Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922.

Chapter IV

Salutations of Courtesy


A GENTLEMAN takes off his hat and holds it in his hand when a lady enters the elevator in which he is a passenger, but he puts it on again in the corridor. A public corridor is like the street, but an elevator is suggestive of a room, and a gentleman does not keep his hat on in the presence of ladies in a house.
  This is the rule in elevators in hotels, clubs and apartments. In office buildings and stores the elevator is considered as public a place as the corridor. What is more, the elevators in such business structures are usually so crowded that the only room for a man’s hat is on his head. But even under these conditions a gentleman can reveal his innate respect for women by not permitting himself to be crowded too near to them.   2
  When a gentleman stops to speak to a lady of his acquaintance in the street, he takes his hat off with his left hand, leaving his right free to shake hands, or he takes it off with his right and transfers it to his left. If he has a stick, he puts his stick in his left hand, takes off his hat with his right, transfers his hat also to his left hand, and gives her his right. If they walk ahead together, he at once puts his hat on; but while he is standing in the street talking to her, he should remain hatless. There is no rudeness greater than for him to stand talking to a lady with his hat on, and a cigar or cigarette in his mouth.   3
  A gentleman always rises when a lady comes into a room. In public places men do not jump up for every strange woman who happens to approach. But if any woman addresses a remark to him, a gentleman at once rises to his feet as he answers her. In a restaurant, when a lady bows to him, a gentleman merely makes the gesture of rising by getting up half way from his chair and at the same time bowing. Then he sits down again.   4
  When a lady goes to a gentleman’s office on business he should stand up to receive her, offer her a chair, and not sit down until after she is seated. When she rises to leave, he must get up instantly and stand until she has left the office.   5
  It is not necessary to add that every American citizen stands with his hat off at the passing of the “colors” and when the national anthem is played. If he didn’t, some other more loyal citizen would take it off for him. Also every man should stand with his hat off in the presence of a funeral that passes close or blocks his way.   6

  Lifting the hat is a conventional gesture of politeness shown to strangers only, not to be confused with bowing, which is a gesture used to acquaintances and friends. In lifting his hat, a gentleman merely lifts it slightly off his forehead and replaces it; he does not smile nor bow, nor even look at the object of his courtesy. No gentleman ever subjects a lady to his scrutiny or his apparent observation.
  If a lady drops her glove, a gentleman should pick it up, hurry ahead of her—on no account nudge her—offer the glove to her and say: “I think you dropped this!” The lady replies: “Thank you.” The gentleman should then lift his hat and turn away.   8
  If he passes a lady in a narrow space, so that he blocks her way or in any manner obtrudes upon her, he lifts his hat as he passes.   9
  If he gets on a street car and the car gives a lurch just as he is about to be seated and throws him against another passenger, he lifts his hat and says “Excuse me!” or “I beg your pardon!” He must not say “Pardon me!” He must not take a seat if there are ladies standing. But if he is sitting and ladies enter, should they be young, he may with perfect propriety keep his seat. If a very old woman, or a young one carrying a baby, enters the car, a gentleman rises at once, lifts his hat slightly, and says: “Please take my seat.” He lifts his hat again when she thanks him.  10
  If the car is very crowded when he wishes to leave it and a lady is directly in his way, he asks: “May I get through, please?” As she makes room for him to pass, he lifts his hat and says: “Thank you!”  11
  If he is in the company of a lady in a street car, he lifts his hat to another gentleman who offers her a seat, picks up something she has dropped, or shows her any civility.  12
  He lifts his hat if he asks anyone a question, and always, if, when walking on the street with either a lady or a gentleman, his companion bows to another person. In other words, a gentleman lifts his hat whenever he says “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” or speaks to a stranger, or is spoken to by a lady, or by an older gentleman. And no gentleman ever keeps a pipe, cigar or cigarette in his mouth when he lifts his hat, takes it off, or bows.  13

  The standing bow, made by a gentleman when he rises at a dinner to say a few words, in response to applause, or across a drawing-room at a formal dinner when he bows to a lady or an elderly gentleman, is usually the outcome of the bow taught little boys at dancing school. The instinct of clicking heels together and making a quick bend over from the hips and neck, as though the human body had two hinges, a big one at the hip and a slight one at the neck, and was quite rigid in between, remains in a modified form through life. The man who as a child came habitually into his mother’s drawing-room when there was “company,” generally makes a charming bow when grown, which is wholly lacking in self-consciousness. There is no apparent “heel-clicking” but a camera would show that the motion is there.
  In every form of bow, as distinct from merely lifting his hat, a gentleman looks at the person he is bowing to. In a very formal standing bow, his heels come together, his knees are rigid and his expression is rather serious.  15

  The informal bow is merely a modification of the above; it is easy and unstudied, but it should suggest the ease of controlled muscles, not the floppiness of a rag doll.
  In bowing on the street, a gentleman should never take his hat off with a flourish, nor should he sweep it down to his knee; nor is it graceful to bow by pulling the hat over the face as though examining the lining. The correct bow, when wearing a high hat or derby, is to lift it by holding the brim directly in front, take it off merely high enough to escape the head easily, bring it a few inches forward, the back somewhat up, the front down, and put it on again. To a very old lady or gentleman, to show adequate respect, a sweeping bow is sometimes made by a somewhat exaggerated circular motion downward to perhaps the level of the waist, so that the hat’s position is upside down.  17
  If a man is wearing a soft hat he takes it by the crown instead of the brim, lifts it slightly off his head and puts it on again.  18
  The bow to a friend is made with a smile, to a very intimate friend often with a broad grin that fits exactly with the word “Hello”; whereas the formal bow is mentally accompanied by the formal salutation: “How do you do!”  19

  The reputation of Southern women for having the gift of fascination is perhaps due not to prettiness of feature more than to the brilliancy or sweetness of their ready smile. That Southern women are charming and “feminine” and lovable is proverbial. How many have noticed that Southern women always bow with the grace of a flower bending in the breeze and a smile like sudden sunshine? The unlovely woman bows as though her head were on a hinge and her smile sucked through a lemon.
  Nothing is so easy for any woman to acquire as a charming bow. It is such a short and fleeting duty. Not a bit of trouble really; just to incline your head and spontaneously smile as though you thought “Why, there is Mrs. Smith! How glad I am to see her!”  21
  Even to a stranger who does her a favor, a woman of charm always smiles as she says “Thank you!” As a possession for either woman or man, a ready smile is more valuable in life than a ready wit; the latter may sometimes bring enemies, but the former always brings friends.  22

  Under formal circumstances a lady is supposed to bow to a gentleman first; but people who know each other well bow spontaneously without observing this etiquette.
  In meeting the same person many times within an hour or so, one does not continue to bow after the second, or at most third meeting. After that one either looks away or merely smiles. Unless one has a good memory for people, it is always better to bow to some one whose face is familiar than to run the greater risk of ignoring an acquaintance.  24

  For one person to look directly at another and not acknowledge the other’s bow is such a breach of civility that only an unforgivable misdemeanor can warrant the rebuke. Nor without the gravest cause may a lady “cut” a gentleman. But there are no circumstances under which a gentleman may “cut” any woman who, even by courtesy, can be called a lady.
  On the other hand, one must not confuse absent-mindedness, or a forgetful memory with an intentional “cut.” Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness.  26
  A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.  27