Why Don’t We Wear Hats? National Hat Day – January 15

“I always get hats but never have the nerve to wear them. Hats are a thing that are really stylish, but you have to have the confidence to pull it off.” (Ann Heckerling, film director)


Do you like hats? Not the baseball, company or team stitched variety – the kind of hats that need their own hatbox. Did you grow up with the tradition of getting a hat to wear to church on Easter? Even if you never wore one any other time, your mom got you one for that Sunday. Because we didn’t wear them often, they were uncomfortable and it felt like they might fall off at any moment. So you held your head stiffly and looked oh, so happy in the obligatory photo opportunity showing off your Easter finery.

Hats certainly had their ‘day in the sun’ with their own set of hat etiquette for women to follow. For instance, here are some guidelines that were recommended for fashion hats:

Women generally kept hats on (indoors or outdoors) since their hats were most likely attached to their hair with hatpins and their hairstyle would be in disarray if removed. One exception to this would be gender-neutral hats, which were to be removed indoors by women and men. The other major exception was if the woman was at the theatre and her hat was blocking the view of those seated behind her.

In the ‘hat heyday,’ women wore hats to luncheons, bridge parties, or any type of party; however, the hostess usually did not wear one if the event was in her home. Remember the I Love Lucy episode that centered on the perfect hat she had found?

Women did not wear hats with brims after 5:00 pm. After that time, cocktail hats, smaller hats with beading, jewelry, and veils, were recommended. These hats had a certain mystery about them, probably from that face veil effect. Today’s fascinator hats could be considered equivalent to the cocktail hat of years gone by.

If the hat had some type of ornament, it was placed on the right side of the hat; men’s hat ornaments were on the left.

There was a time that professional women wore hats to work. However, the line from Nine to Five put that idea to rest when Violet commented on Judy’s hat, “We’ll have to get a locker for the hat.” That sealed Judy’s fate as being out of her element for even showing up on her first day of work wearing a hat.

Perhaps these guidelines had something to do with the fact we now only wear formal hats on specific occasions. Really, what’s the Kentucky Derby or a Derby party without some statement hats of the ‘go big or go home’ variety? Yes, Derby hats keep the sun out of one’s eyes and are practical; however, it’s also a tradition. There’s also the thought that a well-chosen hat brings good luck for those betting on their favorite in the Run for the Roses.

It’s true we don’t wear hats often, at least not the fashion types. We wear knit hats for warmth, sun hats or ball caps, or rain hats. But fashion hats take a bit of swagger, style, or courage as Erma Bombeck stated. “I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and gives me a certain dignity . . . Someday I may get up enough courage to wear it, instead of carrying it.” Perhaps we should marshal our courage and wear one once in a while, just because we want to.


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