What are the hat rules?
August 5, 2014 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I was raised with the expectation that men's hats* MUST come off when entering a building.** This does not appear to be true any longer, or at least isn't true for baseball caps. What's the consensus on leaving a baseball cap on or taking it off? For context, I have explained the exceptions to the rules as I was lead to understand them under the cut, and if it matters I am a 30-year-old white guy living in a city, and I'm looking for the casual-hat rules, not the formal-hat rules.

Here are the addendums to the hat rules as I was taught:

*Religious headwear is excepted in all instances. Women's hats only come off if they are Outside Hats, which are those large enough to obscure the view of others or which run into things, or are explicitly for weather. Women wearing baseball caps, fascinators, or small and unobtrusive hats are excepted. The rules for children under 13 are relaxed, but basically the same. The Pledge of Allegiance or public prayer, moments of silence, etc. require you to take your hat off regardless of place of if you aren't actively participating.

**Transit stations including airports are defined as "outside" until you are shown into a waiting room, restaurant, or office within the station. Airplanes and multi-hour trains like Amtrak are "inside" but short train trips are "outside." There's a transit grey area where you keep your hat on when buying a ticket or for other casual transactions under a minute, but if you're outside and talking to a stranger for more than a minute, it's disrespectful to leave it on. It can stay on if you buy coffee from an outdoor kiosk and drink it on a park bench, but if there's an enclosed eating area with tables, it has to come off.
posted by blnkfrnk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (38 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The casual hat rules are: It's a hat. Wear it where it is appropriate to be casual.

Here are the formal rules: It's a hat. Take it off if there is something else over your head, unless there is a reason not to. When you take it off, don't set it on a chair. Your hat will get sat on.
posted by bensherman at 10:15 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

What's the consensus on leaving a baseball cap on or taking it off?

By people who are aware there are rules? Same as the consensus about farting in public: you shouldn't do it, but no one is going to arrest you if you do and probably no one is going to call you out on it unless you're somewhere that has rules about that sort of thing (like a restaurant with a dress code.)

For people who aren't aware there are rules the consensus is "there are rules?" and usually followed up with "says who?"
posted by griphus at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

At this point there are basically no "rules." There were rules, and people can still sometimes cite the rules (as you have), but for all intents and purposes, there is no meaningful requirement to remove a hat. There are basically zero formal hats outside of uniforms now that the fedora, et al are outside normal fashion; casual hats are casual and if it's appropriate to be dressed casually, it's acceptable to wear a baseball cap.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Real hats are rare enough that any rules that were once followed have atrophied to the point of meaninglessness.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:17 AM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

It would be nice if you took off your hat in sit-down restaurants and movie theaters. That's about it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

No, to dress casually does not ipso facto mean it is acceptable to wear a casual hat inside--particularly a restaurant or other indoor space. But I also have a problem of adult men dressing to the standards and fashion of their teen and preteen sons (and I suppose same for mothers and daughters or any combination of parent/child).
posted by rmhsinc at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by lalex at 10:25 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The 'rules' are basically a distillation of what people actually *do*. If people stop following the rules, the rules change. Basically you take your hat off indoors if you're around people that would be annoyed by you leaving it on.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hat on when: outside; in transit (on public transportation, in a store or post office; spaces where one is passing through briefly).

Hat off when: in a home; in a place (or situation) of worship; in seated stationary places (restaurants or movies); during the national anthem; when a funeral procession is passing.

Rules differ when medical or religious conditions apply.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I knew the hat rules as you stated, but I think with baseball hats, the rule is do you have bed head and have not had a chance to address it so leave it on if you will look like hat head man after taking it off.
posted by 724A at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

The only real rules are for the military, where the wearing of a hat indoors has a specific meaning that the person is "under arms". Even then there are exceptions. From the Marine Corps Uniform Regulations, where "covered" means wearing your uniform hat: "Headgear is normally removed indoors. Marines in a duty status and wearing side-arms or a pistol belt will remain covered indoors except when entering a space where a meal is in progress or religious services are being conducted. Headgear will be worn in Government vehicles, except when doing so would present a hazard to safe driving. Wear of headgear in privately owned vehicles is not required. (MARADMIN 322/05)"

But, yeah, I understand the rules for civilians essentially as you do. Even when dressed casually I remove my hat indoors. My own understanding differs from yours in that I don't make a distinction between a short and long train ride, and also that a woman's hat stays on indoors only when it is "part of her ensemble."
posted by wnissen at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hat comes off if there's a place to put it: coat check, hat rack, etc. Hat stays on if there isn't.

There usually isn't.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:32 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

GQ on hat etiquette.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2014

Generally speaking I agree with you. However, except for things like indecency laws and dress codes in private establishments, nearly all clothing "rules" are just things that will get you nothing more than a bit of side-eye from a certain percentage of people. Other people don't care.

I do find the "outside and talking to a stranger for more than a minute" scenario odd, and wouldn't expect anyone to take off their hat in that circumstance.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:42 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Technically speaking, hats come off indoors (presumably so as not to block people's view at the theater). Except baseball cap wearers, in my experience, refuse to take them off at any time whatsoever so they don't give a shit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2014

My mom hates ball caps at the dinner table. She is otherwise quite easygoing. I have never heard anyone else comment on it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hats should always come off indoors, except in some rare circumstances. Baseball caps are exceptionally casual and therefore should definitely come off indoors, no matter what.

I find the hats-inside trend to be annoying, particularly with casual hats like ball caps, and can't suppress an eye-roll when I see it done.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

What's the consensus on leaving a baseball cap on or taking it off?

You can observe that with your own peepers. What do adult men in your local area actually do with their ball caps when they step inside some particular type of building? Whatever most of them do -- take their cap off, leave it on, dispose of it in the trashcan, mutter a prayer and ritually burn it, disrobe and poop in it -- is the norm. It has to be the norm and can't not be the norm.

If you want to be more particular, you can look at what men who appear to be from your actual or aspirational social status do with their caps instead of men in general. As long as a clear majority do the same thing, whatever that is is that culturally correct thing to do for that social status in that setting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did we already mention that women may wear hats indoors, but not men?

I know of one woman who wears a hat regularly: every Sunday at Mass, and I can't remember more than a couple of repeats in over a decade. She's my hero!

I wear a nice felt hat many days, and I always take it off when I come indoors. The old rules about taking off your hat in public spaces (like train stations, entrance hallways, et al.) apply but no one knows them. It is to *sigh*.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2014

What's the consensus on leaving a baseball cap on or taking it off?

Um...wear it only when outside when you actually need it? Honestly, baseball hats as everyday/everywhere fashion are just wrong anyway. But, definitely, they should come off when inside, like every other hat.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014

The only enforcement of social "rules" is enforcement by authority or peer approval/disapproval. So, while you might be seeing people in hats indoors and thinking this is a disruption of a social code, it's disrupting your code and perhaps not theirs.

For instance, if I'm eating at a nice restaurant, the host or wait staff might politely ask me to remove my hat, to don a suit jacket, or many other things that they require in their private space. If I work in an office environment that requires business attire (or business casual), then I might get asked to change my way of dress.

But if I'm wearing a hat at Chipotle, the staff doesn't give a crap, and really, I doubt any of the other customers care that much.
posted by mikeh at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2014

I sometimes find that musty/sweaty head smell of unwashed hair baking under a hat to be utterly revolting so if I had a choice of smelling that smell and being in the presence of a hat-indoorser I would choose the latter, personally.

Otherwise, yes, I agree with the rules as you have outlined them.
posted by elizardbits at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2014

I doubt you're going to get a clean consensus on this, because every time hat etiquette comes up on MetaFilter it splits pretty cleanly between "it's basic manners to take any hat off indoors, period, particularly in a restaurant" and "Nobody follows hat etiquette anymore so enjoy your grandpa cosplay if you want but don't try to impose your outdated rules on the world because nobody cares."

In terms of "casual hat etiquette" I don't know if there is any kind of modern widely accepted authority who has spoken up on the matter recently, but the de facto current standard of acceptable behavior in the U.S. does seem to be "Wear a crusty baseball cap every waking moment of the day, indoors and out, for all occasions regardless of formality. Maybe break out your nice baseball cap if you're going to a wedding."

The majority of people don't know or care anymore... but the ones who do care have strong feelings on the matter, so if you're worried about making an impression, I say keep fighting the good fight and take your hat off indoors in all situations, formal and casual.
posted by usonian at 11:15 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I remember covering this on Metafilter in the past, and it got pretty heated. This may have been the thread I'm thinking of, but I'm not quite sure. I thought it even spawned a MeTa, but I might be mis-remembering.
posted by sockermom at 11:27 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're in a place where a baseball cap is something you'd expect to see, indoor or outdoor doesn't matter. You're in super casualville.

I mean, you'd never wear a baseball cap to go to a funeral or a wedding or other church function, of course, so you don't have to worry about taking it off when you get there.

If you're casual, you're casual. That's the end.
posted by inturnaround at 11:31 AM on August 5, 2014

I was raised to take off my baseball cap in any place other than a fast food restaurant (I'm not old enough for the formal hat era), so it's pretty ingrained, and I still take it off. Living in the south it bothers me that 99 percent of middle aged men with baseball caps will never take them off (yes, going bald is a huge reason), but I've had to get over it. As someone else said, they basically dress like giant pot bellied teenagers anyway.
posted by justgary at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2014

If you're around older (80s+) people much, you might want to take off your hat inside. I had no idea it was considered rude until my grandpa yelled at me once. I was dumbfounded. I do think it's something more commonly felt by older generations.
posted by the jam at 11:54 AM on August 5, 2014

Etiquette rules can basically be broken into two categories. One, rules that we observe to keep from being jerks to other people, which tend to be relatively universal (with obvious caveats for the state of human rights in the world, etc). Two, rules that were spawned from particular habits held by people in one particular culture and class at one particular point in time and have thereafter been deemed The Right Way To Do Things even for people who do not actually come from that culture and class. You were raised with a set of social expectations, but other people were raised in different environments and were raised with different social expectations. Hattedness not being one of those jerk sorts of rules, there is no universal hat standard that applies to everyone.

Given my social background, I'd call indoor casual hat-wearing a bit unusual, but I'd be hard pressed to name anyone I know who would think it worthy of comment except in a church/funeral context. And there, people are presumed of similar social backgrounds; church attire standards where I come from are very different from those of even other Protestants.

I think the sort of social expectations of the kind of person who has ever actually worn something called a "fascinator" (or accompanied such a person) are the same as they've always been, but those present quite a small subset of the US population. Even, for example--there's plenty of tradition of black women wearing hats to church, but they would laugh in the face of rules about "small and unobtrusive" and there are really important cultural reasons for that. Basically, the etiquette standards of well-off white Americans are not and should not be some kind of a general social default.
posted by Sequence at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you're 30 years old and wearing a hat inside and not in a place where sunglasses sweatpants would be socially acceptable, I would think it was inappropriate.

I think baseball hats in particular are problematic because they make it difficult to see a person's eyes.
posted by inertia at 1:04 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

I was raised that it was rude for a man to wear a hat of any kind indoors (only exception being for religious purposes). It makes me cringe to see men sitting around a dinner table in someone's home wearing baseball caps.
posted by sallybrown at 1:34 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

“A hat should be taken off when greeting a lady, and left off the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.” ― P.J. O'Rourke, Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:01 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Golden Rule of etiquette states that you should do (or not do) the thing that makes the most people feel comfortable. Those who are unaware of the Golden Rule will do what is most comfortable for themselves, and those who are aware of the Golden Rule and care about it will do what is most comfortable for the people who aren't aware.

You might run into people who profess to care about the Golden Rule but who will completely ignore it when they feel justified in their moral superiority. If they're ignoring the Golden Rule and giving you evils for wearing a hat indoors, they they themselves are in the wrong. It is one thing to have an opinion about wearing hats indoors, and quite another to use that opinion to judge other people.

Etiquette is largely about social conformity. That's why there are such clashes when two different groups meet, such as those who wear hats indoors and those who judge others for doing it. Two disparate groups with vastly different social expectations meet, and each holds tightly to their version of The Rules.

One thing to consider is how your behaviour affects another. Talking on your phone while talking to another person is showing that person that their presence is not enough to hold your attention. Talking on your phone to someone who isn't present, while travelling on public transport (for example), doesn't directly affect someone else. Eating smelly food in your office at work, with the door closed, doesn't affect someone (unless they're required to be in your presence). Cooking smelly food in the break room microwave so that it stinks up the place for several hours is rude, because it affects another.

In your particular case, OP, do what everyone else is doing. What is going on around you is the localised version of The Rule.
posted by Solomon at 2:41 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most young folks no longer bother with earlier conventions about hats. I used to believe that only cowboys kept hats on indoors so that non-cowboys would know that they were looking at cowboys.
My uncle years ago had a store that sold only hats for men. On the entrance way, a sign that read When Buying a Hat, Use Your Head.
The baseball hat is of course ubiquitous and is more often than not worn in eating places, though as a general rule, those wearing them seldom dine at the more expensive places.
As an oldster, I sigh when watching Don Draper in Mad Men...ah, there were real hats back in those days.
posted by Postroad at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2014

I've long heard that cowboy hats are an exception to the hat rule. You wear them indoors because they're more elaborate, expensive, and easily damaged when not on your head. I think that it also depends on whether you're wearing a nice cowboy hat or one that's cheap or falling apart.

Also, who's going to argue with someone wearing a cowboy hat in public?
posted by fremen at 5:27 PM on August 5, 2014

Data point: I work in a public library and people almost never take off their hats here. Right now I see at least 5 people of various genders wearing hats --3 baseball caps, 1 outdoorsy REI-style technical shade hat, one straw gardening type hat.
I do not see anyone carrying a hat.

So yeah, I think mostly hat rules are not really a thing any more.
posted by exceptinsects at 5:33 PM on August 5, 2014

[A few comments deleted. Please just answer the question, if you have a helpful answer. As always, Ask Metafilter isn't the spot for chatting or debating. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:57 AM on August 6, 2014

I have seen men being told in very definite terms to take off their hats in a sitting courtroom. These were generally older men in the habit of wearing 'proper' hats. I'm sure people forget to take off baseball caps in court all the time. I've never seen anyone refuse to take off a hat when asked in this circumstance. I presume a judge who felt strongly about it could send someone to the cells for contempt?

On somewhat of a derail, I have heard of judges (in Ireland) refusing to hear barristers who were not wearing wigs although this requirement had been removed from the rules of court some years before. Court rules are one place where you will find rules around headgear (although not hats) written down.
posted by Grinder at 10:25 AM on August 6, 2014

My Grandfather, a judge, once told H Rap Brown to take his hat off in his court or he would be jailed in contempt of court. Apparently, Mr. Brown complied. Family lore.
posted by 724A at 10:35 AM on August 6, 2014

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