Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hats Off!

I've not been posting this summer….but I'm back at it….reminding you about manners that have been forgotten (or never taught) and that we need to teach our kids! I'm also trying to discover the history behind all of the manners we regard as proper these days.

At the Yankees game on Labor Day (and every baseball game) - the announcer asked people to stand and take off their hats to sing the national anthem.  I had a sunhat on (because of a bad place on my chin you don't want to hear about)….when the announcer asked people to take off their hats, my first thought in the first millisecond was "I can't take this off for medical reasons" but then I thought "this is a manner that people need to do - no excuse, period" - and I whipped off my hat.  It is absolutely a sign of respect whether you are a man or a woman.

Here's what Emily Post says about hats:

Hats/baseball caps can be left ON:
Outdoors, at Athletic Games, on Public Transportation, at Religious Services as required, in Public Buildings (Post Office, Airport), on Elevators.

Hats/baseball caps should be taken OFF:
In a Home, In an Office, at Mealtime at the Table, in Restaurants, at a Movie or Indoor Performance, when the National Anthem is played, when the Flag of the United States passes by (as in a parade).

But I wanted to know what was the general history behind taking off the hat?  Long ago, the guest, coming in to the host's most vulnerable space - his home - would often make a ritual of taking off his hat.  The hat and the stick (or the helmet and sword depending on the century) would be required to be left at the door.  Uncovering your head and leaving your sword at the door shows that you are disarming yourself, shows respect, and makes yourself similar to your host who is most likely not wearing a hat in his own house or castle.  At the turn of this century, it was also customary for men to remove their hats to protect others from industrial soot.  Emily Post said that women's hats were part of their "costume" and did not need to be taken off….but her more modern descendants who have written the most recent editions of her Etiquette book do not distinguish between men and women when it comes to taking a hat off.  The rules above are for everyone.

How about this?  The forebearer of the hat was the wreath!  The ancient Greeks and Romans wore them at feasts.  The wreath was a pledge that everyone would observe TABLE MANNERS(!) and would not take food meant for another person, would not steal food, and would not ignore the rights of others at the table!  Wreaths reminded humans that they were mortal - they were not Gods - and they needed to pay attention to their limitations, so they were left on during meals.

So, it seems that taking your hat off has come full circle!


  1. Jill what about gloves? If you are at a ball game and the National Anthem come on can you take off a hat and keep your gloves on or do you need to take them both off?

  2. Gloves: If you are at a ballgame and it is freezing and you have on gloves, I would take the gloves off only if you cross your heart. If you stand at attention but do not cross your heart (either is acceptable) when the anthem is played, then I think you really need not take the gloves off. Man, is what so hot at the game I was talking about, I could not even think about gloves!


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