As far as restaurant etiquette goes, this topic is among the most hotly debated. Opinions vary hugely and the confusion rages on. So, is it rude to wear a hat in a restaurant?
It is generally considered rude to wear a hat in a restaurant. Comfort hats such as beanies and baseball caps are more likely to be considered rude than dress hats such as fedoras and bowlers.
In addition, wearing a hat in a more formal restaurant is more likely to be seen as disrespectful compared with a more casual one.
Although that’s the short answer, there’s a lot more to it. While it’s generally not a good idea, there are some principles to help you decide for sure.
After going through the 4 factors you should consider before deciding whether to wear your hat in a specific restaurant or not, I’ll go through a couple of frequently asked questions to boot.
Let’s get to it.
How To Know Whether You Can Wear Your Hat In A Restaurant
No single dining setting or situation is the same. Consider all of these factors to figure out whether you should be hatless for your culinary experience or not.
1. Male Or Female
This factor isn’t quite as important as it was several decades ago, but it’s still worth considering.
Traditional etiquette has dictated that men remove their hats in a restaurant. It’s considered bad manners for a man to keep their hat on as they were originally designed to be protective and likely to be dirty.
During a meal, this would be considered especially unhygienic.
In the modern era, hats have become much more of a fashion statement than a method of protecting against rain, wind, and grime.
However, it’s tough to shake off cultural and social norms.
While the original reason for hats being considered rude in restaurants may no longer be relevant, the etiquette still lingers.
Men are still generally expected to remove their hats in restaurants.
That’s not to say that women are free to wear whatever hat they want in a restaurant.
It’s just that they have a lot more leeway. It isn’t considered quite as disrespectful, because traditionally they wore hats as fashion statements and not as protective items.
The “statement hat” that women often wore on special occasions has always been considered an essential part of their outfits. To remove it would actually have been more unusual.
This probably seems unfair.
Fortunately, it isn’t quite as important as it may have been in those days.
Modern dress codes are slowly becoming more relaxed.
While it’s definitely worth considering traditional etiquette, it isn’t the only thing that matters.
A man could potentially wear his hat in a restaurant if he really wanted to. It’s just important to consider the following factors as well.
2. Dress Hat Vs Comfort Hat
It’s considered ruder to keep comfort hats such as baseball caps and beanie hats on in a restaurant than it would be to keep dress hats such as fedoras, bowlers, and Panama hats on.
Dress hats are those which are clearly an aesthetic addition to an outfit.
They’re not designed to mask unwashed hair or a bad hair day like beanies and ball caps are often used to do.
They’re also not clearly just for protection like a sun hat, trapper hat, or bucket hat. Within the comfortable indoor confines of a restaurant, a protective hat such as this would just be considered unusual.
Someone wearing a fedora hat in a restaurant is less likely to be seen as rude and more likely to be seen as style-conscious.
In other words, it’s clear they’ve made an effort to dress up for the occasion and may even be praised for it.
In some ways, this factor is even more important than whether you’re male or female.
It’s a more modern and relevant rule of social and dining etiquette.
That’s why it’s so important to consider the type of hat you’re wearing before you decide whether it’s bad manners to wear one in a restaurant or not.
Here are examples of dress hats you may be able to get away with wearing in a restaurant:
- Bowler hat
- Pork Pie
- Flat cap
Here are examples of some “comfort hats” that would usually be considered rude to wear in a restaurant:
- Baseball caps
- Dad caps
- Sun hat
- Bucket hat
- Safari hat
- Trapper hat
3. Casual Vs Fine Dining
It’s considered ruder to keep your hat in a formal restaurant than it would be in a casual restaurant.
We all know that restaurants can vary hugely in terms of their general vibe.
On the one hand, you’ve got pure fast food joints where it really doesn’t matter a single bit what you may or may not be wearing. Essentially, if you don’t even have to sit down for the meal, it wouldn’t be considered rude to keep your hat on.
On the other hand, you’ve got Michelin-starred fine dining institutions where turning up without a full suit could be considered risky.
These extremes are the easy ones – it’s clear that a hat would be fine to wear in a very casual restaurant and more likely to be considered rude in a very formal restaurant.
But the majority of restaurants fall somewhere in between. That’s why it can be tough to know whether or not to go hatted or hatless.
That’s why it’s worth thinking about in advance.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help determine just how formal the restaurant you’re attending is.
- Do you need to wear a tie?
- Do you feel compelled to wear dress shoes?
- Will there be more than three courses?
- Will there be tableware that is gradually cleared while other pieces are added throughout the meal?
If you answered yes to any of the above, there’s a good chance that the restaurant you’re attending is on the fancier end of the spectrum.
Because of this, it’s even more likely that your hat will be considered disrespectful.
This isn’t the only factor you should consider. As we discussed earlier, the type of hat you’re wearing also plays a huge role.
But if you aren’t sure whether to wear one or not based on the style of hat, the type of restaurant you’re going to could swing it for you instead.
4. The Company You’re With
Wearing a hat in a restaurant with close family and friends is less likely to be considered rude than if you were dining with people you don’t know quite as well.
This is especially important if you happen to be eating with senior work colleagues or potential business partners, for example.
But the same goes for first dates.
Essentially, if you’re worried about making a bad impression at whatever restaurant you’re going to, it’s probably best not to take the risk.
In general, these are situations where you’ll want to take your hat off at the restaurant. Why take the risk of being seen as disrespectful at a time where you want the opposite?
We’ve already established that wearing it could be seen as disrespectful based on the factors listed earlier.
But even if you’re fine on those other factors, if you happen to be with company you’re worried about offending, it’s best to just lay the hat by your side.
It’s such a simple action that it would just make more sense to.
But if you’re with people who really couldn’t care less what you wore (close family or friends) and you’re fine with the other factors in this list, you’re probably going to be fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a couple of frequently asked questions that deserve a proper answer to really round off this topic.
Can You Wear A Baseball Cap In A Restaurant?
A baseball cap should never be worn at a restaurant as it’s considered disrespectful. It’s a common example of a “comfort hat”. Because of this, wearing one in a restaurant would be seen as less of a fashion statement and more of a defiance of traditional etiquette.
While it’s true that there are plenty of people who do wear baseball caps as fashion statements, once again, it’s tough to shake popular opinion and cultural norms.
Traditionally, baseball caps simply don’t have the aesthetic flair of true dress hats like bowlers and fedoras.
Unfortunately, they’re more associated with covering up bad hair days, even if this isn’t the case in reality.
So, avoid wearing a baseball cap in a restaurant wherever possible.
Can You Wear A Cowboy Hat In A Restaurant?
In general, cowboy hats should be removed in all but the most casual of restaurants as it would otherwise be considered bad manners. They aren’t quite dressy enough to be considered dress hats and are therefore more likely to be considered inappropriate.
The classic image of someone in a cowboy hat at a bar doesn’t have quite the same appeal when the setting is switched to a dine-in restaurant.
It’s more likely to be seen as awkward, out of place, or disrespectful.
Overall, if you have to sit down for the meal, remove the cowboy hat and lay it gently by your side.
While traditional etiquette dictates that hats should be removed in a restaurant, it’s important to consider the type of hat you’re wearing, the type of restaurant you’re going to, and the people you’re going to be dining with.
Hope that helped.