There are three main reasons for the loss of proper hat etiquette in America since I was a boy. None of them really excuse those behaviors now that would make my grandmother roll over in her grave, but still they have contributed to the polite toleration of a sad change in how men wear hats and/or leave them on at inappropriate times.
The first nail in the coffin is how hats have lost their value. What years ago a man would save up to purchase and wear with pride, now is often given away in cheap form to most anybody; frequently even for free if it bears a brand name logo of a mass-produced product. So, hats have gone from serving a personal purpose to being forehead advertising. Another chink in the armor for hat etiquette comes on the heels of how there are no longer hat racks at entry points in homes, eateries, or shops. In the past, one entering a room would find a convenient place to hang a hat right there. And concomitant with this courtesy was the well-known fact that no one touched a man’s hat. This also would imply that stealing a man’s hat was akin to stealing his horse and could generate a response from a cowboy or a gentleman such that if and when the law arrived it would be to deliver a cretin to either the doctor or the undertaker.
The third contributor to the demise of hat etiquette is most sad of all in it is just a sign of the general decline in the proper instruction of manners from one generation to the next. To remove a hat when entering was taught, be it on the farm, or in the school, or in the home. “Hats and jackets off inside,” was a cry heard immediately as I entered my grandmother’s house. The teaching included: Remove a hat when the dead are being transported across your path in a hearse. Remove a hat when praying. Remove a hat when standing at attention for the playing of the National Anthem, or Taps. Remove a hat when saluting the U.S. flag, or as it is being raised or lowered. Remove a hat when seated (you may already be indoors, but again it may be a blocker of vision for those behind you).
Lastly, it was taught how none of these apply to ladies whose hats are part of their decoration and accessorizing, and/or may be frequently held in place with pins, clips, or other dangerous items not to be disturbed. Certainly, such a double standard might be fodder for a different editorial. Meanwhile, if you are a guy reading this while wearing a hat indoors (assuming you are not a chef), take it off.