Covering the head is a religious custom that can vary depending on doctrine, degree of orthodoxy, local practice and the tenor of the time.
Orthodox Jewish men and boys wear the yarmulke.
Conservative Muslim women don the hijab.
In the late 1960s among the many changes in the air was the lacy mantilla falling out of favor with young Catholic women.
John F. Kennedy broke with fashion tradition at the beginning of the decade by not wearing a hat. Long established fashions were changing in this decade.
Michael Raphael wrote the story and made the pictures for the August 18, 1969 edition of the Telegram-Tribune.
What should you wear in church?
Not so many years ago all Catholic women wore hats to church. Now, in many parts of the country—including San Luis Obispo County—many wear no head coverings at all.
Some confusion was caused recently when some of the latest Vatican decrees were reviewed in a national news story and, because no mention was made of hats, it was assumed by many that the “rule” no longer applied.
Later it was discovered that the report was incomplete and that the centuries-old custom was, indeed, still in effect.
St. Paul first outlined rules for dress and conduct for men and women centuries ago based on Roman custom and his own conviction that a man covering his head was disrespectful but that the reverse is true for women.
St. Paul’s rules for decorum in public worship is written in First Corinthians, Chapter 11, Verses 1-16.
Made a rule by the church in 1918, as Canon 1262, it was stated that women should wear hats, particularly if they intended to receive holy communion.
But then came a determination of how much obligation the rule implied.
Father John Hughes, assistant pastor, at Mission San Luis Obispo, explained that a magazine known as “Clergy Review” in England, which answers clergymen’s questions stated in an issue at the end of World War II “or thereabouts” that the hat rule bound a person “lightly as opposed to greatly.”
It then became a question of whether a person should go to Mass without a hat.
“Naturally it’s more important to go to church,” said Father Hughes.
And at present that is the way the church views the hat situation.
A woman might follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of he law by going to church expensively dressed only to attract attention instead of for prayer, Father Hughes said.
The costume is not important if a person comes to church to pray, Father Hughes adds.
It’s been traditional to wear hats, but many women who attend Mass at the mission here no longer wear head coverings.
Comments from the ladies range from, “I prefer to stick with tradition” to “I hate hats.”
For the most part, older women steadfastly stay with the hats-on rule, and younger women wear more relaxed attire, or no hats.
The trend “just happened,” Father Hughes said. The church made no attempt to keep parishioners apprised of hat rules, but “some lady just showed up without a hat one day” and started the trend, he said.
Of those questioned, those who don’t wear hats prefer it that way, and those that do, prefer it that way.
Some who are here on vacation simply did not bring hats. The church would rather they came to church than miss Mass because they did not bring hats along said Father Hughes.
Also Father Hughes would rather see a hatless woman than see one wearing a dirty handkerchief. The handkerchief, folded into a “messy triangle,” is more disrespectful than no hat at all, he said.
The church’s common sense attitude toward relaxed attire in general is part of the changing posture of the modern church.
Even priests no longer wear berettas during services—for which he is thankful, he added.