When is it appropriate to wear a hat? I remember in high school I was always annoyed by those guys who would wear fedoras with regular clothes in a hipsterish manner. If you go to someone's house or a restaurant with a hat, what do you do with it when you take it off?
Wherever you put your coat is where you put your hat. Hang it on a peg. Put it in a closet. If you're in a restaurant and there's an empty chair, put it on the chair. And good for you for taking it off - the etiquette is, women can keep their hats on inside, men shouldn't. The only exception seems to be western hats (and really, only in Texas). Generally considered to make such a wreck of your hair, it's more polite to keep it on.
Bum Phillips disagreed with you. Coach of the Houston Oilers, he never wore his Stetson inside a domed stadium, because "you don't wear a hat indoors."
As far as when to wear a hat/what hat to wear, here are some pretty basic guidelines:
Fedoras (I'll just lump all dress hats in here): Wear 'em with your suit. If you're not wearing a suit (or at least a top coat over a nice sweater and shirt & tie), you're too casual to wear a dress hat. This results in most people who wear a fedora looking, as you put it, "hipsterish". Kind of like wearing black dress shoes with jeans (fedora with casual button-down/slacks) or black dress shoes with sweats (fedora with t-shirt and jeans). If you're just wearing a normal casual outfit (OCBD shirt/khakis, let's say), then it seems to be pretty acceptable to wear an ultra-narrow brimmed fedora (these are the kind that are popping up at Wal-Marts and dep't. stores the last couple years), but stick with a more casual fedora (i.e., not a nice, black, felt hat, this is where a soft tweed fedora with a small brim might come in handy) or a more casual type of hat altogether (like a flat cap, or, if it's spring/summer, a panama/boater, or any type of light, straw/woven hat).
As far as flat caps (A.K.A driving caps, ivy caps, newsboy caps, golf hats, cabbie hats, cheese cutters*), you'll look a bit hipsterish/"edgy" if you're wearing a t-shirt. These are my favorite type of hat (a good one is super comfy and looks great on my odd head), but they often have streetwear association (esp. when worn backwards) or punk/skin/edgy-try-hard association (esp. if worn with a graphic tee or work shirt, Docs, and/or suspenders/braces).
Baseball cap: If you're playing baseball, this is what you should probably wear. Going to a game? Sure. Wearing a suit? You can, and many do, but it's not a "classy" or "gentleman" look. If you're trying to stay away from the frat boy/bro look, leave ball caps for fishing or going to a ball game. Wear it while you sit on your porch and smoke a pipe while listening to your team crack some bats over the radio.
As far as when to wear a hat, it used to be inappropriate for a man to go out-of-doors without a hat on. Now, aside from inclement weather situations, it seems more the norm to go hatless. The rule is generally: outside-don your hat. Inside-take it off.
Fun parts: A sporting event is generally considered "outdoors", even if you're at an indoor arena (if it's an outdoor sport such as football or baseball, for example). Airports/bus & train depots/etc are considered outdoors, even when you're indoors there.
If you're eating or sitting down with someone, take off the hat. Doff the cap to a lady as you're introducing yourself.
Generally, taking off your hat is a sign of respect. You're supposed to take it off when you enter a building out of respect for the present company.
As far as where to put it, if you're sitting down to dinner, there ought to be a coat rack where you can hang your coat/hat. This is often not the case, so I can't help you much there, except to say, when hosting people, make sure you offer to take their hats and coats and put them somewhere that people won't mess with them.
Wear a hat whenever you want or need to. What TYPE of hat you wear, is up to you.
Under all circumstances, a hat stays on the head, unless a place has been provided for you to hang it/place it. Or if someone asks you to remove it (eg: cinema). In a restaurant, the same thing applies. It stays on your head unless there's somewhere to put it.
Always a nice touch to take it off when introduced to a lady, even if outdoors.
Great info, Joshua, do you have some reference text for all that? I looked in the few I have, not much other than what I said above.
There are some good sources online...
This one is amusing....
Inasmuch as I wear hats much of the time, I have a few basic rules that I adhere too.. However, what you wear and how you wear it is part of the basic etiquette too.
Don't wear a hat at the dinner table, home or restaurant. It doesn't matter if you're balding and insecure. If I can get past your face, you bare bean is tolerable. The only exception is if there is absolutely no place to put the hat. Usually, there is (but not always). On an empty chair, on the bench seat you're sitting on, or a coat hook if provided.
You may elect to leave a cowboy hat on in a bar or tavern, which I advise as some idiot will invariably spill something on it, or feel compelled to have a look at it. If some drunk decides to pluck your hat off of your head, it's within the rules of manly decorum to crack a heavy beer mug on the guy's temple. Some things really are sacrosanct.
Slightly different rules apply to a common fedora, such as it's usually not okay to wear one at the bar... Remove your hat when meeting a lady indoors. Tip your hat as a greeting to lady outdoors. Don't tip you hat to a man, unless the intent is to insult (especially in the southwest).
Ball caps are a bit different, in that there is no such thing as a classy ball cap. I'll wear one from time to time, and I treat it like any other hat, except that it's much easier to store. Still, there are ball caps of different social value. Nothing is a dorky as an unbent bill, or God forbid, the latest practice of leaving the NFL, NBA or MLB sanctioning sticker(s) on. Trust me, no one of consequence gives a shit if it's a $10 cap or a $30 cap. There are no classy ball caps. Unless you just removed a catcher's mask, the bill goes in the front. Wearing one sideways or half sideways may be a fashion statement among dweebs, but the only people worthy of impressing, won't be impressed. Because of what I do for a living, I've been to many high end events, where nearly everyone has money or reputation, or represents a big dollar corporation. Award dinners, charitable events, Wine and cheese gatherings and business conferences. At some of these, especially summer outdoor events, you'll see ball caps, but rarely one on backwards or sideways. Panama style straw hats are common in these social circumstances.While a hat doesn't necessarily make the man, the wrong hat worn the wrong way can diminish the man.
Knit hats... If it's cold out, they're fine. If it's 90° in the shade... Seriously... Anyway, take it off when you enter a non-public place, or restaurant. Obviously, you can't readily tip a knit cap...
Flat caps are also very nice, but should be treated like a fedora. Unless you're Samuel L. Jackson, the bill should be in front. Jackson gets away with it because, he's an ignorant celebrity. If ignorant celebrities had to account for their dress style, very few would ever leave their homes. Some might argue that they are making a statement. Indeed, they are. Others may feel that they are on the cutting edge. That is, if the back side of the fashion knife has an edge. Of course, No one in Hollywood does hats worse than Johnny Depp...
Now, all of that said, some folks will wear their hat whenever and were ever they wish. Just remember, that as much as a hat says about you, how you follow the basic rules of hat etiquette says much as well. Of course, I could be completely full of baloney...
Corey, I confess that some of your advice actually made me laugh. But it's good advice. Very good. But you write it in a way which made me chuckle. Especially the bit about smashing a beer-glass on someone's head!
Check out Optimo Hats.com A lot of good information.
Hat etiquette is very debatable because society has changed quite a bit since the time in which it was common for men to wear hats. I've started wearing fedoras recently. I don't feel it necessary to always wear a suit with them. I generally wear them with a nice button down shirt, slacks, sometimes a tie. But, I'll also wear them with dark jeans and button down shirt. It's up to you. There are some hat wearers who will wear a homburg with a t-shirt. The most important thing would be to wear the hat, and not let the hat wear you.
As far as etiquette... do what works for you. General rules are that you always remove your hat in a home, office, church or restaurant. Exceptions are if you are in a lobby, hallway, elevator (unless a lady is also in the elevator - then remove your hat) or if you are eating at the counter in a restaurant. It is also not necessary to remove your hat in a store or similar public place. If you encounter a female cashier at the check-out, its generally not necessary that you remove or tip your hat because you are separated by the checkout counter. If you meet a lady, tip your hat. If you have a conversation with her, remove it. If you begin walking together, you may place the hat back on your head.
These are what was generally accepted practice in the hay-day of hat wearing. Today, many people don't know proper hat etiquette, so you have have more room for error. Some of the rules would be considered antiquated by certain people... basically, decide what works best for you.
You can wear a hat inside a restaurant, but take it off when you sit down at your table. I usually hang mine over my knee if no spare chair or rack is present. Always take off a hat when you come into a home, I usually find a good out of the way place to put it. Leave it upside down, both for luck and so you don't rumple the brim. Never wear a hat into a church, whether you're religious or not it's a bit churlish. (I'm not sure where old ladies got the free pass on those enormous fruit laden sombrero's they wear in there.)
Never have your hat on during the playing of thenational anthem, unless you are in uniform of some sort and are on parade during it. I take mine off out of respect when I'm visiting our neighbors in Canada as well.
Hats are fine in public spaces, like stores, bars, or malls, but I take mine off when I'm in a theater. I'm a bit taller than a lot of folks around here, and having to look around my frame plus my 3" brimmed hat is a bit much to ask.
I think the answers above are great and probably cover everything. My own observations:
Men and women follow different rules - I'm assuming we're mostly worried about rules/guidelines/hints/whatever for men.
Where to put your hat?
Most coat closets will have a shelf over the top of the rod or hooks that coats are hung from that is intended for hats to be stacked onto. Old-fashioned coat racks would have a ring of lower hooks for coats, with a ring of hooks above it for hats, and a circular rack near the bottom for umbrellas. Old-fashioned coat hooks would have a shorter hook for a coat, and a longer hook over that for your hat.
If you are a guest in someone's home, a good host would take your hat and coat and put them away for you (coat closet, or draped over a bed in a spare bedroom, for example.) If not, then just find a nice, safe, out-of-the-way place to put your hat and coat.
If you are eating at a restaurant that does not provide coat and hat racks, you can probably set your hat into an empty seat at your table (if possible); depending on the hat, I might get away with keeping my hat in my lap or on a knee, or rolling it up and putting it in a pocket (a pocket seems to work fine for ivy caps, stocking caps, and other soft, casual hats). If it's not an especially nice restaurant and I have room on the table, I might just leave my hat on the table, but that's probably not particularly good etiquette (this is probably suitable for a lunchroom or cafeteria, in any case).
When to wear a hat:
OK: Generally, you can wear your hat outside, with perhaps a couple of unusual exceptions.
OK: You can generally wear your hat in garages, elevators, lobbies, foyers, trains, buses, cabs, cars, and that sort of thing.
OK: You can generally wear your hat in markets, shops, stores, malls, and that sort of thing. (Just once, try shopping with a couple armloads of groceries or whatever, while holding your hat or tucking it under your arm, and I'm sure you could see that it's pretty much impractical! Don't beat yourself up in this situation, just wear the hat, you'll be forgiven.)
OK: As near as I can tell, it's perfectly alright to wear your hat in pubs, bars, saloons, and other such places. I see guys in films made during the golden age of hats wearing hats in such places all the time and it apparently didn't look weird to contemporary audiences (though it seems that back then, bars and saloons and pubs were places that mostly guys would be found in, drinking in mixed company might have made a difference).
OK: Hats worn in a workplace as part of a uniform or as a safety precaution are quite alright. For example, you don't need to be taking your hardhat off in a construction area, or your chef's hat off in the kitchen, and that sort of thing, for sanitary or safety reasons.
OK: If you are the head of the household and in your own home, you can wear whatever you like, whenever you like, however you like! You may consider it rude for a guest in your home to try to tell you to take your hat off or put it on.
Probably OK: I would generally feel free to wear a hat in a fast food restaurant... I doubt the Burger King, Ronald MacDonald, Wendy, or the Burger Chef are going to get too wound up about it :)
Generally not OK: It's probably best for men not to wear a hat while praying, during a national anthem, in moments of silence in memory of a death or tragedy, while pledging allegiance, while swearing an oath, or in other such solemn moments. (At least, this seems true enough for all the Protestant denominations I've ever attended church or prayed with; your mileage may vary with other denominations and religions. If visiting an unfamiliar church, it's probably best to adopt a "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" approach and keep your hat on if all the other guys do.)
Generally not OK: In my experience, for Protestant churches, men should remove their hats when entering and while inside the church. (I might remove my hat when entering a graveyard or memorial site as well, for good measure, but that's probably just me.)
Generally not OK: You should generally remove your hat when entering someone else's home as a guest, out of respect for your host.
May or may not be OK: You probably should remove your hat when entering a more formal, "respectable", or serious sort of building, such as a nice office, a museum, restaurant, the opera, a theater, a fancy club, or that sort of thing. (Your mileage may vary depending on the place, though - if a coat room or coat/hat rack are provided, I would take that as a sign your hat should be removed.)
Generally not OK: Unless you are on a picnic or in a fast food joint, you should probably take your hat off while eating, especially if you are a guest to that table or if you are at a nicer restaurant.
Generally not OK: You generally shouldn't wear your hat while greeting a lady, or when you are being introduced to a lady. I'd take my hat off while meeting and speaking with a lady as well.
Never OK: Never wear a hat while trying to beg for something. If you are going to beg, it's best to go hat-in-hand to whoever you are begging from.
OK: You should wear your hat while robbing someone. Nine out of ten "sartorialists" agree, though, that a fashionable highwayman should always remove his mask while committing a robbery. (I recommend a domino mask, or bandana - anything else is uncouth!)
As for tipping your hat:
I would generally tip your hat to a woman you pass on the street who makes eye contact with you, greets you, etc. However, especially in a city, I think most passers-by want to be left alone, and I generally don't tip my hat to just every woman that walks by. If she makes eye contact or smiles, then she's probably not going to consider a stranger tipping his hat to her to be intrusive, pushy, or creepy, and you're fine in that case.
Don't tip your hat to a guy, unless you are sure you know what you are doing. (It's probably OK in certain subcultures, but outside those subcultures, you should probably consider tipping your hat to a guy to be an insult! When in doubt, save the hat-tipping for the ladies....)
If it fits your outfit, then whenever you want. Of course you have to wear it within the boundaries of manners.