Military - covered outdoors, uncovered indoors (unless under arms) - why?

I was explaining to my sister-in-law the various rules concerning military personnel wearing hats outdoors. (We were passing the Pentagon and I mentioned that the interior area, while technically ‘outdoors,’ does not require hats).

And she asked a very simple question that confounded me.


What is the rationale for the rules?

Unless the Pentagon has posted a special reg, the interior courtyard is still a hats on area. The interior courtyard at my brigade hq is always hats on.

As to why:… I don’t know. A lot of rules come down from older times and no longer apply today. There’s still some rule about how to open an umbrella; the regs don’t say why but the reason is so you don’t scare the horses. Horses only used in one unit, the Honor Guard.

I heard saluting comes from opening the visor on your suit of armor. If that is true that goes way back.

I know this is punting the question, but hats on outdoors, off indoors except for some special ocassions, was the usual etiquette for men in the Western world for centuries (until the time in the mid-20th when civilians stopped wearing hats as a matter of course). The military codified these customs into regulations specifically suited for their environment.

As to why you would remain covered indoors if “under arms”, my speculation is that it may partly derive from how before the widespread adoption of the pocketable beret, fore-and-aft cap and boonie hat, the covers would be a cumbersome thing that would busy up one of your hands if not on your head, and since being under arms means you should be ready to use those arms, you can’t be minding where you put your hat.

I had heard it came from sailing ships. When addressing an officer the sailor tipped his hat as a sign of respect.

It does. It’s the largest exterior location with a no hats requirement in the world so far as U.S. forces are concerned. My source is the History Channel so maybe it’s not so good.

I find it interesting that someone looked up the different sizes of exterior no-hats areas to come up with that statistic.

You are correct, my first duty station was the Pentagon.

As far why there is a hats on hats off rule at all? Just rules and tradition, it might have made sense once.

Aren’t they called covers anymore?

Yes, but due to civilians on this board I chose to use hats since I never heard a hat being called a cover until I joined.

I can think of a few practical reasons.

  1. The solders will look more alike to enemies with hats on so special people won’t be identified.
  2. They won’t get their heads blown off by enemy fire.
  3. This eliminates solders from deciding they won’t get a sun burned head and being wrong, or in the case of specialty head wear whatever it protects them from when outdoors.

It does, no cover necessary. Reasoning is simple-- it’s disruptive to have thousands of military personnel in a small area follow this procedure. You’re not out among the general public, you’re at work, and walking across the Pentagon courtyard is often the fastest direct way to get around the building.

Not quite sure that’s true; I’ve been on Air Force bases with at least equally large interior courtyards that suspend this rule; I figure the square footage of at least one of those may exceed that of the Pentagon courtyard (the original Ground Zero).

I work in “the building” and the simple reason it’s an uncovered area is that the couryard is frequently used as a path from one office to another. And it’s a pain (OK, a low level pain) to bring your cover to very meeting, so it’s an uncovered area so allow personnel not to tote their covers everywhere.

I don’t have a cite, but that’s what I’ve always heard, and from working there, it makes sense to me.

In the Navy it’s generally called cover. I usually heard Army call it your “headgear” (I’m sure they had their reasons).

Another outdoors place where you wouldn’t wear a cover (unless it was strapped on) would be the flightline, whether a flight deck of a ship or a runway on land. With wind and engines and rotors going off hats have a way of leaving your head and winding up a dangerous piece of FOD (Foreign Object Debris).