Funeral etiquette can be difficult and confusing. On a day where all you want to do is pay your respects, you don’t want to risk offending anyone with what you wear. So, can you wear a hat to a funeral?
Men can wear small, dark, neutral-colored dress hats to funerals, as long as they’re taken off indoors and for graveside services as a sign of respect. Trilby hats, fedoras, and homburgs are usually appropriate. It’s common for women to keep a subtle dress hat on throughout the service.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it.
The unspoken rules are stricter for men than they are for women.
Here are some crucial tips for making sure you wear a hat to a funeral in the most respectful way possible.
1. Always Remove It Indoors
When you’re at a funeral, as a general rule, make sure you take off your hat whenever you’re indoors.
Funerals often take place both indoors and outdoors.
It’s why hats actually come in especially useful. There may be a reasonable amount of waiting outside and a hat would provide some protection against potential wind and rain.
But it’s considered disrespectful for a man to wear a hat indoors at a funeral. So, take it off whenever you find yourself going from outdoors to indoors.
The reasons behind this unspoken rule are unclear. It may go back to the fact that hats were traditionally worn by men as protective headgear.
They were designed to get dirty and were not appropriate to wear outside of casual settings.
Times have, of course, definitely changed. Men wear dress hats to formal settings all the time and they’re considered an important part of men’s style as a whole.
But the rules of social etiquette still linger, despite the practical use of hats having changed so dramatically over the years.
Keeping your hat on during an indoor service would be considered rude by most people around you. It’s simply not worth doing.
Place the hat on the chair next to you or on your lap. If you’re standing, hold it by your side.
2. Remove It For Graveside Services
While it’s usually fine to wear your hat outside during a funeral, there’s an exception. Take the hat off during a graveside service (if there is one).
This takes place at the burial plot. Readings usually take place and the casket is gently lowered.
It’s a somber and emotional event where you’ll want to show your respect.
It’s considered respectful to remove your hat during a service such as this.
3. Make Sure It’s A Dress Hat
When wearing a hat to a funeral, make sure it’s a “dress hat” and not a “comfort hat”.
Dress hats are those where the headwear adds an aesthetic flourish to the outfit as a whole. They immediately come across as “formal”.
Here are some examples of dress hats you could consider for a funeral:
- Flat cap
Comfort hats aren’t as formal. As the name suggests, they’re designed for comfort and not for aesthetics (although some may disagree).
They may also be hats that are worn for protection and not usually as a style statement.
Examples of comfort hats that you should never wear to a funeral include the following:
- Baseball cap
- Beanie hat
- Dad cap
- Bucket hat
- Sun hat
The style of hat you choose is important as they’re not all created equal. Some of them are a lot more funeral-appropriate than others.
4. Choose A Dark And Neutral Color
The hat you wear should be a dark and neutral color. With dark tones and shades being considered the most appropriate and most traditional for funerals in Western culture, you should follow this principle when it comes to your hat.
In general, the darker the better.
Black, grey, charcoal, and navy blue are all good options.
They’re dark enough to sync well with the rest of the outfit. In addition, they’re “neutral” and muted enough to not draw too much attention.
Lighter neutral colors aren’t as appropriate but could be acceptable.
What you should avoid at all costs are hats in brighter and bolder colors. These will draw attention and also strike too much of a contrast with the rest of your (hopefully dark and neutral) outfit.
At a funeral, this sort of attention is not what you want.
5. The Smaller The Better
In general, when wearing a hat to a funeral, the smaller the better.
The dress hats listed above were picked for a specific reason – they’re small and compact.
They aren’t bulky, tall, dangly, or overbearing in any way.
Notice how I didn’t pick top hats, for instance.
Top hats are very formal and they’ll definitely come in a variety of dark colors. But they’re tall and distracting. At a funeral, you want the hat to be as subtle as possible.
You don’t want it to be a focus of attention in any way.
Even with appropriate dress hats such as fedoras and homburgs, try to ensure that you pick ones that are subtle and small.
The hat you wear should always be considered an accessory and not a core part of your outfit as a whole.
6. No Angling Or Tipping
Avoid angling or tipping your hat in any way. While it can be fine for more casual occasions and settings, it wouldn’t be appropriate for a funeral.
Once again, it’s because it’ll draw attention.
You don’t want to appear as though you’re trying to impress anyone at a funeral. It’s a day where your sense of style won’t be a priority.
Wearing anything which may come across over the top or too dressy will usually draw some stares – and not in a good way.
It’s the same reason why wearing a boutonniere is generally not a good idea at a funeral. Even though your intentions may be good, you’ll come across as though you’re trying to impress people.
Wear your hat in as simple and boring of a way as possible. The hat should be straight – not tilted or angled in any way.
7. Always Be Aware Of Exceptions
There will always be exceptions, although those exceptions may be quite rare where you are in the world.
Some families may be quite particular about what people wear to the funeral of their loved ones.
When asked to attend a funeral, it’s always worth asking if you should dress in any particular way. For example, they may say they want you to wear a specific color.
They may also ask that you don’t wear specific items.
A lot of these requests may be driven by culture, which is why it’s even more important when attending a funeral in a culture you’re unfamiliar with.
Sticking this tip, as well as the others on this list, should hopefully ensure you wear your hat subtly and respectfully.