Hat etiquette

Wedding headwear isn’t the sole domain of the mother of the bride, but there are customs for topping off your look…

To wear a hat, or not to wear a hat? Nowadays men don’t grow up with the same customs as their fathers and grandfathers, and formal hats are no longer commonplace. But they can make great fashion statements for forward-thinking men, as well as working brilliantly with certain themes such as country or vintage. They can also make a classic black tie affair extra special.

So when is it appropriate to tip or take off a hat, or steer clear completely?

Many argue that, traditionally, men are expected to remove their hats when indoors—in churches, for example (except if it’s religious headwear). Men are also supposed to remove their hats at outdoor weddings.

So when can you actually wear a hat at a wedding? If you want to be conservative, you could don one on the way to and from the wedding, and perhaps during photos. But if you feel this isn’t making the most of your prized possession, these days etiquette isn’t such a big issue (outside of England where hats at weddings remain a ‘thing’), and you could, realistically, wear one all day if you like.

However, following traditional etiquette can mean the world to older people who subscribe to it, and can make a big event feel more formal and traditional. Though it’s fair to say most young people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at someone wearing a hat throughout a wedding.

Tipping—or “doffing”— hats is another quaint custom associated with formal headwear. Traditionally it’s expected of men toward ladies or the elderly. Though keep in mind tipping your hat to a man is said to be akin to calling him a lady, so this is best avoided, unless you want a showdown at the local saloon.

In all seriousness, these antiquated customs can be fun to follow for a big day. Though many men nowadays wear hats with a tongue-in-cheek attitude or as part of gangster or rat pack themes, hats can also be used to great effect in earnest.

These days you can really do whatever you like. The most important thing is to feel comfortable and confident that you look tiptop, hatless or not.

Story by Sarah Gooding

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