“Never Put A Hat On The Bed” – Meaning & Origin (Bad Luck)

You may have heard about the old saying, putting your hat on your bed (or the variation “putting a hat on a bed”), and you might understand that it comes with bad luck. This article will look into the origin of the phrase and how we can use it.

What Does “Never Put A Hat On The Bed” Mean?

The phrase “never put a hat on the bed” is popular in many populations and cultures and means that it is bad luck to put your hat down on your bed. Generally, if someone sees you do this, it’s clear that misfortune is about to come your (or their) way.

What Does "Never Put A Hat On The Bed" Mean?

The phrase is superstitious, meaning there is no direct reason why some people believe it. It’s likely that a few bad things happened to people once leaving a hat on a bed, but other than that, there are no clear reasons why it is bad.

What Is The Origin Of “Never Put A Hat On The Bed”?

While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with putting a hat on a bed, that doesn’t mean we can’t source the origin of the phrase to something in particular. This section will look at the most likely cultures or populations to worry about the superstition.

Jamaicans and African Americans

In 1896, papers were written by Jamaican students at Mico College. In those papers, the sentences, “do not put your hat on a bed, for misfortune will surely overtake you” and “If a young man puts his hat on a bed, it prevents him from getting married,” were used.

We can see from those quotes that the students of Mico College were superstitious in their beliefs about placing a hat on their beds.

Italians and Italian Americans

Though this superstition occurred much later than the Jamaican one, it is still present in Italian culture.

In the 2001 “Simple Guide to Italy: Customs & Etiquette” by Hugh Shankland, it is mentioned that it’s bad luck to put a hat on a bed in Italy, as well as to break a mirror or allow a black cat to cross your path.

While it might be somewhat satirical to mention superstitions as an etiquette guide, it still rings true that Italians fear for the bad luck that comes with the phrase.

Theatre Folk

In the performance world, it’s possible to hear the superstition being used before important theatre productions.

The Green Book Magazine published an article that stated that problems occurred during rehearsals of a performance when “Marjie threw her hat on my bed.” This article was published in 1913.


Of course, it’s no good mentioning a superstition surrounding hats without referring to the cowboys and whether they believed it or not.

“Rodeo in America: Wranglers, Roughstock & Paydirt,” published in 1996, and written by Wayne Wooden & Gavin Ehringer, mentioned the saying. They wrote, “For good luck, a cowboy should not place his hat on a bed,” among other things.

Similar to the Italian message, Wooden & Ehringer included a much longer list of superstitions that were bound to cause bad luck and misfortune. This shows how closely related cowboys are with the problems surrounding this phrase.

Why Is It Bad Luck To Put A Hat On The Bed?

So, why is it bad luck to put a hat on the bed? There isn’t a definitive reason, though there seems to be one particular source that most people agree on.

Leaving a hat on a bed suggests that someone has died or someone will die, which is closely tied with misfortune or bad luck. It’s something that people used to do during funerals when hats were placed on top of the caskets of the deceased.

Most people don’t believe in this saying today, and it’s definitely one of those ones that have fallen out of popularity over recent years. Still, it might be best to avoid putting your hat on your bed, just in case.

Is It Bad Luck To Put A Hat On The Table?

It is only bad luck to put a hat on the bed, and it is not bad luck to put a hat on the table. You can freely do so without any superstitious problems coming to take you down.

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