Until fairly recently, a hat was considered a necessity whenever a man left the house. A gentleman’s wardrobe was likely to include several — fedoras, boaters, Panamas, Homburgs, Derbys, top hats, touring caps, western — and they were made of felt, straw, wool, and silk. In fact, my great-great-great-grandfather, Samuel Wild, was a manufacturer of silk hats for the gentlemen of Derbyshire, England, in the early 1800s.
Not only were men expected to wear hats, they were expected to know a complex set of rules — hatiquette, if you will — for donning and doffing. In this regard, women did have the easier job, wearing hats when, where and how they chose. For men, generally, the hat remained on when outdoors. It was when the hatted head went inside that things got complicated. In a public space like a retail store, train station, hotel lobby, or saloon, the hat usually remained on. But in a proper restaurant, the hat was to be removed before being seated. In an elevator, it could remain on unless there was a lady on board. In a theater it was removed so as not to block others’ view. In an office, both employees and visitors would remove their hats. When entering a home a hat was generally removed immediately upon entering. Most homes and establishments had designated hat racks or pegs. Hats were to be tipped (lifted slightly) when meeting a lady, but removed if conversation ensued. Tipping also was an appropriate accompaniment to the words (spoken or implied) thank you, excuse me, hello, goodbye, you’re welcome, and how do you do.
Shown below are some of the stylish gents in my family tree.