A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why do men take their hats off to show respect but women don't?

September 25, 2001

Dear Straight Dope:

My husband and I were recently at a Mariner's baseball game in Seattle (Yeah M's!). Just before the game started the announcer said "We are about to start the game. We will ask you at this time to all rise for the national anthem, and we will ask the men to remove their hats." We all rose and the men removed their hats. During the anthem I looked around. Women were wearing all kinds of hats. Why don't women have to remove their caps/hats during the national anthem?

Oh, say can you see? If not, the lady in front of you should remove her hat.

Congress has amazingly addressed your very question in their pamphlet on flag etiquette entitled Our Flag. When in civilian attire, men must remove their hats and hold them at their left shoulder with their right hand over their heart. If they don't have a hat, men should place their right hand, palm open, over their heart. Women (with or without a hat) also need to place their right hand, palm open, over their heart. When in athletic clothing, one is required to face the flag or music, remove any hat or cap and stand at attention; a hand salute is not given.

Emily Post, in her 1922 book Etiquette, says, "It is not necessary to add that every American male citizen stands with his hat off at the passing of the 'colors' and when the national anthem is played. If he didn't, some other more loyal citizen would take it off for him."

A lady's hat is considered part of her costume or ensemble, and as such need not be removed (for one thing, say etiquette experts, her coiffure could be badly dented and mussed when she removes her hat).

The only time a lady must remove her hat is when it blocks the view of someone behind her. According to Amy Vanderbilt''s Guide to Gracious Living (1963): "If there is any doubt about a hat obscuring someone's view at the theater, the movies, or a meeting, a woman should remove it promptly. If she's asked to remove it by someone having difficulty seeing beyond her, she should do it immediately with murmured apologies."

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