How to wear a hat for the right occasion

So you’re going to a party… but not sure what to wear- do you need a hat? Is it compulsory and appropriate, or too old-fashioned? Even though you may think that hats are an old tradition, the glamour and pomp of an event are coming back… and hats are definitely a conversation piece. Here are some suggestions on where and when to accessorize accordingly:


Both men and women should wear a hat to Royal Ascot as well as any other racing event; although not compulsory in the stands it is a rule that when in the Royal Enclosure, men wear top hats and women wear any hat that has a base of more than 4 inches in diameter. Garish, carnival-like hats are also frowned upon, so best to choose statement hats that are classics, like pillboxes with quills or even pillboxes with some rock and roll edge. Or, you can choose wide-brimmed hats trimmed with flowers, which are a very popular choice. However, please note that it is notoriously difficult to socially kiss while wearing a wide-brimmed hat. There is a knack to tilting the head at a suitable angle, but two ladies both in wide-brimmed hats should avoid such a close greeting! 

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Hats are traditional (although by no means compulsory for anyone) at weddings, and can also be worn to christenings and funerals. For weddings, it’s best to wear classics that are not too loud (so as not to upstage the bride and her family), like sweet pillboxes or fascinators. Remember to check our hatiquette for rules on when to take hats on and off at these events!


Nowadays, men rarely wear hats except for morning dress, when grey felt top hats are popular for the wedding party. They should be worn on the front of the head or carried under the arm, but should not be worn indoors or in the formal photographs.

For the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, however, they are obligatory and must be worn at all times. It's also important to perfect 'doffing' a top hat - raising it above the head to greet guests with real panache.


Help your fellow hat wearers and share more of your tips below. Thanks!