where. It takes confidence to wear a hat well and knowing the rules of hat etiquette will instantly help make you look and feel more confident and elegant when donning a hat.


Below are the general rules, but please take note that medical or religious reasons for wearing a hat take precedent and there is no reason for you to ever feel the need to explain to others why you're keeping it on.

We receive the most questions from women who want to wear a fancy, proper, dress hat as part of their outfit – truly the fashionable finishing touch to their outfit. In these instances take heart, we tell them, "your hat may remain on when you're inside". This includes during the playing of the National Anthem, as well as in churches and in other places of worship. This rule makes sense, otherwise it would be incredibly hard and disruptive to remove such a hat with its decorations and possibly a hatpin, exposing the flattened hair underneath.


One does not wear a dress hat with a brim after 5 pm – because there is no use for a brim after the sun goes down. Because of this, many don't wear any hat in the evening. However, you do have some choices if you are a diehard hat fan. You could opt for a sophisticated cocktail hat or a fascinator. Cocktail hats, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, are small, ornate, and typically brimless hats with a visible base that is specifically intended to be worn by a lady as part of her evening wear. Fascinators became popular in the 1970s and 1980s and are decorative headpieces that sit on the head with only a band or a hair clip.


It's also considerate to wear smaller hats when indoors – particularly at the theater, performance or at a wedding as you must not obstruct the view of those seated behind you. While we want to look fashionable, we must remember common courtesy! Again, ladies are able to keep these hats on because they are an integral part of their outfit.



Take note that royalty typically remove their dress hats after 6pm because they switch them out for tiaras (lucky them!) when they wear their gowns - and tiaras are only permitted after 6pm, never before. And one does not wear a hat with a gown. Instead, of a hat, ladies without tiaras should elegantly wear their hair up.


A lady does not wear a hat in a work setting unless it is part of your organization's uniform.


When a lady wears a hat, any ornamentation - bow, buckle or beading and the like - properly resides on the right side of the hat. The ornamentation on a man's hat is on the left.

Sometimes ladies don historically men’s hats, like baseball caps, Panama hats and fedoras. In these instances, ladies are to follow the same hat rules the men follow. In a nutshell, unisex hats are to generally be taken off when inside or when eating (check it, put it on your knee or on an empty chair - never on the dining table), but there are some definite caveats so keep reading on!

Unisex hats are to be removed when inside (offices, classroom, homes, churches, etc.) except in locations that are considered “public spaces” like commercial lobbies, hallways and corridors, airports, train stations, the mall, and public elevators. This means, you may leave your hat on in these areas. That said, it's considered extremely polite for a man to remove his hat in the presence of a lady in a public elevator.

Hats - other than a lady's dress hat or cocktail hat that is part of her outfit - are removed for the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, the passing of the Flag. During these three patriotic events one properly takes off their hat with the right hand and puts it over the left shoulder, with one's hand over their heart. Hats are to also be removed for funeral processions, special ceremonies like religious ones, outdoor weddings, and special forms of dedication. When in doubt, take it off.

Hats - other than a lady's dress hat or cocktail hat that is part of her outfit - are also taken off while dining – in private homes and in restaurants (even when dining al fresco). But take heart, you may keep all hats on while eating that delicious hotdog and hamburger in sporting event stands, picnics and garden parties.

For men who don (wear) hats, it is nice to politely doff (take off) your hat when meeting a lady or passing by either sex that you want to acknowledge. He does this by lifting only slightly off the forehead his hat before returning it to his head. When briefly meeting a lady the doff - or simply touching the brim of your hat - is all that is needed, but when a gentleman stops for an actual conversation with a lady, it's polite and appropriate for him to remove his hat and hold it in such a fashion that the lining and the inside of the hat are hidden from view - so the lining would face his torso.


And now that that cooler weather is coming, we want to remind you that everyone should take off winter hats (worn for warmth) when inside, unless one is inside the ski lodge between runs. Then, we think it's perfectly acceptable to keep on your winter hat so that your messy hair remains under wraps!

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