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There are two degrees of politeness demonstrated by a gentleman wearing a hat:
1.Lifting or tipping it, which you generally do for strangers.
2.Taking it off, which you generally do for friends (or in some cases, as a sign of patriotism or reverence).
Both are done as a sign of respect toward the other and dignity toward oneself.

Tipping your hat is a conventional gesture, done by barely lifting it off your head with your right hand (or the left hand if the right hand is occupied): By the crown of a soft hat, or the brim of a stiff one. Your cigarette, pipe or cigar should always be taken out of your mouth before removing or tipping your hat. This is a subtle gesture that should not be confused with bowing.

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