When did hats stop being mandatory?

As in, in the US, when did it start to become acceptable to be seen in public without a hat on? I’ve seen pictures from the 30s, 40s, etc. of urban landscapes and everyone, absolutely everyone, had some kind of hat on–rain or shine. So it must have been, from a fashion/etiquette standpoint, absolutely mandatory to wear a hat outdoors (which seems absolutely insane to me, but…).

Then, all of a sudden, it seems, most people weren’t wearing hats any more. Certainly, some people still wore them, but it was obviously no longer mandatory. When did this change occur? (I think postwar, but I’m not sure–it seems to me that during the fifties, most businessmen still wore hats.)

More importantly, why? (I have a wild theory about the postwar population of the Southwest, people not wearing hats because the weather was so nice/warm, that fashion sense showing up in LA/Hollywood, and then being aped by the rest of the country.)

not JFK, says Snopes

It wasn’t JFK, it was a few years later.

Take a look at the audience in the photo ofJFK’s inauguration in 1961. Hats everywhere. Top hats, snap brims, you name it.

Now look atLyndon Johnson’s inauguration in 1965. Still some hats, but a lot more bare heads.

Finally, here’s Richard Nixon’s inauguration in 1969. The only men with hats I see are in uniform. And, although you can’t tell it from the photos, Kennedy and Johnson wore uber-formal morning coats at their inaugurations. Nixon wore a regular business suit. So things had gotten a lot more informal in that eight years.

My understanding is that men’s hats went out of fashion as automobile interiors grew more close.

Note: I wonder why the spellchecker is objecting to your spelling of the word men’s. Do we spell it differently now? Did I miss the memo?

I rarely wear a hat and even more rarely drive in one, but on the handful of occasions when I sat down in the car before taking the hat off, I would have been perfectly able to continue wearing the hat. The ceilings are lower, but so also are the seats, usually.

OTOH, over most of the last century we saw a general trend from open cars–which were the only type in the early days, towards sedans and other fully enclosed body styles. Convertible tops got better as well, so you could be better protected against the elements when necessary, and interior heaters became more efficient. You didn’t need to wear a hat inside the car anymore, just as your passengers no longer needed a bearskin rug to keep their legs warm in the backseat. I think that could have contributed to the decline of hats.

In my '41 Ford I could wear a fedora; in the '50 Chevy I couldn’t.

Since its a culture thing…

TV. culture as portrayed on, and and therefore set by, TV.
Tv showed men having relaxing and having fun and hoping to be young instead of old.

Also, its annoying to watch a tv show where all the men are wearing hats, particularly in black and white

I thought the LBJ administration breathed life into the Stetson brand of hat. I just don’t want to see an inauguration where the POTUS is wearing a ball cap with the brim to the side or back.

It wasn’t JFK, but (at least in England) it wasn’t a few years later. Here’s a picture that I took in London in 1961 – most of the men in the picture are not wearing hats, so if JFK stopped wearing a hat in public, he was following a trend, and not setting a trend.

I’m thinking that since Hitler wore hats, and Ike didn’t and wasn’t hiding his baldness, and the same with Khrushchev, that hats became much less fashionable.

In the 1960s. I bought some vintage Homburgs and enjoy wearing them.

Not only were hats once more or less mandatory, you had to make sure you were wearing the correct hat. Felt in winter, straw in summer. Those who violated these rules were subject to ridicule and more. Straw hat riots.

One way to study the hat/no hat trend is to look at crowd pictures from Shorpy.

I can see how businessmen, especially those who needed to travel frequently would have felt more comfortable in hats. To this day, airport concourses can be chilly and drafty, and I’m talking about SFO in early March, let alone places where it gets truly cold in the winter. What’s more, back in the day it happened much more frequently that you had to go outdoors to cross the tarmac. Even if you weren’t one of the road warriors, if you lived in places like NYC or Chicago you were more likely to use taxis, transit, and/or commuter railroads, which meant you spent some time waiting at bus stops, taxi stands, or outdoor station platforms. You were (and are) exposed to the elements more.

OTOH this certainly doesn’t explain how or why anyone could wear a hat in Chicago in the summertime.

Whenever this subject comes up it amuses me to recall that, in the early 007 films, James Bond is shown wearing a hat in the opening titles–a Homburg, if I’m not mistaken.

I’ve often thought this might have something to do with it; I don’t mean that people elsewhere in the country consciously aped specific celebrities or the characters they portrayed in films, but rather a matter of thinking, “That looks cool” and trying it out for themselves. Or “That’s the bee’s knees” or whatever people used to say.

Rather than asking when hats stopped being mandatory, I wonder when they stopped being *necessary * in the Midwest and Northeast during the cold months. All of a sudden, everyone decided they didn’t mind having their heads frozen? I know there are baseball caps, now the default hat for most people who wear them, but you still can’t really wear them when you’re dressed up.

My understanding was that when men started taking better care of their hair and/or growing it longer, then hats for daily dress became unfashionable.

You can see the trend in Hollywood films. It is rare to see a leading man in a film modern setting after 1965 wearing a hat. Frank Sinatra with his Tony Rome series of films was an exception; however his hair was thinning and his toupees weren’t always the best.

Here is Sandy Amoros’ famous catch in the 1955 World Series at Ebbetts Field in New York. Note that very few of the spectators are wearing hats, even on a bright sunny afternoon in October. Although most are wearing a coat and tie.


Rioting because some people dared to wear a straw hat in September?? Has Wikipedia been taken over by The Onion? Riots because of World Series victories suddenly seem reasonable.

Seriously, that was fascinating. I hadn’t heard of it before.

I don’t know the answer, but Snopes’ debunking needs comment.
So Kennedy wore a top hat to the inauguration - top hats don’t count, being strictly formal wear by 1961. Also, you will note that he is hatless during his address - surely the part of the ceremony everyone remembered.

But of course, the real answer is the Beatles did it.

Mine too. I read that the hat declined in popularity along with the increased presence of headrests in cars.

Of course, I read that in L.M. Boyd’s newspaper column, so it’s got about a 35 - 40% likelihood of being bullshit…

I wear a hat 100% of the time when outdoors. Hats are very practical items of clothing, and once you grasp that fact, you’ll understand why hats* were so often worn up until the 1950s or so.

People not wearing hats outdoors seems insane to me.

*Real hats, not baseball caps.

Certainly I “grasp the fact”, as you snottily put it, that a hat can be a practical item of clothing. But fashion forcing one to wear a hat all the time is hardly practical. I would hazard a guess that you live in an area with more severe weather than my present location. In any case, always wearing a hat seems stupid, as no matter where you are, there will be some times when the weather is benevolent enough that you don’t need a hat, and indeed, a hat would be uncomfortable (on a hot day, for instance). (And what is it that you think changed about them practical considerations when hats ceased to be universally worn? Very early global warming?)