Custom – Oregon

The Unspoken Rule: no Hats in Church

It is unacceptable for anyone to wear a hat, or any type of head covering such as a hood or cloak, in church.  Upon entering, all head coverings must be removed.

My friend Alex told me this idea, much to my surprise.  I had been raised in church, attending a Christian preschool, elementary school, middle school, and junior high.  I had gone to church nearly every Sunday since I was born.  And yet, I had never heard of this rule.

Alex, born and raised in Portland, Oregon is Catholic.  She was raised Catholic by her mother, though her father was a staunch atheist.  While she learned this tradition from her mother when she was very young, she is confident that this tradition has much deeper roots, probably related to those of the Catholic church.  She explains how anything that covers the head is a symbol of the individual’s lack of openness with God.  By covering his head, the individual, whether by conscious decision or ignorance, seeks to hide his heart from God.  While God is able to see through all human barriers, He frowns upon those who try to hide their utmost thoughts from them.  For this reason, when one is entering the presence of God by entering His church, one must first remove these symbols of secrecy.

While I can see the symbolism, it also could be related to the odd rules of etiquette concerning hats.  In some circles, hats or other head coverings are frowned upon when eating dinner, conducting business, or during other formal affairs.  The removal of a hat was a gesture of politeness; men were obligated to remove their hats when they saw a woman or other individual of great importance.  This practice is thoroughly documented on page thirty-four of Maija Jansson’s article “The Hat is no Expression of Honor,” published in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 133, No. 1.  Still, this removal of one’s hat as a symbol of politeness is not universally accepted.  In many circles, especially among the younger population, hats are increasingly becoming a standard accessory.  It is for this reason perhaps that my church, a large Foursquare church in Hermosa Beach, made no requests regarding headwear, while Alex’s traditional Catholic church did.