Thursday, June 20, 2013

The hat by Terry Burns

People may not remember me, but they tend to remember the hat. And it’s such a beautiful hat. I have a lot of them but it is the top of the line that I only wear at conferences and special events. It is part of my persona, part of how I present myself to perform the role of a literary agent.

Ladies love when I tip my hat to them and often comment on it. It was how I was raised and is a common act where I come from. This act of showing respect is handed down from the days of medieval knights who used to raise the visor hiding their face to show friendliness. That's also where the military salute came from.

I was at a conference in Canada and they were interested that I wore my hat at meals. I told them that came from the days when guys used to hang their hats on pegs by the front door, but when they started getting stolen a lot they started wearing them to eat. Also, good western hats are very expensive and since it harms them to set them brim down they have to be set upside down on the crown. The floor can be dirty in public eating places. If there is a nice safe place for it I will probably remove it. I told them it was part of a “hat etiquette” and that caused an impromptu workshop on just what was involved in “hat etiquette.”

Yes, we do tip our hats to ladies and remove it to talk to one. We don’t tip our hat to men as that would be akin to calling them a woman.

No, we do not wear our hats in church and remove it at any other time and clutch it to our chest if we pray. For some religions just the opposite is true and the head must be covered in a church. A woman may wear a hat in church.

Yes, we remove them in a theater for obvious reasons.

No, we don’t wear them in the house.

Yes, if we are in trouble we toss them in the front door. If it is not thrown back out it is safe to follow it in.

No, we don’t wear them in an elevator, unless it is very crowded.

Absolutely we remove it for the national anthem and when our flag is passing as well as when a hearse passes in a funeral possession.

Yes, in a church a woman may wear their hat as well as for the above occasions. Why the difference? Historically, men’s hats are easily removed but women’s hats have been not so easily removed. If a woman is wearing a baseball hat or a hat similar to what a male wears they are subject to the same rules as men except they don’t tip their hats to anyone.

No, we don’t toss them on a bed, that is considered bad luck. I don’t know the origin of that one.

Removed hats are held in such a way that only the top and the brim are visible, never the lining.

No, I mentioned we do not set them brim down. That can ruin the shape of the brim which is usually lower in front and back than on the sides. Also, there is a gentle curve to the hatband that causes it to conform more comfortably to the head and that can be damaged by setting it brim down.

Yes, we have to send it through a scanner at an airport.

No, we don’t like to, those things are dirty.

Yes, they keep off the sun and the rain but we don’t like to get our best hats wet. Who wants a speckled hat and if they get wet enough, well, they are felt after all and we sure don’t want a floppy hat.

No, it is not good etiquette to touch another person’s hat.

Yes, some of the ‘rules’ are regional in nature and vary in different parts of the country. And in parts of the country some of the rules don’t seem to apply to baseball hats.

No, we do not wear them at an outdoor wedding. We do occasionally have western weddings where the groom wears his hat and if that is the case the audience may follow suit.

Yes, we tip the hat as a response when a lady thanks us for rendering assistance or some courtesy.

And finally, yes, a good hat can last many years and is often passed down to children or grandchildren. The wearing of hats seems to be making a comeback but the younger generation has grown up without knowing this etiquette in many parts of the country. In our part of the country . . . not so much.


Davalyn Spencer said...

How fun to read your list, Terry. As a young cowboy's bride years ago I learned these rules. They have certainly stood the test of time --but that's what makes a good hat last.

Andy Scheer said...

For cowboys, a hat is a felt need, except in summer, when it might be the last straw.

Terry Burns said...

GROAN . . .

Jody said...

I did not know all those rules of etiquette for hat wearing. Enjoyed this, and makes me miss my grandpa in his Stetson:)

Terry Burns said...

I do need to get my good one cleaned but it is hard these days to find a place to get that done. My sweat-stained and dirty everyday hat is too far down the road for that.

Terry Burns said...

I mentioned that a good hat can be passed down - I have my dead's dress hat and Saundra's grandfathers hat. Both are not western but are Fedoras

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, DMin, MFA said...

What a fascinating post, Terry! Thank you for writing it.



N. J. Lindquist said...

One other little thing. When worn in unexpected locations, they are good for starting up conversations. Such as the lady who was leaving when we came into the Swiss Chalet in Canada. She saw your hat and immediately asked if you were from Texas; then was both dumbfounded and star struck when you said yes. :)

Terry Burns said...

There is that - and I get a lot of offers to buy it such as the airline pilot as I was leaving the plane who offered me $200 for it right on the spot. I'll just bet he would.

Deborah Dee Harper said...


What a cool post! I've always loved your hat, but never knew any of the etiquette of wearing them. Thanks :-)


Jubileewroter said...

Fascinating. What a great post. Such fun information. Thanks for sharing.