On a recent trip to Corpus Christi, I acquired a new straw hat. It was during the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers annual meeting and trade show. It was definitely straw hat weather in South Texas although it was prior to Easter – which came early this year. OK, so where am I going with this? Traditionally, in most parts of cattle country, Easter marks the beginning date when it becomes acceptable to wear a straw hat rather than a felt hat.
While felt hats are appropriate at any time of year (especially on formal occasions) straw hats generally are worn only after Easter and prior to Labor Day. Those are the dates that basically define the period of warmer weather when the greater airflow through a good straw hat is more comfortable than the heat generated beneath a felt hat.
Easter came early this year. Add to that the early time change and my clock got off somewhere. It is just now warm enough to start thinking about straw hats rather than felt.
Most of the time I wear a cap to cover my bald head. Caps are easier to keep up with, the brim doesn’t hit the headrest on my pickup seat, and they don’t catch as much wind as a hat. But when it is hot outside, you can’t beat a good straw hat. It keeps my neck and ears from broiling.
Some people wear hats for decoration. I never really bought into that. I wear a hat for shade or to keep my head warm. Some people wear hats to keep the rain off of their head. That’s usually not an issue in the Texas Panhandle. It would be nice if it did rain. Then I could test that particular theory.
People seem to have lost sight of proper hat etiquette over the years. I fear that it is a symptom of the general coarsening of behavior. It is tied to a loss of civility in society.
Some years ago the John B. Stetson Company published guidelines for appropriate hat etiquette. These guidelines are appropriate today – whether the wearer sports a felt, straw or a cap.
* The hat should be removed from the head when the National Anthem is played, when entering a building, when you are being introduced – especially if it is to a woman, at a funeral, or when beginning a conversation.
* The hat should be tipped, or lifted slightly from the head, when a woman thanks you, after getting directions from a stranger – especially if the stranger is female, when you excuse yourself to a woman, when you are walking with a friend and he says hello to a woman that he knows and you do not.
* You are not expected to remove your hat in public buildings, in entrance halls or in elevators. The exception being that it is polite to remove your hat in an elevator if there is a woman present – unless it is too crowded to do so. You are expected to remove your hat in any situation where a show of respect is appropriate. This would include removing the hat in public buildings if the building is a church, courthouse, or state or federal capitol.
* Hats should be removed for meals if there is a safe place to put your hat while eating.
Hat etiquette is something that has been lost. I see hats everywhere. Our kids wear them to school and even to church functions. They think nothing of leaving them on their head unless someone in authority asks them to remove them. They have no concept of the lack of respect that wearing their hat shows – or maybe they do.
It’s springtime. The weather is finally turning warm. I believe it’s time for a straw hat.