Facts: Caps, Hats & Etiquette – By Yvonne Sam

Facts: Caps, Hats & Etiquette

– By Yvonne Sam

Hats and caps are staying on in more places these days. Have the do’s and don’ts of headwear devolved to meet the expectations of an all-casual, all-the-time generation?

I am penning this inquiry in the sincere hope that male readers would respond thereby updating me as to current social mores and etiquette pertinent to the vexing practice of wearing hats and caps indoors. What is the contemporary etiquette in men’s head wear, as nowadays there does not appear to be much order when it comes to hats and caps. Knowingly, the world has gone casual over time, but have we gone too casual bordering on to disrespect.         

Throughout the course of history hats identified social standing and removing a hat was a gesture of respect. Men removed their hats as soon as they crossed the threshold of a house or public building, and always in the presence of a lady. There were rules to follow and if you did not then people knew immediately you were not an upstanding member of society.  On the other hand ladies were completely exempted from “hat rules” wearing them whenever and wherever they wished, removing it only if it obstructed someone’s view. It seemed like a good practical policy back then, so why is it still not?

Hats are no longer the essential article of clothing as they were formerly, but are still worn for fashion and function by both sexes. Nevertheless, knowing when to remove a hat is as equally important as wearing the right hat for the occasion. Basically put, hats come with a complex etiquette. Have you noticed how often men, both old and young alike, wear their hats (including baseball caps) indoors, while dining, even at functions, seemingly unconcerned about the old sartorial practice of removing hats once indoors. I was told way back when that a hat was indicative of someone being in transit. Hence, wearing a hat inside showed that you did not plan on staying, or have not the slightest desire to be there, somewhat similar to wearing a coat in a place where you do not want to be so that you can get out of there faster.

Undoubtedly, hat etiquette has disappeared in this new millennium.  Gone, perhaps never to return are the days when a man learned the art of doffing his hat, slightly lifting the hat off his forehead when greeting a woman. Tipping of the hat is a conventional gesture of politeness, and this custom shares the same origin as military saluting, which came from the raising of the face visors of medieval Knights to show goodwill. Knights would be considered aggressive or unfriendly if they did not show their smiling face to the public, so in order to give everyone a look at their heroic grin, the visor would be lifted.  Times have changed and well intentioned rules have become relaxed and abandoned altogether, however I will never accept that just because a good custom has been cast aside, one should give up on restoring it.

A few members of the opposing or opposite sex have bombarded me with the question, why should a man be bareheaded while a woman may wear a hat?   The changed attitudes around gender roles and the casualization of dress need to be carefully considered in responding to sartorial rules. I was raised in the era when the No Hats Inside rule was strictly enforced and now  it is so entrenched in my psyche, that when someone contravenes this etiquette guideline, it feels and look so wrong — like snow in summer. I have raised my children with the same guidelines, and they know that they and their friends must never wear hats or caps indoors. Rules aside, it is my firmly held belief that 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.

Guys, before you commence putting heads together towards capping a concerted response, please note that while the hat storm rages there are exception to the “hats off indoors” rule –It is not necessary for a man to remove his hat in places where he does not seat himself, such as grocery stores, shops or markets. Individuals with certain health conditions which result in hair loss, or require having their head covered, are not expected to remove a hat.

The pervasive lack of respect for protocol is also evident in schools and learning institutions. The standards for dress, behavior, consideration and just plain common courtesies have corroded in the elementary grades. This corrosion of standards was agonizingly painful to me when I recently attended a school function. I could not believe how many men, young and old alike were wearing baseball caps.  Call me mean, petty or just plain chew me out but baseball caps are for baseball games and other sporting events. They do not belong at school performances.  Attention should be drawn to standards of dress that adults and children alike should know and observe. My take is that too many people in positions of change miss the opportunity to teach acceptable standards of public decorum to students or adults.

Sad but true, there was a time when almost everyone knew the rules governing hats. The hat renaissance is creating a predicament of men and boys who grew up without being taught and learning hat wearing etiquette from their fathers. Yes, entire generations have come of age with little understanding of proper hat protocol. While more casual rules are being followed today, it is appalling older folks who remember traditional customs, and for those who honor the tradition of hat removal, wearing a hat indoors is viewed as disrespectful. Societal standards for etiquette have grown too lax, with manners, civility and respect for decorum all values of the past. In place of standards, anything goes.

Hats Off! — I remain an advocate for a more civilized directive.

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  • Cyril Persaud  On August 22, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Who made the rules.

  • dhanoaul narine  On August 22, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    I was in a government office in Linden in the seventies. There was a notice that said, ‘Gentlemen will take off their hats. All others must!’ So there.

    • Emanuel  On August 23, 2018 at 2:05 am

      So, you’re not a gentleman if don’t voluntarily take off your hat in a building?

      Well, sir, this is 2118 and the world has changed. What was the norm 40 years ago is now old school. Old people expect things to stay the same always.

      Sorry, that’s not realistic.

  • Henry Horton  On August 23, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Colonial, backward, and repressive nonsense. Guyana and some parts of the Caribbean still feel the necessity to enforce this ridiculous “etiquette” -say no more!.

  • Trebor  On August 27, 2018 at 10:10 am

    Ms. Sam, I will likely be verbally abused by other readers because these are the times we live in, times when courtesies are commonly ignored, but I totally agree with your view regarding hats. Today many people seem to be either disrespectful or ignorant of common courtesies and values. In a world where we increasingly see people displaying the, ‘it’s all about me’ attitude, standards of behaviour continue to decline. Common courtesies which were intended for making things more pleasant for those around us are being ignored; sad.

    • Emanuel  On August 27, 2018 at 2:15 pm

      You’d probably prefer the record player with that needle thing, the donkey cart over the auto, the boat over the plane, the hand written letter over email, mud huts over stilted homes and high rises and bell bottoms.

      Kissing or semi nudity in the movies is moral decay, men and women dancing together in a nightclub is obscene. America elected a black president. The malls are open on Sundays. A man wears his hat in a restaurant. Things are chaging and we are all going to hell. Old folks are set in their ways like cement and expect things to always stay the same. Is that realistic?

  • Trebor  On August 27, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Emanuel you are as off base about me as you are about the current year being 2118. I hope etiquette and good manners will always be in vogue. You probably talk with your mouth full and eat with the fork in your right hand while wearing a baseball cap at the table too. Peace.

    • Emanuel  On August 27, 2018 at 10:20 pm

      2118 was obviously a typo. I stand by my comment.

      • Neil  On August 28, 2018 at 5:43 am

        This has little to do with “old folks” and “young people”, because each of those groups doesn’t exclusively subscribe to one of the sides the author presents. You are suggesting that every older person will have this opinion and that obviously isn’t true. You could have answered her question and ignored her insults to people who wear hats indoors, and of an entire generation. In some ways the author’s approach is a trolling tactic, but I don’t think the author’s intention was to antagonize a certain demographic or generation. Let her know why you stand by your fashion choice and why the rule itself is arbitrary. As for your response to Trebor, by your own logic, you will get old and be set in your ways like cement? If that’s the case, you’re not helping anything, plus you’re already set in your ways. There have always been people who are ignorant and disrespectful, and there probably always will be. What is true, is that the previous generation had to deal with some of their “old folks” who said the same things about them, as their ancestors did before. When will we learn? Obviously some of us do, but let’s change that, let’s do better.

  • Neil  On August 28, 2018 at 5:03 am

    It would appear that your problem is with a change in fashion primarily, and that you take offence to a practice that is not inherently disrespectful. I do not particularly care either way about fashion, but I do know that it is a subjective matter and that it is always changing. I’d bet there are many fashion choices which you find perfectly acceptable which at some point in the past were offensive or otherwise frowned upon not only by other cultures but even your own.
    I am a practical person and a hat is usually something I would only wear when it had some practical use, such as protecting my head and face from the sun, cold, falling debris, et cetera. That said, I don’t think it is a problem for someone to wear a hat inside, it certainly doesn’t offend me, and anyone it might offend should reflect on why something so arbitrary should offend him, her, you or anyone. There are much more important things to think about and question.
    A rule should have a good reason to follow it, the hat rule isn’t based on any practical application and there is no negative consequence if the rule is not followed other than maybe outrage/anger/passive-aggressiveness from people who take it as an insult, for no reason other than they perceive it as an insult. As for my opinion, because of my practical nature, I would put wearing a hat indoors in the same category as wearing sunglasses indoors, or flippers in a mall: funny maybe, but for the most part pointless. These are simply opinions on fashion, they are ultimately inconsequential.
    However, no one should impose a rule that doesn’t have any intrinsic value, for example: Encouraging people to cover their mouths when they sneeze is perfectly fine, because covering one’s mouth when one sneezes prevents the spread of disease. “Lifting the visor” sounds like a substitute for goodwill, why not be polite instead of substituting a meaningless action in lieu of politeness? I think instead of teaching people not to wear hats indoors, we should teach them to have consideration for others. If I was unaware of this social custom, and I entered the house of someone who lives by this custom and this person asked me politely to remove my hat, I would take my hat off, simply because I am a guest in his or her house. I would, if the person wasn’t simply a bigot, discuss the issue and find out exactly why the rule is important. We’d probably have an interesting conversation and we’d both learn from the experience.

    Fun fact: those Knights in medieval times, as well any fashionable man wore exaggerated codpieces, I doubt you’d approve of those today.

    • Emanuel  On August 28, 2018 at 11:46 am

      Your comment is fair and balanced. My dad was born in the 1950s and thinks with an open mind. He’s a scientist who teaches that a person or a society that refuses to conform to changes is doomed. He often says that religious teachings though generally good takes away people ‘s independence of mind that often leads to dogmatic thinking similar to that made by some of the older types who comment here .Thank you.


  • Hermina  On August 28, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Why are you guys getting your jockstraps in a tangle? Keep your hats on and keep your brains cool. In the opening statement the author clearly asks for the male input regarding the wearing of hats. She referred to a time long past gave her input and requested yours. It is entirely up to you whether you keep your hat/cap on or off. From my uneducated stance some of you should keep it on to help retain whatever little common sense you still have.

  • Clyde Duncan  On August 28, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    Trying to look at the matter of “Facts: Caps, Hats & Etiquette” in isolation is like any consideration in communication – Taking words out of context, comes to mind: – That is how the fight started.

    There is no reason for me to repeat what the other commentators have already indicated …. EXCEPT, …

  • Troy  On September 25, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I teach my boys to remove their hats indoors, because it was also expected of me. That being said, I don’t think there is a justifiable reason to look “down our noses” at people who were not brought up that way.

    Does this custom still hold a significant meaning if fewer people are aware of it?

    It is far from an indication of moral character, or what is in someone’s heart.
    Clearly someone is not intending disrespect by leaving a hat on if they are unaware of hat etiquette. If we feel it is an indicator of someone’s “class”, then shame on us!

    Very few people were knights even in the time of knights, and I am highly sceptical of that being the true origin of this custom regardless of how many times people repeat the romanticised tale. This is simply because there were far more practical reasons in those days to remove your hat, coat and shoes at the threshold after walking through streets where people regularly hurled sewage out of their windows.
    Furthermore, the origin of the custom is less relevant if it no-longer serves a practical purpose.

    Fashion and social customs change with the times, and there are many other ways that someone can show respect to others while still proudly donning their new cap..
    In turn, there are plenty of ways that someone can demonstrate disrespect without me worrying about whether the fedora is still on their head.

    I take my hat off when I walk indoors; that’s my preference. I prefer that my kids do the same because I still have a say when it comes to them.
    If you have an oddly shaped head, unsightly hat-hair, or a pet under that hat, then thank you for sparing me from the distraction. 😉

    If I were to get my nose all bent out of shape because someone that I do not know has decided to wear his hat in the coffee shop; then the problem isn’t with the person wearing the hat.

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