Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is it still rude to wear a hat indoors?

But it's part of my outfit...

I was at a business event the other night with about 200 other people.  The guest speaker was great and the topic was relevant but throughout the night, I was distracted by something that other people may not have noticed - a young man wearing a fedora indoors.

The 'No Hats Inside Rule' was strictly enforced in my childhood home and is so ingrained in my psyche that when someone violates this etiquette guideline, it just feels wrong, like snow in summer or a cheerful DMV employee.

I have carried over this particular rule to my own home and family.  My kids and their visiting friends know they are not allowed to wear their hats inside and absolutely must remove them for meals. If I'm out for dinner with my peers and one keeps a hat on during the meal, I would never ask them to remove it (that would be rude) but it will annoy me for the duration. Of course, that is my problem, not theirs.

But times change and well-intentioned rules are relaxed or abandoned all together for reasons of practicality or enlightenment. The rule of removing hats indoors was established decades ago when men regularly wore hats outside to protect them from the elements.  They removed the hat indoors so that the elements (rain, dirt, etc.) did not fall onto meals or other people.  Where did they put their hats?  Well they probably checked them with a coat attendant who knew how to properly store them so they didn't get smushed.  It's unlikely that the same service is available today in most establishments.

Today, hats are a fashion statement for both genders and can be such a part of one's "look" that asking someone to remove their hat is akin to suggesting that they take off their shoes.  There are other things to consider.  Many of the etiquette rules that formed the North American approach to acceptable social behaviour were written at a time when the population (or at least the ruling class) was homogeneous in terms of religion and therefore, didn't take into account the need to observe the customs of faith by wearing hats or head coverings indoors.  The Emily Post Institute notes this in its updated, more modern list of acceptable places to wear hats, as well as the fact that cancer patients need not worry about this rule.

So, like so many other "old-fashioned" guidelines, the "no hat" rule will probably fall by the wayside in the next few years for reasons that include an embrace of different cultures and a general relaxation of appropriate attire.  I can accept that, but I don't think I will ever be able to stomach a baseball hat worn indoors at any time.

What do you think?  Do you have guidelines about hats in your home?  Does it annoy you when a man doesn't remove a fedora indoors?  Would you even notice?


  1. You already know my point of view about hats indoors and at the dinner table. I appreciate your acknowledgement about how some of the old-fashioned guidelines don't apply anymore and cultural sensitivities.

    Our family went out for a casual dinner tonight. While aren't perfect and some may chastise us quietly glancing at our smartphones on occasion, we experienced some behaviours that were better left at home.

    At the table behind us, the husband repeatedly engaged in phone conversations while his wife and neighbouring diners looked on. Granted that's not unusual these days. However, the action of the man sitting at another nearby table made us want to pick up and leave. He removed his sandals and sat for most of the meal with his bare feet and bare legs propped up on the chair across from him. There was no indication that he was nursing an injury or the likes. I thought restaurants had a "no shirts, no shoes, no service" rule.

  2. Thanks for dropping by Eden. While I love etiquette and guidelines, I embrace that they're always changing and in many ways, that's a good thing! Your dining experience is disheartening. I have often sat in nice establishments listening in horror as someone at the next table carried on loud cell phone conversations while real people were sitting right across from them. And most times, the conversations are not of an urgent nature. They're not brokering a mid-east peace agreement or anything. They're making mani/pedi plans with a friend.

    I admire you for staying at the restaurant despite the patron who decided to treat it as his own personal living room. I'm not sure of the official etiquette on removing one's footwear in a public space but I find it offensive. I would probably have asked him to put his sandals back on. I'm sure he would have told me where to stick it in no uncertain terms but I'd feel better nonetheless.

  3. I've been wearing a hat for the last five years mainly because of enroaching baldness but also because I got a tiny sore on my lip from the sun which proved cancerous. Eveything OK now.

    I had been wearing my hat in cafes or restaurants but my wife says it is very rude. The real private reason is because I have noticed admiring glances from the opposite sex in different places for some reason but once the hat is off I am just a balding old man. However, I now concede that it is rude to wear hats at the table and indoors in semi intimate settings shall we say.

  4. My husband wore his Fedora -style hat to a family Xmas party last night and, KEPT it ON the whole time. He's always been good about REMOVING a hat in the presence of ladies, so I was perplexed as to why his sudden turn-around. When I asked him, he couldn't seem to pinpoint why he (stubbornly) left it on. As we left , my hubby remarked that the party was 'filled with more pills (yucky peeps) than he'd seen in a long time. When I THOUGHT about it, I recall he did the SAME THING at LAST year's party w/ exact same 'pills.' I don't know if he feels somehow inadequate or less than and is 'acting out' by being so tacky and rude as to wear the hat, or what. He hails from NYC and my family are all South Carolina blue blood WASPs. Any ideas?

  5. Hmm, sounds like your husband was angry about being obligated to go to a party with people he doesn't care for and decided to make a point by keeping his hat on. I must admit, although I care about etiquette, I sometimes succumb to passive-aggressive breaches of civility to make a point. I'm not proud of it.

    1. Wow. I am so tickled to get a response. And such an amazingly insightful one.(Because you nailed it, I think.)

      Thank you very much for giving your opinion. As my (mostly polite) spouse majored in psychology I believe that passive-aggressive thing shall resonate with said husband! Ha,ha

  6. I don't notice. I'm 25 and I think of hats more as accessories than protection from the elements. The reasons for this little bit of etiquette seem outdated to me. Frankly any rule around when you can wear what seems silly, with exceptions mainly based on words printed on clothing. At my grandmother's funeral there was a boy wearing a shirt that read "Do I look like I care?"

    It was the only time I remember being offended by someone else's outfit.