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Sticky Situation: How to Wear a Top Hat and Walking Stick at a Wedding

03/13/2014 08:29 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 05:59 EDT

Sticky situation:

Hello Julie,

We're getting married this summer and my husband will be wearing a top hat and walking stick. He is wondering how to wear these accessories. Should he keep his hat on during the wedding ceremony? If not, when should he remove it? And what about his walking stick, how does he carry it? Thank you for your advice.

Solution:

According to historical folklore, the 19th century appearance of the top hat caused quite a stir.

Its credited creator, John Hetherington, owner of a haberdashery, crafted it by transforming the riding hat of the era for a more urban version. He switched the beaver for silk, increased the height and minimized the rim.

The men's clothier originally wore it on the streets of London on his way to a meeting with the Mayor. At its sight, children cried and women fainted while dogs barked. He even received a ticket along with a hefty fine.

A decade later, in the 1850s, the top hat was popularized by Prince Albert.

Urban legend or not, nowadays, wearing a top hat still does not go unnoticed and is still associated with formal occasions.

Up until the 1950s, a man that did not wear a hat outdoors would turn heads and would negatively be judged.

According to the etiquette guideline of the time, which is still practiced today, men should not wear a top hat, or any other kind of hat, indoors. The exception is the lobby of public places or in a painted Toulouse-Lautrec Moulin Rouge scene.

As he enters the place of your wedding ceremony, your future husband should entrust his hat to his witness. If the celebration is outdoors, out of respect for the occasion, he will also remove it. Consequently, it goes without saying, his walking stick and gloves should also be given to his witness.

The walking stick as a symbol of authority, power and prestige, is much older than the top hat. The Bible even makes a few references about it. The Sun King, Louis XIV, insisted that only the aristocrats could be adorned by it. In a more glamorous era you may even remember Fred Astaire dancing with his walking stick or Ginger Rogers.

Basically, this accessory is practical. It stabilizes the balance and helps to climb steps or even defend oneself. A walking stick can even contain a weapon, like a sword or serve as a not so discreet flask, to revitalize spirits.

When the walking stick is used as a fashion accessory, it is not appropriate to lean on it, when wearing formal attire. This gives it too much of a casual look.

A walking stick should be secured at all times. Thus, your fiancé should keep it by his side or in font of him and avoid putting it horizontally under his arm. I know, it sort of takes the fun out of it, but safety first.

When using a walking stick for decorative purposes, it should be left in the cloakroom. In the absence of a cloakroom, it can be placed under one's chair or even under the table. Whatever is best for a clear passage for all.

The top hat worn at a formal occasion like a wedding, should be straight, levelled at about two fingers above the eyebrows, not as low as Pharrell Williams wear his "new wave mountie hat," and not tilted as when worn à la "trendy style setter."

When removing his hat, your future husband should make sure not to show its interior lining.

He removes it with his palm placed on top of the hat and he then brings it close to himself with his fingers on its rim. Showing the inside of the hat is considered rude. You're wondering why? Here's the visual: sweat stains, strands of hair and maybe even dandruffs ... Not very glamorous anymore, is it?

While we 're at it, white socks and tuxedo pants are not a fashionable "colour blocking" statement. In general, for formal occasions, socks match the pants. I know that you know, but for the benefit of some of our readers, I thought that a little reminder, may be in order.

Enjoy the celebration and please do send a picture.

Have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Check out Facebook, Twitter or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities.

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