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.
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.