Once upon a time, hats were an essential part of every woman's wardrobe, with both everyday and dressier styles. Today, women still wear hats for fashion, warmth or practical reasons like sun exposure. While women may often leave their hats on, even when men cannot, you must follow some basic rules to ensure you not only look your best, but also use your best manners.
Fashionable hats, from a neat pillbox to a stylish beret, can be worn in nearly any circumstance and can vary in style, color and shape. Women's hats are relatively difficult to remove without damaging the hairstyle, so different rules have developed. These hats may be worn indoors, in homes or restaurants and to cultural events. You should not, however, wear a fashion hat in most workplaces or if it impedes the view of someone else, so it may be polite to leave your tall hat at home when you're going to the theater.
Baseball Caps and Other Athletic Hats
Hats that are less about function and more about sports typically follow male rules for hat wear. You may wear your hat outdoors, at athletic events, or while in public spaces outdoors, like your local beach or park. In schools, libraries and government buildings, you should remove your sports cap, asserts The Emily Post Institute. You should remove it for meals, whether in someone's home or in a restaurant, and in most workplace environments, with the exception of those where it is part of a uniform or a practical and appropriate choice. For instance, a baseball cap to shield your eyes from the sun might be appropriate if you work in landscaping or another outdoor occupation. You should also remove a baseball cap when the national anthem is played at a public event.
Clearly, dressy hats abide by one set of rules and athletic ones by quite another; however, there is another common class of hats. Functional hats are typically used to provide protection from the elements, including cold or sun. Depending upon the hat and the environment, you may opt to follow either set of rules, those for fashion hats or for athletic hats. If your winter hat is soaked with snow, it is likely appropriate to remove it, as you would a large-brimmed sun hat to avoid bumping into other people. On the other hand, if your functional hat can be considered a part of your outfit, it may move into the range of fashionable hats, and should be treated as such. This could hold true for a smaller cloth sun hat or a soft slouchy knit hat.
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When You Should Wear a Hat
It is particularly appropriate to wear a fashionable hat for traditional church services and funerals, as well as some dressy sporting events, like horse racing. Some religious services mandate head coverings for women, making a stylish hat a near-necessity. Daytime weddings and luncheons are good opportunities for hat wearing, if you have a suitable one, but hats are no longer expected. None of these occasions are appropriate for a functional or athletic hat. Outside of these occasions, fashion hat wearing is up to you -- so if you love them, wear them.
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.