Thinking Out Loud

November 10, 2011

The Hat Debate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:49 am

I really want you guys, especially North American readers, to click the comment section on this one, okay?

Church has changed a lot in the past 15-20 years.  In many churches, the music rocks, parishioners are dressed workplace casual, people sip coffee during the sermon, and drama often replaces formal liturgy.  A mainstream blogger writes:

There was a time when all men wore hats, they knew how to wear them and they knew when to wear them. They also knew when to remove them. There was a certain hat etiquette that everyone followed. Generally, a man did not wear a hat indoors, and there were no exceptions, except in lobbies or hallways of office buildings. A man could keep his hat on in the elevator, except if a lady were present. A man never — ever — wore a hat in a movie, restaurant or concert theatre. Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Besides, hats were the reason that restaurants, theatres and concert halls had hat checks.  Men were supposed to check their hats at the door.  “May I take your hat, please?”

So what about men (and boys) wearing baseball caps in church?  Traditionally, one removed their hat in formal settings, but modern church services ain’t exactly formal. 

So two questions in particular:

  • Does the rule still apply?
  • Should a church directly confront — as one did here last month — a young man in his 30s over his hat wearing?

Maybe you find this trivial, but take 30-seconds to let your voice be heard.


  1. I don’t know in what way that church asked the young man to remove his hat so I can’t comment on that specifically. But hat or no hat, coffee sipping or no coffee sipping, jeans or suits, the issue is the same. Respect.

    In the generation before me a sign of respect was knowing when to wear or not wear your hat. But in current society hat rules have gone the way of the dodo. Unfortunately so has that deep sense of respect…for elders, for women, for sacred spaces.

    What needs to be discussed by churches is “What does respect look like when we meet?” Is it a room of men who know enough to take off their hats or is it a room of men who helped get their children ready for church, opened the door for an older person struggling to get into church on time and stood in awe and wonder during worship?

    If God looks on our hearts there very well might me a room full of hatless men and not a single one showing respect to the author of their salvation!

    Comment by Cynthia — November 10, 2011 @ 7:39 am

  2. Like the internet, a baseball cap is always ‘on’, In contrast, and like a newspaper, the fedora could be picked up and used, and could be set aside as needs be.

    Asking guys to take a baseball cap off is a fight against a overwhelming weight of culture.

    Bring back the fedora.

    As for wearing hats in church, they’re an American cultural artifact and behaviour that has nothing to do with following Jesus. Many sikhs wear turbans, what do you do with their headgear once they convert?

    Comment by Brian — November 10, 2011 @ 8:31 am

  3. Culture changes. I hear older folk make the comment it is disrespectful for younger people to not remove their hats, but can’t answer the question of “why?” It is only disrespectful when you know you are disrespecting someone and KNOW you are doing something disrespectful. If a teen speaks and acts respectfully, is involved in a service and they only gripe someone has it that they are wearing a hat. The older person needs to examine what his/her priorities are. The reality is that if hat, or hair colour, or some other surface issue is the biggest issue you have with a person, you are no better than the Jew who looked down on someone because they were the wrong culture.

    Comment by Tim Good (@Tim_Good) — November 10, 2011 @ 8:53 am

  4. 1. obviously (as you so aptly explained) the rule no longer applies. the culture has changed.

    2. i have a ball-cap-in-church problem (i am old) but i do not confront young men with hats unless i discern an attitude problem. if they are wearing a hat in order to be disrespectful (overtly provocative) then i would have a conversation with them. but the hat is not the problem, the heart is.

    Comment by randy morgan — November 10, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

  5. […] — there’s still time to voice your opinion about a church telling a 30-something to remove his baseball cap during services.  Update: The family actually left the church over […]

    Pingback by Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud — November 16, 2011 @ 6:27 am

  6. In the scheme of this world’s problems, hat wearing and gum-chewing are in the same league, ideally we would deal with minor social issues, but empty stomaches and souls are a bigger priority: yes?

    Comment by mj — November 18, 2011 @ 11:58 am

    • No argument; that’s a given here.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 18, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  7. After reading several of these posts, there is certainly no question that our “culture” is changing, or rather being eliminated. I dare say we have no culture now and that has gone the way of respect as well. People these days tend to “demand” respect rather then earn it as was the case growing up in “my day” when we were told to “respect our parents, our teachers, and the police”. Rarely is that the case anymore on all counts unless in the minority instance you have a two parent (clarify: man and woman) Christian home with traditional values. I for one, find this to be an incredibly sad state of affairs, and I believe you see the results manifesting themselves in increased dropout rates, decreased standards of educational levels here in the United States and in comparison worldwide (where once we were the leader, now we are the tail), increased teenage pregnancy rates, increased drug rates among all age levels, increased violence rates, decreased religious belief system and attendance (whether it be Christian or otherwise), and on and on.
    To what do I attribute this? The depreciation of our national value system beginning at home and professed through the media, movies, news, magazines, music, etc. We act out/emulate what we see. While it may sound corny to some, when we had Ozzie and Harriet (never watched it) and similar programs that clearly professed down-home “American/Christian” values, we had a rock-solid country, with decent respectful teenagers, decent respectful adults, and the nation produced educated young people at the very top of their game who stood “on top of the world” that no one could touch.
    As we progressed through the ‘free-love’ era of the 1960’s with drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, my generation swore that we would not ‘do to our kids’ what our parents did to us. We are still “reaping the rewards(???)” of those incredibly poor choices. Look at the monsters we have created. And unfortunately, it s far too late to turn back.

    Is it proper and correct to take off your hat? Absolutely. This is not “cultural”, or “timely”, it is CORRECT and it is PROPER. If you are a man with a hat, BE A MAN. What are you going to teach your daughter when she begins dating and to whom would you like her to marry? That is the litmus test.

    Comment by Arin D. Resnicke, Architect — November 19, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    • Thanks for your thorough examination of this from the other side of the equation. (The comments, I think, have been running the other way a little.) And apologies that your comment got caught in moderation for an extra 24 hours; not sure why.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 20, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

      • I think one reason for “the comments … running the other way” is the assumption that the church should reflect the surrounding culture of the world. If we look at the early church we find that it was much more counter-cultural. But the subsequent “christianizing” (not “converting”!) of our Western societies has led to the world conforming much (not all) of its culture to the church, and the church has gotten used to this state of affairs. Now that the world has begun and gone a good way towards abandoning those adopted “christian” features of its culture, we are unsure how to react and think we somehow need to re-capture the conformity between the culture of the church and the culture of the world. We would do better, as Alexandar Basnar points out in his comment further down, to “be not conformed to this world” and to return to the counter-cultural stance of the early church.

        Surely hats are not the most imporant aspect of this, but they become important as they show up the common (but erroneous) belief that we should follow the world’s customs and culture.

        Comment by Wolf Paul — May 17, 2013 @ 4:30 am

  8. I don’t agree with any of the suggestions that men should show respect to women by removing a hat. We live in an open and equal society, where respect should be equally shown by all

    Comment by MarkS — November 20, 2011 @ 8:36 am

  9. Yes, now it is my turn. We can debate whether it is a matter of “custom” or a matter of scripture; I affirm the later. For 1900 years, the matter was clear: Women are to be veiled in church, men must not cover their heads. This is based on 1Co 11:2-16 and was understood this way – as I said – UNANIMOUSLY in ALL churches of Christ for two millenia! Now, in the WEST women took off the veil and became pastors – which is a severe discontinuation of Apostolic practice UNIQUE to the Western churches, esp. Protestants. And it is in THIS setting, that men became increasingly indifferent as well and started wearing their baseball hats to church a only couple of years ago. Also: Shorts are worn to church, and shirts are no longer tucked in – the body language became totally disconnected from the spiritual language we utter with our lips. Watch out: That’s contemporary Gnosticism! Where are these brave leaders who address misbehavior like this and put an end to it?

    Comment by Alexander Basnar — May 11, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

  10. Yes I would ware a ball cap in church, too cover up the large scar on my forehead, this was punctuated, by the last time I went to church with out a hat and when we did the love your neighbors, (if you love jesus shake my hand) and a deacon literally ran over to me and stared directly at my forehead) and the scar cut the flow of blood one side to the other so that there is different cooling one side to the other. Very awkward. So there is no way I can go to this church.

    Comment by Jerry Dalferro — August 26, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

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