Can You Wear a Hat to a Funeral? The Complete Answer


Attending a funeral is challenging enough without even considering what to wear. Some traditions have certain permitted clothes, while others only allow clothes of a certain color. However, there’s a mystery surrounding the idea of wearing a hat to a funeral. 

You can wear a hat to a funeral as long as it’s a formal hat and you remove it when entering the funeral home to show respect for the deceased. After the service, you can wear the hat again after leaving the funeral home to mingle with guests. 

Let’s get into more detail about wearing hats at funerals, like which ones are welcome at a funeral and what to do with your hat during the service. 

What Type of Hat Is Acceptable for a Funeral?

A clean and formal hat is acceptable for a funeral. You can wear a bowler, top hat, fedora, or other types of hats that are considered fashionably formal. Or, for women, you can wear a modest fascinator hat.

While the customs of funerals have changed over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed much is that only clean and formal hats are welcome at a funeral. 

So, let’s talk about which ones are acceptable for you to wear. 

Cleanliness

The most important rule of wearing a hat to a funeral is to ensure that it’s clean. 

You wouldn’t wear dirty clothes to a funeral, and you should view the hat the same way. If your collection of hats could use some cleaning, then it’s a good idea to freshen up before the day of the funeral. 

If you need some help with cleaning your own formal hat, then check out this website which has some helpful washing techniques, so your hat doesn’t get destroyed in the process. When in doubt, read the instructions that came with the hat or take it to the dry cleaner if you want to be extra careful. 

Formal Hats Only

Any hat that you wear to a funeral should be dressy and formal. Things like Irish Caps and other similar caps are considered formal despite being relatively common depending on your location. 

Sometimes it matters how you style the caps as well. A cowboy hat can be considered casual or formal, depending on the cleanliness and styling. 

So, keep in mind that not all casual hats can be made formal with proper care and styling. You’re more than likely going to wear formal clothes to a funeral. So, a matching hat can tie together formal attire nicely. 

If it’s formal enough to go with a suit, then it’s formal enough for a funeral. 

Mourning Man Standing on a Grave at the Cemetery
Photo 17885848 / Funeral © Tatagatta | Dreamstime.com

Casual Hats

Casual hats aren’t welcome at funerals as a sign of respect for the deceased, but not everyone has the same idea of what’s formal or casual. So, let’s clear some things up about casual hats. 

Baseball caps and beanies aren’t formal hats. No matter how clean they are, you shouldn’t wear them to a formal event like a funeral. You should also avoid straw hats normally worn in the sun and novelty hats. 

Visors are also best left behind during a funeral as you would normally wear them for sun sports. 

The Rules for Wearing a Hat at a Funeral

When wearing a hat during a funeral include the following: 

  • It should be formal and clean. 
  • It should be taken off when indoors during the service. 
  • It should be as respectful as possible. 

When wearing a hat to a funeral service, you want to show respect to the deceased and guests. If you show up wearing a casual hat, like a baseball cap or beanie, it shows that you have no respect for the deceased and that you’re not taking the funeral seriously.

Let’s now talk more about what type of rules you should follow for indoor or outdoor ceremonies.

Indoor Ceremony

You’ll need to take off your hat when you enter the funeral home when it’s an indoor ceremony, which shows respect to the deceased and the surviving family. As you walk into the funeral home, take off your hat and place it under your arm while you greet people and make your way to your seat. 

When seated, if you can place your hat on an empty seat nearby, that would be best. 

If you can’t, it’s okay to hold it through the service. Just make sure you aren’t waving it around or moving it throughout the funeral, as it can become a distraction for those who are grieving.

Outdoor Ceremony

If you’re attending an outdoor funeral, your hat can remain on until the ceremony begins. 

Once the funeral starts, follow the indoor rules of keeping it under your arm or on an empty seat. Once the funeral has ended, it’s fine to put the hat back on. But always make sure you take it off when approaching the deceased. 

If you choose to keep your hat off while giving condolences, you’re showing an even further sign of respect. However, it’s not necessary for outdoor funerals. When in doubt, it’s best to follow the lead of the deceased’s family. 

If you see no hats, take yours off, but follow the lead of the family so that you can show the most possible respect at the service. 

What To Avoid Wearing To a Funeral?

Avoid wearing bright colors, casual clothing, and large patterns to a funeral, as these will draw attention to you and show a sign of disrespect for the deceased. Avoid wearing too much makeup or flashy accessories as well.

Wearing these items tells people that you don’t care about the family’s feelings, or that you don’t have respect for anyone, or anything, else but yourself. Let’s talk about some other clothing to avoid during a funeral to be respectful of the deceased and their loved ones during this difficult time. 

Avoid Wearing Bright Colors

Unless hosts tell you otherwise before the service, it’s best to avoid bright or flashy colors at a funeral. Remember, this day is not about you, and you don’t want to stand out during the funeral service. 

Black is the safest color for a funeral, but you can pair it with other dark colors like gray, navy blue, or even a dark burgundy. Just make sure none of the colors you’re wearing are bright, neon, shiny, flashy, or otherwise distracting. 

Religious Beliefs Are the Exception

Another exception to this rule is religious beliefs. Some religions like Hinduism and Buddhism ask that guests wear white to funerals as a sign of mourning and respect for the deceased. Many Asian cultures, especially in China and Korea, believe that the first few days after death should be filled with positivity and wearing white is a reflection of that. 

Casual Clothing

We discussed casual attire a little bit above when discussing why you shouldn’t wear a baseball cap to a funeral, but let’s go a little deeper. 

Wearing formal clothes is a sign of respect, which is why you traditionally wear formal clothes to interviews and other important parts of our lives. However, there may be some discourse on what type of clothing is considered formal. 

Casual Culture Is More Invasive

All over the world, and especially here in America, we’re inching toward a more casual culture. 

As we have fewer events that require formal clothes, there may be some questions as to what constitutes formal attire. While this is highly opinion-based and often left to the discretion of others, let’s talk about some basic rules to follow when dressing for a funeral. 

But Funerals Are Formal

Make sure you skip the casual shoes. Things like sneakers, flip flops, and other casual footwear should be left behind in favor of dress shoes, loafers, or a nice pair of boots. In fact, any athletic wear should be left behind. 

So you don’t want to wear tank tops, sweat pants, jogging shorts, or anything else that you’d feel at home wearing in a gym. 

Jeans are a big debate about formal clothing, as some see them as more formal, especially if they’re black. Unfortunately, jeans are still not categorized as formal wear. Whether it’s an old pair of faded blue jeans or a new pair of black jeans, leave them at home when attending a funeral. 

Funeral-Appropriate Shirts

Finally, let’s talk about shirts that are appropriate for a funeral. Make sure the shirt that you choose has a collar, even if you aren’t planning to wear a tie. Also, stay away from multiple different colors when choosing your shirt. 

Plaid shirts may often have a collar, but this doesn’t make them formal. So, stick with a single-color collared shirt to remain respectful. 

Patterns

We discussed patterns a little bit above with plaid shirts, but let’s go into some more detail. 

Some patterns are perfectly professional and allow you to remain respectful during a funeral service, but not all patterns are welcome. So, let’s give some clear rules to follow when choosing clothing with a pattern for a funeral service. 

Stick With Dark Colors

While you’ll want to stick with mostly black or white depending on the culture of the deceased, it is okay to venture with some other colors, as we discussed above. It’s also okay to choose something with a pattern as long as it remains subtle, respectful and maintains the dark color scheme we already talked about. 

Subtle and Small Shapes Are Best

The first rule for formal patterns is that they should be subtle without large shapes. 

This is why plaid isn’t usually welcome in formal situations because it’s a chunky and blocky pattern. It’s a lot safer to stay away from blocky patterns because your formal attire shouldn’t draw all eyes to you when attending a funeral. 

Rather, you want to fit in with the rest of the guests. 

Small, delicate, and intricate patterns are fine for a funeral, as long as they’re subtle and reasonable. You want to avoid an entire suit that has the same pattern. For example, pinstripes are great for formal wear, but wearing a suit consisting entirely of pinstripes may be too much for a funeral. 

Tips for Choosing Hats and Other Accessories for a Funeral

We discussed some of the basic rules of clothes and hats for a funeral, but you may still be struggling with what to wear when it comes to accessories. So, let’s go over some tips to help get ready for this tough day a little bit easier and allow you to show the most possible respect to the deceased as well. 

Choose Subtle Clothing and Accessories

Whatever type of accessory you’re choosing for a funeral, just keep in mind that the more subtle, the better. Large statement pieces like colorful hats or chunky necklaces should be left behind for a more minimalist look. 

Stay away from bulky necklaces, bracelets, or earrings for a funeral to show respect and not draw too much attention to yourself. So, when in doubt, go with the more subtle option. 

Dress for the Location

If you’re still a little confused about how to dress for the occasion, you can match your clothes to the location of the funeral service. 

For example, funeral services held in a church imply that you should wear church-friendly attire. Services held outside mean that you may need to wear a nice jacket to combat the cold weather. So, dress for the location when in doubt. 

Sunglasses for Outside Services

If the service is outside, you may want to wear a hat and sunglasses. 

If this is the case, follow similar rules for your sunglasses as you do with other accessories. Stay away from bright colors or giant markings like brand names and logos. Keep the sunglasses simple and effective. 

If you’re wearing both sunglasses and a hat, make sure you match the two together, so their colors don’t clash. Also, take the hat off when showing respect to the loved ones of the deceased. 

However, if the service is outside, you can keep your sunglasses on during this time.

For more tips on how to dress for a funeral in summer, check out this page on my website.

Final Thoughts

Hats at a funeral are nothing new, but there are still rules you should follow to ensure that you maintain respect and dignity at all times. Formal and clean hats are always welcome at funerals as long as they’re removed when necessary as a sign of respect. 

So, don’t be afraid to pull out that bowler when attending a funeral service.

Sources 

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Alex Noel

Hi there! I'm Alex Noel and live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I started this website to share my experience. My goal is to provide Americans a more fulfilling goodbye.

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