Soccer Referee Hats: Yes or No?

You’ll never see a referee wearing a hat on TV, but there’s a good reason you see so many referees wearing a hat in local parks.

Are referee hats part of the uniform?

A hat isn’t one of the mandatory soccer referee uniform items in the FIFA rules like referee shoes are, but hats are absolutely allowed.

The sad truth is that referee organizations realized they could get sued if they told referees not to wear hats and a referee got skin cancer.

When referees are spending all day out in the sun, hats are not only allowed but are an essential safety item. Even if you’re good about remembering sunscreen, you’ll sweat it right off, and it can be difficult to apply to sweaty skin when you have only minutes in between games.

Why do people look down on soccer referee hats?

Soccer referee hats aren’t part of the traditional uniform. Unlike MLB umpires and NFL referees, you won’t see soccer referees wearing a hat on TV.

This creates a bit of elitism where referees think that doing something that pro referees don’t is always wrong.

Coaches and players often associate referees in hats with referees who come from other sports and don’t have a clue about soccer. Those refs exist, but they’re not the only ones wearing hats.

Should soccer referees wear hats?

If you’re doing multiple games in a day, you should absolutely wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun. In addition to the far-off threat of skin cancer, you’ll feel a difference in your fatigue level having that extra layer of protection.

Hats also help you do your job better. Remember that pro assistant referees don’t have to deal with that low-angle late morning or evening sun shining directly in their faces. The stadium blocks the sun.

If you’re not in a stadium, don’t spend the entire game with your hand in front of your face. Wear a hat.

The same thing goes when it’s raining. Don’t spend the entire game or day with rain in your eyes feeling miserable. Wear a hat.

Now, you do still need to worry about perceptions as you try to build credibility. Take your hat off for a few minutes when you first meet and check in the teams, then put it back on.

If you’re doing a tournament, some refs prefer to take their hat off for their centers and only wear it on the line. Besides concerns about your looks, a hat can narrow your vision when you’re trying to look down at a challenge and still see the surrounding action.

But remember that safety comes first. And any league or referee organization that puts fashion over your safety isn’t worth working for.

What kind of hats should referees wear?

The rule on soccer referee hats is that they should be all black. They shouldn’t even have the logo of a referee organization or event sponsor.

Just like soccer referee shoes, you can’t always find a hat that’s all black. You might need to get one with a small white manufacturer’s logo.

If someone gives you a hard time over a minimal white marking, tell them, “OK, boomer.” You can also invite them to give you a link to a proper hat (they won’t be able to).

When you choose a hat, get a runner’s hat instead of a baseball hat. The material is lighter and cooler. Just watch out for hats that have mesh in the back and don’t cover your entire head (depending on your hair length).

What about cold weather?

If you’re out in the cold, wearing a beanie or knit cap falls under the same guidelines as hats for the sun. Some old fuddy-duddy might get fussy, but cold temperatures reduce your mental capacity.

If it’s near or below freezing and you’re doing games that won’t keep you running at pro speeds nonstop, wear a cap.


Referee hats may not be part of the mandatory or traditional soccer referee uniform, but they’re an essential item for your safety and performance. Wear a hat.

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