Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hat Tippng Etiquette and History

“Tipping of the hat is a conventional gesture of politeness. This hat tipping custom has the same origin as military saluting, which came from the raising of medieval Knights face visors to show friendliness.” - from “Ask Andy About Clothes” website
The custom of a man tipping his hat to others derived from an ancient practice. When knights in medieval times wanted to express friendly intent, they would raise their face masks and reveal their faces. The practice of saluting is also derived from this friendly exchange between knights.  Lifting one's armor mask eventually evolved into the custom of “tipping” or “doffing” one's hat to greet or acknowledge another, women in particular.  

“If a gentleman meets a gentleman, he may salute him by touching his hat without removing it, but if a lady be with either gentleman, both hats must be lifted in salutation. If a gentleman stops to speak to a lady, in the street, he must hold his hat in his hand during the interview, unless she requests him to replace it. With a gentleman friend etiquette does not require this formality.” - From Frosts Laws and By-Laws of American Society, 1869

“This practice also evolved into the removal of one's hat when entering a building...”
Knights would remove their helmet when entering a building  to signify  a peaceful position, since a knight could not fight or defend himself without the helmet.  Since the removal of his helmet made him vulnerable, it informed others that combat or any type of violence was not his motive. This practice also evolved into the removal of one's hat when entering a building, when hearing the national anthem and in different situations where they would not be going back out in public immediately. Men would hold their hats in their hand when speaking with a lady but would put it back on when they began to walk together if out in public.


Hat Tipping Etiquette

When a gentleman lifts his hat, he does not tip it when he meets or passes a woman he knows or when he is with someone who greets a woman acquaintance.  If he simply passes a woman or if he has to greet her, he falls into step beside her, he replaces his hat at once. Usually if they stop and chat for a moment he stands bareheaded. If the thermometer were hovering in the neighborhood of zero he would probably dispense with this courtesy after a moment - even if the woman did not, as she should ask him to replace his hat. 

When a man passes another man of his own age whom he knows, he merely touches his hat with his fingers. For an older, or very distinguished man, he lifts it. When a lady enters an elevator man takes off his hat. In the corridor of the building he usually keeps it on. In the elevators of office buildings in stores, which are public places, he need not remove his hat, though he often does. When a man passes a woman in a narrow corridor when he does her a trifling service, such as picking up something which she has dropped, or when he is with the woman for whom some other man does a service, he lifts his hat. 

He lifts his hat when the national flag passes, when a funeral goes by, if he belongs to certain religions or when he passes a church.  When a man lifts his hat to a stranger he does not look at the other person. When he lifts it to a friend or acquaintance he usually smiles and bows with whatever degree of cordiality best expresses their relationship.  
Margery Wilson, from "Pocketbook of Etiquette" 1937

This common courtesy has its roots in codes of conduct and communication from ancient practices to ensure a peaceful position was maintained in certain situations, and continues with us today.

Submitted by Demita Usher of Social Graces and Savoir Faire

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