The Etiquette and History of Hat Tipping

April 28, 2016

Arrival at a ball in Colonial Philadelphia by J. L. G. Ferris.

Arrival at a ball in Colonial Philadelphia by J. L. G. Ferris.

The custom of a man tipping his hat to others derived from an ancient practice. When knights in medieval times wanted to express friendly intent, they would raise their face masks and reveal their faces. The practice of saluting is also derived from this friendly exchange between knights.  Lifting one’s armor mask eventually evolved into the custom of “tipping” or “doffing” one’s hat to greet or acknowledge another, women in particular.  


“If a gentleman meets a gentleman, he may salute him by touching his hat without removing it, but if a lady be with either gentleman, both hats must be lifted in salutation. If a gentleman stops to speak to a lady, in the street, he must hold his hat in his hand during the interview, unless she requests him to replace it. With a gentleman friend etiquette does not require this formality.” From Frosts Laws and By-Laws of American Society, 1869

A Courteous Greeting, painted by Otto Eerelman

A Courteous Greeting, painted by Otto Eerelman

Knights would remove their helmet when entering a building to signify a peaceful position, since a knight could not fight or defend himself without the helmet.  Since the removal of his helmet made him vulnerable, it informed others that combat or any type of violence was not his motive. This practice also evolved into the removal of one’s hat when entering a building, when hearing the national anthem and in different situations where they would not be going back out in public immediately. Men would hold their hats in their hand when speaking with a lady but would put it back on when they began to walk together if out in public.

TFP National Conference

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 522

Reprinted with the kind permission of Maura J Graber
Etiquette Enthusiast Maura J Graber is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia





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