A Modern Gent's Guide to Basic Hat Etiquette, Bro.
From the dawn of civilization to around the 1960's, people wore hats, ALWAYS. Men wore 'em, women wore 'em. Everyday. It was only polite, after all. Proper. I have read many speculations on why this tradition fell out of favor. Anything from JFK's hatless head at his inauguration (this is a myth. It was a top hat, though he didn't wear it the whole time), elaborate hairstyles such as Elvis's pompadour coming into vogue, or the shrinking of car interiors. We may never know for sure.
Fortunately, today, more and more dudes are going dapper, reclaiming this gentlemanly custom. We are seeing all of the standard styles of yesteryear: fedoras, porkpies, derbies, homburgs, berets and flat caps. All relevant to the wardrobe of todays stylish gent. I, for one, couldn't be more delighted over this phenomenon!
But with great hat comes great responsibility. It would behoove you menfolk to learn to do it proper. If you want to don the hat of a classic gentleman, you must adopt some of the hat wearing etiquette of a classic gentleman. Now don't get me wrong, I realize we live in the modern era. I'm not suggesting that you remove your brimmed companion each time an American flag crosses your path, or that you de-hat whenever in the presence of a lady. While both instances are appropriate times to remove your signature accessory, doing so won't damage your reputation as a polite gent as it might have in the past.
There are oodles of sites out there that educate men on proper hat etiquette. One of my favorites is "Evil Swede's Guide To Proper Hat Etiquette". This site has ALL the do's and don'ts of the hat ritual. I have taken it upon myself to condense what I've learned from this, and other sources, into a basic "how to" for the modern hat wearing male. There are many hardcore rules that seem not only hard to remember, but also pretty irrelevant in the 21st century. Die-hards may refer to the mentioned site for further instruction. In my opinion, as a modern-fused-with-classic type gal, here's all you need to know.
Tip that hat!
Done by barely lifting your hat off of your head with your dominant hand, by the crown of a soft hat, or the brim of a stiff one. And for hell's sake, take that cigarette out of your mouth first!
-Tip that hat to a lady whom you're just meeting, or who thanks you after your assistance. She's instantly charmed. Good first impression, check.
-Begging pardon to a woman stranger? Perhaps you've just bumped into her forcing her to spill her drink. You've just become the scum of the earth. Tip that hat as you pardon your blunder, you'll get a smile in return.
-If another guy shows courtesy to your lady companion, tip that hat to him! You'll be winning admiration from both of them with your old-timey class. Chicks dig old-timey class.
-A tug or pinch of the brim is a general polite gesture to ladies passing by as you make eye contact. Just watch out for paranoid male escorts. They may mistake this for a flirt. Just use common sense.
Ditch that hat!
The classic rule is that you always ditch the hat when you step indoors. For the modern guy, I don't believe this is always necessary, but if you want to be staunch about it, own it! There are some situations, however, where you must do it, lest you be scorned.
-Sitting down for a meal? The damn thing is going to get in your way anyway, so do the polite thing, ditch the hat.
-Meeting the parents of a friend or girlfriend? Earn major points by ditching the hat as you enter their home. In an outdoor setting, ditch the hat for the actual introduction, then go ahead and re-hat after the formalities are over.
-I shouldn't have to tell you to ditch the hat in a place of worship. Even if you're not a member of that religion, it's only respectful. People dig respectfulness.
-Funeral, ditch the hat, period. Wedding, obviously you're de-hatting if it takes place indoors. Outdoor wedding, ditch it during the procession at least, if not the whole ceremony.
Now that you've mastered that, you may be asking what to do with it after you take it off? There doesn't seem to be any specific rule on this. It is advisable, if your holding it, to keep it in your non-dominant hand to allow your dominant one the freedom to shake hands, open doors for ladies (duh), or inflict a playful, non lethal strike upon a familiar fellow as you greet him. (A strange guy ritual I don't understand, but respect)
As I said, there are a wealth of resources online that guys can consult on properly wielding a hat. But for those who just need to know the basics, this is a good start. I don't contradict or discount any of the standard practices, but I don't think you should have to subscribe to them ALL. If you choose to, more power to you. Being a gentleman is always fashionable. Happy hatting!
Information on hat etiquette courtesy of Evil Swede's Guide To Proper Hat Etiquette