Why I wear a hat to church

Woman Wearing a Hat, Renoir

Every now and then someone sends around those “getting to know you” questions, and I’ve answered them a few times on my blog. Sometimes one of the questions is “What is one thing people might not know about you?” One good answer to that question is that I wear a hat, or headcovering, to church, but I have never mentioned it on my blog because I don’t want to be thought weird or misjudged because of it.

Young Woman Wearing a Hat With Wild Roses, Renoir

Young Woman Wearing a Hat With Wild Roses, Renoir

But in real life, of course, it’s obvious and sticks out like a sore thumb, even though I try to keep them unobtrusive and not overly decorative. My husband and I don’t want to make it our “pet issue,” soapbox, or hobby horse by bringing it up and discussing it excessively with people, so we usually only explain it when asked. I don’t think we have ever been asked, though I was once accused of “formalism” by someone who pronounced that judgment without trying to find out our reasons, and online discussions of those who wear headcoverings often pronounce them as legalists. Since I am neither a formalist or a legalist, I thought perhaps an explanation would be in order.

The practice comes from I Corinthians 11:1-16, which I’ll include here for easy reference:

1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.

13 Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?

14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

15 But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.

There are several different ways of interpreting this passage, so I’ll just go through them to

Bust of a Woman Wearing a Hat, Renoir

Bust of a Woman Wearing a Hat, Renoir

explain the conclusions we came to.

1. It’s a cultural issue. I’m told that in the days in which this was written, respectable women wore veils in public and women of ill repute did not, so it was a matter of good reputation to be veiled in public. While that may be true, that’s not the reason given here (and the apostle probably would not have needed to encourage them to do what they were already practicing as a culture anyway). The reason given here for a woman to wear a head covering is to illustrate that  her husband is her head and she is honoring him, and she is specifically to have it on when she is “praying or prophesying” in a public assembly of the church.

2. It’s just talking about hair. Verses 14-15 cause some people to attribute the whole discussion to hair length. There are a few reasons I don’t agree that that’s the case. The phrasing of the passage seems to indicate that this is an example of the same principle in nature, not the culmination of the discussion. And if it is talking about hair, wouldn’t it be saying that men should be bald when they pray (verses 4 and 7)? When it says a woman should have her head covered when she prays or prophesies, that seems to indicate something she puts on at that time.

3. Women should cover their heads all the time. Some people who do believe in using head coverings take this view because a woman needs to be ready to pray or prophesy (verse 5) at any time. However, the context of the passage is public worship (verse 1 talks about keeping the ordinances, then the remainder of the chapter after this discusses communion [or the Lord’s Table or the Lord’s Supper, whatever you choose to call it]). The early New Testament church participated in the Lord’s Table much more often than modern churches do (I was told once that they did so every time they met, but I don’t know how to find out whether that is true). Therefore, since the context of the passage is public worship with both men and women present, I don’t wear a hat around the house or at the grocery store or to women’s meetings at church.

4. Woman should wear a headcovering in a public assembly of the church to illustrate that she is under the headship of her husband and honoring him. That’s obviously the view that I hold.

Red Hats, Claudio Bravo

Red Hats, Claudio Bravo

What is the verse about angels referring to (verse 10)? Some think that is a reference to pastors, as the angel of each church in Revelation is its pastor. Some think it refers to actual heavenly angels and that God shows something of Himself to them through us (“so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 3:10, ESV).

To me the cultural difference comes in the type of head covering. Woman in Western societies don’t wear veils, so at some point they began wearing hats. Amish and Mennonite women wear prayer kapps. In some Eastern European churches, the woman wear scarves over their heads. Some of the women who wear headcoverings all the time here use a bandana style, though often they use white fabrics.

 Hat with a Red Ribbon, Georges Lemmen

Hat with a Red Ribbon, Georges Lemmen

Women wearing some type of head covering in American churches was practiced up until the 50s or 60s, not that long ago. Somehow the practice fell away, maybe because it was no longer taught, and gradually people got away from the knowledge of the basis for it, and then didn’t see a need to keep on with it, or maybe because the world in general rejected the idea of man being head over a woman. Oddly, society has kept the practice of men praying with their heads uncovered –  you do still see men removing their hats when during public prayer, though I think even that is beginning to decline.

There are some fundamental Biblical issues for which there is no wiggle room: the Deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and others. But on other issues, Romans 14 has instructions for those who come to different conclusions about what the Bible teaches in those issues that aren’t fundamental to the Christian faith (though the passage is discussing weaker brethren, I think some of these overarching principles apply). Some people can read the same passage, like this one, and come to different conclusions about what is taught or meant. Each should do whatever they do as unto the Lord (verse 6), not judging or condemning each other, (verses 3, 10,13), being fully persuaded in their own minds (verses 5, 22), remembering they’re accountable to the Lord (verse 12), not being contentious about it (verses 1, 17-19).

As I said at the start, this isn’t a soapbox issue and I rarely mention it. I don’t judge other women who don’t wear hats or headcoverings because I understand that they may read the passage differently. But because I see the passage the way I do, I need to follow what I believe it is teaching. I thought perhaps explaining where the conviction comes from would help others not to judge the practice unfairly.


This post will be also linked to Women Living Well.

18 thoughts on “Why I wear a hat to church

  1. Well, I am just delighted to hear about this particular practice of yours–and of your convictions behind it.

    When I lived in Columbus, I wore hats to church most weeks simply because I have a large collection of hats and decided one day that I wanted to start wearing them. Church seemed the appropriate place to do that. It got to where people would ask me if something was wrong if I *wasn’t* wearing a hat at church.

    Since moving to Wichita, I have not worn my hats to church–partly because I’m still struggling to find my place within our church, but just as much or more because Daniel is a little uncomfortable with how my hats do “stick out like a sore thumb.” While he has never told me he didn’t want me to wear them, he does feel awkward when I’m all dressed up with a hat beside him. So, out of respect for my head, I leave my head uncovered.

    I definitely see this as an area open for interpretation–and one in which both husband and wife should be involved in making the decision, lest in wearing a headcovering a wife might be ignoring the very thing she is supposed to be symbolizing. It sounds like you and your husband have studied the Bible together and are honoring the Lord and one another in you wearing a headcovering–good for you!

    • That’s a good point – the reality of submission is more important than the symbol, and if the husband disagrees, then it’s better to submit to him on the issue. I don’t see this as an “obeying God rather than man” issue since it can be interpreted differently by different people.

  2. Barbara

    Thank you for this post. I use to wear a head covering for a time. I asked my husband to study it out for me in the original language and he did.
    He told me that he did not think that I needed to wear one. Since my hair was thin and breaks off he also told me that he felt short hair was fine as I was always under his authority and he did not have a problem with short hair or not wearing head covering.
    So I decided to obey my husbands wishes and findings as he saw it.
    I love that you are not legalistic, and allow it to be a personal thing of what the Lord leads you to do from what you read in the word.
    I do love hats and often thought of buying some in the thrift stores and wearing them. They do look so feminine.
    Have a great day.

  3. Interesting to read:).

    I love hats but am never comfortable wearing them. I do not feel the same conviction you do, but enjoyed reading your post:).

  4. What a fascinating post and not what I can say I expected to read! I do think it is a matter that is open to interpretation.

    I don’t think I would actually have any issues wearing a hat myself (but I don’t feel personally convicted to do so) and Jonathan hasn’t asked me to. If he did, I would.

    Mostly, I’ve never worn a hat because I think they look funny on my head (head shape) and ….stick out….yes. 😀

    VERY interesting post. Glad you decided to answer this question.

  5. I’m with Lou Ann…excellent and balanced. From our previous correspondence, I gather that you are sweet and gentle in nature and would never look down on another lady in your church for not sharing your conviction. You are so right, actual submission is the bigger issue.

  6. Very interesting! Women used to wear veils in the Catholic church. I thought about bringing that back (for myself of course), but being that I’d be the only one, I’m not sure I want to “stand out”. Good for you for wearing a hat. Maybe you’re giving me a push to do what I know is right.

    • Very nice teaching.If we can honour our husband how much more God we represent God and we must be like him not like the world we must be different in every thing do we must honour God

  7. I agree that you’ve written a balanced post here, Barbara! My grandmother wore hats to church most of her life, and I believe it may have been because she felt her head should be covered during public worship. I never asked, because that’s just what she did, and I never questioned it!

    We had a family attending our church for a while, that the lady wore a headcovering during prayer at church, but not for the entire service. She never forced her belief on others, and when children would ask, she would refer them to their mothers (she and her husband were considered the “grandparents” in our church, much-loved by the children). My husband doesn’t hold the same interpretation of that passage that she did, but he never discouraged her from covering her head, for the reasons you list here: it’s an issue of personal preferences and she was doing what she did as an act of submission to God and her husband.

    I enjoyed learning something new about you! I’d love to see some of your hats, too! 🙂

  8. I too cover, but I also do it outside the areana of worship, mostly at night when I sleep. I have heard many references to the, ‘only in public/corporate worship’ point of view, but when I rad the scripture, I do not see where, Paul mentions doing it only in that type of setting and when I see historical references to women being covered, it is also during daily life. As someone who covers from a point of spritual warfare as well as pryaing and prophesying, may i encourage you to pray and seek the Lord about covering more outside of the corporate setting? I beleive head covering to be a blessing, a tool, an aid for the wearer. It is freedom through authority and a woman shoudl get to experience that more than once a week. It’s amazing.
    God bless you and keep you.

    • The context of the whole passage is corporate worship. The first verse begins with keeping the ordinances and the rest of the chapter discusses the Lord’s supper, or communion, which they did while together. I don’t see where wearing a head covering in daily life is discussed elsewhere in the New Testament, nor have I seen any passage connecting it to spiritual warfare. I believe this is taking it farther than was meant.

  9. Pingback: The Ultimate Head Covering Blog Post Roundup

  10. Pingback: Best Blog Posts About Head Covering - Radical Christian Woman

  11. I wear my hat to church I can never go in to the house of God with my head uncovered are pray and read the word of God with out covering my head. Thank you it is a blessing to read your letter we have to honour God in every thing we do our body is God temple I did not adorn my are change my self is God who do it when we try to change our self we will go back to our old self but when God do it we will remains how he wants us we are light and our light must shine for others to see God bless you for your wonderful letter

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