Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and 
Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU, YEREVAN 

The Hat as a Courtesy Tool

Hat removal in history is full of waves and flourishes and all sorts of wiggles and waggles and wriggles of the head gear. There were many rules. At times it was important to never show the inside of the hat. At another time, when men started to wear wigs, it became a must to show the inside of the hat as evidence that indeed there was not a speck of dirt there.

‘Manners book’ became very popular in Europe in 1700s. Countless pages and whole chapters have been written about exactly when, where and how to remove one’s hat – right down to the minutest detail. […]

In the Eastern part of Europe, not only should hat-doffing be done in the correct manner, but at the precise time. In Poland, it was important that the younger person, or the person of lower importance, remove his hat first. If the hat-removal happened between two equals, they must make certain to synchronize their doffing perfectly to avoid embarrassment.

The reasons for raising one’s hat are both varied and disputed. So with the handshake, hat-lifting is often said to have to do with showing trust in the other person: you take your helmet off and bare your head in a gesture of goodwill. In other words, ‘I trust you not to hit me on the head.’

Other theories abound. […] Greeting another person had to do with lowering your body stature in front of that person (compare bowing, kneeling, curtseying, kowtowing, knee-clasping, prostration and so on) just like many animals do. Taking off your hat was the first step in gradually decreasing your physical height during the greeting procedure.

[…] To cap it all, if a man takes his hat off to a woman, this is supposed to be a sign of complete self-abnegation, as well as an invitation for the lady in question to tread on the saluting man, and a masochistic cover up of the truly aggressive gesture of baring the head.

According to several sources, to simply ‘tip’ your hat by touching the brim with your fingers, or moving the tilt of the hat very slightly up and down, is an American custom. The gesture appears in countless cowboy movies. To actually pick up the hat and lift it right off the head is a European custom. Both practices, though, are often accompanied by heel-clicking and attention-standing, much like a military salute.

‘Tipping’ the hat is very much about the show. The gesture is a sign of intention of removing your hat without actually doing so. This is also the meaning of the customary military hand salute, very common in defence forces around the world. Touching the brim of your helmet or cap (or your forehead or even cheek) is a token of actually taking off your head protection. And don’t forget to do it! There are very few ‘compulsory gestures’ around the world, but failing to perform a hand salute to a superior officer is a punishable offence in many defence forces.
1473 reads | 14.03.2014

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