Rule: You can leave your hat on

In Hats, Men on March 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm


Let’s get one thing straight from the outset: Geoffrey Rush can do no wrong (and obviously he should have won the Oscar). OK, now that’s settled we can talk about wearing a hat indoors, what it means, and whether it’s quite polite.

Yes, Rushie did look a little odd in his felt trilby at the Golden Globes, but there was a very good thespian reason for it. As revealed to a global TV audience of about one billion at the Oscars on Sunday night, he’s had to shave his head for the revived Belvoir Theatre production of Diary of a Madman, now showing in Brooklyn. Right now he makes a coot like hirsute.

Rush in Krusty mode

Who knows what made him change his mind about revealing his shiny bonce between one awards ceremony and another, or why he ever thought it was a good decision to wear a street hat indoors. But as he can do no wrong, it was all good.

Not so long ago, however, Geoffrey Rush would have been considered  downright ignorant for wearing his hat indoors like that. Depending which kind of indoors it was.

Because back when a gentleman wore a hat every time he stepped out of the door, because it was just plain wrong not to, it was even ruder not to take it off in certain circumstances.

There were all kinds of complicated rules about just tipping it to unknown ladies you passed, but taking it off to talk to friends you bumped into. But you could put it back on again if you then started walking along together.

You had to take it off during the National Anthem and in church (unless you were a Jew at temple and would obviously keep your yarmulke on). You could keep it on in a theatre or cinema, but not if it was blocking anyone’s view. You always took it off in a restaurant. And when a funeral cortage passed.

Opinions seem to have varied on lifts, but it was generally deemed to be safer to take it off, if a lady got in. But you had to put it on again the moment you stepped out again. You had to keep it on in the lobby of a hotel, an airport, or an office building, but never in someone’s house.

How exhausting. Between all that carry on and the advent of modern shampoo, you can see why some time around 1963 men stopped wearing hats as an essential part of every day attire.

Now it’s much more of a statement for a man to wear one than not to wear one and the rules are completely blurred. Is a baseball cap a hat, for example?

Some Americans don’t think they are and keep them on during their national anthem at sporting events, only to be set upon by other, more respectful members of the crowd. Others keep them on in restaurants and no one cares. Except sometimes they do (remember that Sopranos episode?).

So, is it rude for a gentleman to wear a hat indoors any more? Not rude, but kind of kooky. You’ll just look like an attention seeker for wearing a hat at all, when dangerous amounts of UV aren’t involved. Or, to put it another way, an actor with a very specific role.

And incidentally, the rules for women and hats are entirely different. No wonder Randy Newman wrote a song about it.

A hatless Rush at the Oscars with some other bloke

  1. I’m a traditionalist, I say no hat indoors EVER !!!

  2. Isn’t that funny – only yesterday my husband was chatting with my son about hat etiquette. My husband is a rarity in that he wears hats. And my son, at aged 5, is in a gneration that automatically reaches for a hat when he goes outside…

    Perhaps our children, with their sun protection awareness, will be the generation to bring back hats? With rules?

  3. My friend’s 13 year old son wears a trilby. Leaves it on indoors too. Part of his look.

  4. Indoors, outdoors, it depends on the hat. I started wearing hats at age 15 in 1965 and have continued to do so, every single day irrespective of the weather, the length and depth of my hair/hairline, the random foibles of any particular fashion, or any other circumstances. And yet, as long as I can remember, the only comments I have received (always from complete strangers) are a)how good the particular hat of my 40+ and counting collection looks and b)where can same be purchased?
    There are, indeed, a few circumstances where wearing a hat indoors would be inappropriate and I acknowledge and respond to same.
    But let us not be categorical about this. On the right head, the right hat, a quality hat looks good almost anywhere and anytime.
    Thanks for yet another involving discussion, Maggie.

    • Ooh I like the sound of this, any chance you can post some pictures of your collection? Why did you start wearing them?

      • As it happens, just for fun, my wife recently put together a collage of some of my hats from over the years. I hasten to add that not all of them would qualify as ‘quality hats’, but even these were the right hat for the time and place. You can view this photo at or on my website
        Why did I start wearing them? Simply because in my troubled teens all my heroes wore hats and I hoped that by emulating them I might garner some of their virtues and strengths. I survived my teens, but my hats had become a beloved part of my wardrobe and so my collection expanded and continues to do so 🙂

      • Fantastic! EVERYONE LOOK AT NICK’S PIC QUICK!!!! you really do suit a hat. Brilliant.

  5. There are five classes of males who wear hats/caps indoors:
    1. Cowboys.
    2. Jews.
    3. Royalty.
    4. Teenage boys with low self-esteem.
    5. Geoffrey Rush.
    (This means if your name is Kinky Friedman, the king of the Texas Jewboys country and western band, you can wear three hats indoors, all at once.)

    • ha ha this made me laugh x Sikhs sort of wear hats indoors too. Turbans.

    • Well, don’t I just fit those stereotypes, Scott?
      My father’s side of the family were Polish Jews in Nazi Germany, my favourite song is ‘Wild West Hero’ by ELO, my favourite book/movie is ‘Shane’ by Jack Schaefer and I have already alluded to my troubled teens.
      If only I were King Geoffrey II, I would have all bases covered.

  6. So many of my daughter’s friends are fans of the male hat, they have even rubbed off on my son who now wears one. There’s a very definite statement you make by being a hat person ‘yes I’m this confident and fabulous’ which is completely undermined if you nervously take it off and on- but my daughter’s tribe wear them loud and proud!

    (also would love to see a column about all the young indies/hipsters- would be happy to provide plenty of photos of my daughter’s male friends)

  7. Gee, thanks Maggie, glad you liked the photo…

  8. I say bring back the cocktail hat! I’ve been doing my small bit by wearing extravagant bows and bejewelled headbands, and am coveting some divine 40s and 50s pieces I spotted at the local markets this weekend. If they’re still there next week, it’s fate and at least one of them will have a new home!

    Mysix year old rocks his trilby collection! 🙂

    • Yes I love the cocktail hat too – I wore one once to a dinner party and it made everyone there really uncomfortable. They thought I was ‘weird’. So dull x ps if you do purchase please share on here…

  9. Sadly, it rained so much the market was closed. Will Tweet you a pic of my favourite vintage piece (as I can’t figure out how to do so here!)

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