By Deb Miskell
With the onset of colder weather here in New York (where I am located), we see an increase in people wearing hats. It is simply a practical thing to do. The body loses a significant amount of heat from the head. This is one of the major reasons why newborns are constantly wearing hats. In the light of this boost to hat wearing, it may be difficult to determine what is the correct action to take with your hat, especially if you are one who covers. I humbly submit the following suggestions for consideration.
Traditionally, men take off their hats when entering a building. They are also expected to remove their hats in the presence of a woman, when indoors, or doff their hats when outdoors in acknowledgement of her. Women, on the other hand, are traditionally not expected to remove their hats when indoors unless it is a matter of their comfort. Properly attired women of an earlier era were considered to be under dressed if they left the house with a bare head, excepting for cases of poverty or necessity that did not permit a hat or similar covering. Many different reasons have been given for this in Western culture (which is my focus today) but at it’s root it was considered a sign of modesty and proper upbringing to wear some sort of cover.
The traditions have changed with the advent of today’s culture. Many of the pesudo-Victorian ideals that are promoted in various subcultures with respect to women’s haberdashery are significantly changed from their sources. In general company, the hat has been demoted from being a necessity for proper dress to a fashion accessory. Several of the traditional rules, however, can be considered to still apply. Women are not expected to remove their head covering in all but the most explicitly stated settings. Hats for daytime settings are generally less formal then those for social calls and evening gatherings. A simple kerchief is considered to be the most casual of head coverings, after the headband. A tichel or similar veil treads the intermediate ground between kerchief and fancy hats. Fancy hats are reserved for formal settings and social gatherings.
In the face of winter weather, utilitarian hats may take the place of a kerchief in outdoor settings. While women are not required to remove their hats indoors, it may prove more comfortable to do so. In this case, it is advisable to do so in an inconspicuous fashion. Retiring to the ladies room to remove one’s utilitarian hat and replace it with the head covering of your choice allows you the privacy to adjust your chosen head covering with out any commentary upon what you are wearing. This is something that will make many women much more comfortable. If one is wearing a tichel or similar veil, this may make it difficult to add a utilitarian hat for additional warmth. In this case, practicality is always the rule. Layering warmer scarves or veils over one’s head covering is not only practical but can allow for additional fashion considerations. Done properly, one’s warmer scarves or veils can serve to modestly enhance one’s appearance while allowing for greater warmth in colder climes. Again, adjusting said scarves and veils in privacy is advisable upon entering a building.
Fancy hats are to be worn by themselves. As most of them are made of materials that are not well suited for the elements, fancy hats are often worn only for a short period of time outdoors (i.e. while one is moving from their vehicle to their destination). The fancy hat need not be worn inside a vehicle if it can not be accommodated by the space of the vehicle or provides a distraction for the driver. When indoors, fancy hats are not to be removed, except by necessity. If one is in a setting where others can not see around their fancy hat, they are not required by courtesy to removed their hat but it is an act of generosity that may be appreciated by those seated behind them. In this scenario, an elegant underscarf or similar item is advisable.
Hat pins that are tasteful and functional are a fine addition in the case of fancy hats. The role of a hat pin is to secure the hat to one’s hair or underscarf. Some settings, however, do not permit traditional hat pins because of their potential use as a weapon. Selecting the proper hat pin must be a fine balance between aesthetics and functionality. Pins that are of the sort with a clasp or cover over the pointed end (and less then two inches long) are generally tolerated. Once a hat pin has been applied, one is expected not to fidget or otherwise adjust the pin unless by necessity.
Casual hat etiquette declares that in informal settings, men and women are permitted to wear hats. Pins that are purely decorative are tolerated, though their use has fallen out of fashion. Men are still expected to remove their hats when said hat compromises the view of events, though this practice has fallen by the wayside. When one is unsure if the event is casual or not, it is wise to err upon the side of formality. This prevents any accidental offense being taken by the host or other guests at the event. It also helps one to maintain an air of elegance that adds to their sophisticated demeanor. Such elegance can leave a lasting, pleasant impression upon others and prove a delightful experience for the person maintaining it.