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Hat Psychology


I'll Lock Up
Wearing a lid outwardly shows a higher level of intelligence so others are more likely to seek advice/directions/etc.... JMHO
:arated: Absolutely. In addition, I think subconsciously many feel that a fedora carries some kind of authority, over non-hat wearers, no matter how unconscious of it we are.


Call Me a Cab
My theory, if it is indeed the experience that hat-wearers are more frequently asked for directions or help by strangers:
People subconsciously associate a fedora (or close enough hat) with "adventurer" and "traveller" (unsurprisingly informed by movies and general pop-culture)... the right guy to ask for directions.
I'm not so sure about the association "hat = intelligent" ("glasses=intelligent" certainly is a common association) or "hat = harmless senior" (which obviously is much more dependant on the wearer's age and physique).


Call Me a Cab
Copenhagen, Denmark
Show an average man in a hat, a man with purple hair, a man with facial tattos, and a regular man (the control) and ask the subjects who'd they ask directions of...

I guess, that would depend on where these average men are going. I can think of many places, where I would ask a person with purple-hair. I'm not sure about the facial tattoos, though. In the first place it's not really fair to compare "an avarage man in a hat" to "a man with purple hair, a man with facial tattos". Extreme examples rarely supply one with long lasting arguments.

I'm not so sure about the association [...] "hat = harmless senior" (which obviously is much more dependant on the wearer's age and physique).

- and/or dependant on the other person's age. To many 18-year olds, a 35-year old is "a senior" ... to a 60-year old, the 35-year old is "a well-dressed young man". I'm quite sure, that a fedora doesn't make the wearer look younger in very many people's eyes - but then again, "quite sure" doesn't mean "100% sure" ;)


One Too Many
You all won't be able to put your hats on, what with the sprained wrists you'll get from all this patting each other on the back. ;)
Portage, Wis.
I've noticed that any sort of vintage-wear seems to have that effect. I wonder if it's the fact that people assume that everyone from the past was nicer, so someone who wears something old-fashioned must be nice?


Practically Family
Methinks Lorne is onto something here.

In most situations, if you look different in a sort of vaguely "traditional" way, they're likely to assume you're a freethinker, someone that doesn't follow the crowd, independent, maybe interesting - regardless of age. I've gotten uniformly positive reactions from hat wearing as far as I can tell, more folks apt to strike up converstions or make pleasant remarks. But surely it does depend on a host of other factors too detailed to simplify. How you wear the hat, your expression, the indefinable vibes you send out.

If in Little Five Points, Atlanta - I'd surely ask questions of the one in purple hair, because they're most likely to be a native or regular visitor and know the answer!


My Mail is Forwarded Here
Fenton, Michigan, USA
Campaign hats have a significant social effect, they make me break out into a flop-sweat.



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Swing Motorman

One of the Regulars
North-Central Penna.
Interesting thread and interesting timing! I had some Hat Psych 101 homework this past weekend, but with rather different kinds of hats: Pershing cap vs. 8-point cap vs. Bell-top cap. Strange, sure, but at the trolley museum, it's a regular dilemma for me.


Ordinarily, I take the Pershing or 8-pointer any day. All the other museum volunteers wear Bell-tops, while I try to cover other vintage transit looks. For those who remember riding transit back in the day, if they remember any distinctive uniform caps, the experience of evoking those memories is priceless.

But... this is Christmastime, and the Visiting Public Forecast called for cold & snowy with at least 50% of riders being, as I say, "Polar Express-age children." So it was a no-brainer for the bell-top. Whether you remember them on rail conductors or firemen on parade, there's nostalgia and a sense of service and pride sewn into every one. Plus, Pershing cap + overcoat + scarf equals young Douglas MacArthur in the trenches of France to me, but maybe that's just the biography I'm reading. Still, not quite what I was going for!

As for fedoras, I get noticed in the halls at work more with them han without. But in the halls of a hospital, they make me an outsider, so I probably get asked for directions less than if I went hatless. Would it be fair to say (hat + how you wear it + context) is the equation at work here?

John Galt

Notwithstanding the portrayal of fedora wearing "bad guys" in gangster movies, I believe that there is still a collective consciousness of well-behaved hatted men going back a very long time. Grandmotherly ladies on the street often tell me "my father used to wear a hat like that," and smile endearingly and nostalgically. I thank them and note that their family member may well have owned the very same model. By wearing fedoras, we tap into that feeling, at least for some % of the population.

Also, for gents like us the hat truly becomes part of the man rather than an affect, and I am confident that can be seen by observers. I do not think it just the hat itself - it is also the way that it is worn.

Few accessories and even hats have the embedded history of a fedora. Westerns seem to evoke a whole different set of feelings in the people I meet, from nostalgia & respect in some to fear & disgust in others. I marvel sometimes how much simply changing my hat from a fedora to a western while wearing a suit effects the way that people perceive me. It probably depends a lot on where you live.

"Faint hat never won fair lady."
Boston area
Psychology manifests in a physical way....

Yesterday, while early for a meeting I stopped into a fast food spot to grab a coffee, wearing my VS dove. I had serious matters on my mind, and apparently my serious mood was felt by the young gal who took my order. Even though the dove color is more like a white hat than a black, (good guy vs. bad guy?) within seconds, she broke out in the most obvious hives all around her neck, face, and exposed chest! I quickly smiled, and made some sort of small talk while she poured the coffee, hoping to put her at ease. Also within a couple seconds, the hives disappeared.

I haven't had that much effect on a young woman in years. Felt terrific.


One of the Regulars
I've had women SAY I made them break out in hives, but I never actually had one become symptomatic in my presence....


I'll Lock Up
Isle of Langerhan, NY
hatsRme, your story made me actually laugh out loud. I've had a variety of reactions from both men and women that have waited on me due to my rather unorthodox usual mode of dress. Most have been positive.

I think it's more than just wearing a hat, or rather, a fedora in this case.

I believe there is a host of other factors that come into play when considering 'approachability.'

Some of these factors can be controlled, and some can't.

For instance, given we're talking about a fedora, the shape, size, and color are factors. How you wear it on your head is another. Then there is your facial expression, and then your natural looks. How many times do we look at people and instantly size them up from just a quick glance.

Sometimes when I am driving and have lost my way, I will look at someone in a car next to me and instantly determine whether or not this person is worth asking for directions. And rarely is anyone wearing any sort of hat.

Men who wear fedoras wear them with a variety of types of clothing, from suits to motorcycle jackets.

Some people just look lost. Would you bother approaching a man with a lost expression if he on a fedora?

Then there's your build. How about facial hair? How about a large guy with a leather jacket, for example, facial hair that hides his mouth, and a fedora? Would you be more or less likely to approach hi for directions than a more 'peacefully' dressed man with a more pleasant expression?

And there are almost endless variations on just these few individual factors I mentioned that add up to your estimation of what this person would be like if you spoke to them.


One of the Regulars
Back when I was a street cop…
I'm a retired cop who is winding down a second career. Back when I was on the job, the department seemed to change hats every few years. In the uniform division I wore 8-pointers, round "bus driver" hats, winter leather/fur hats, watch caps, and even ball caps. Of course, the plainclothes years were even more diverse ;-) Generally my generation wanted to go bare headed, but many of us learned the psychological power of hats and knowing when and how to wear them to craft desired responses from people in need as well as those who posed a threat. And working undercover strengthened my belief that one's appearance influences perceptions and reactions.

If you do a research project, your search of the literature may turn up studies in the L.E./military world that could offer insight so you can focus your project. I suspect simply identifying the variables would be a challenge. For example, I often wear facial hair…mustache, goatee, or full beard. I sometimes vary the shape and length of the beard (and even the color when I went through the early graying phase). However, I think that looking in the mirror at the finished product also influences MY perception of me, thus influencing how others respond through other non-verbal factors besides "Magnum" mustache, "desperado" mustache, "biker" beard, "amish" beard, "urban" beard, "musician" beard, "Heisenberg" beard, or "the most interesting man in the world" beard.

And let's not even discuss sideburns that may be visible below the fedora ;-)
Boston area
...many of us learned the psychological power of hats and knowing when and how to wear them to craft desired responses from people in need as well as those who posed a threat. And working undercover strengthened my belief that one's appearance influences perceptions and reactions.

THAT, in a nutshell, is the way it is. Thank you for hopping in with that terrific perspective, Leo!

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