Putting on my detective's hat, I proceeded to ask him some questions.

What does "putting my detective's hat" mean?

Can it be paraphrased as "when I put on my detective's hat"?

Am I a real detective or do I pretend to be a detective?

  • You are thinking like a detective (or behaving like a detective). "Putting on my <something> hat>" is a reasonably common idiom.
    – TonyK
    Dec 7, 2016 at 2:07

3 Answers 3


In English, the idiom "wears many hats" means to have many roles or responsibilities. For example,

She wears many hats: she's a doctor, a musician, and a writer.

means that this person has many roles in life (a doctor, a musician, and a writer). The 'hat' is synonymous with 'job' in such expressions.

Therefore, "Putting on my detective's hat" means that the person stepped into the role of detective. That's not to say that the person is a real detective - that depends on the context of the passage - but it means the person started asking questions, as a detective would.

  • 2
    +1 Take on the role or characteristic symbolized by the "hat" is the key.
    – Peter
    Dec 6, 2016 at 8:31
  • >That depends on the context of the passage. Your lecture is easy to understand. Thank you for your good answers.
    – ABC
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:49
  • 5
    +1, but I think that *wears many hats" is just one example expression, not the root of the idiom.
    – mattdm
    Dec 6, 2016 at 12:53
  • 1
    In terms of the root of the idiom, it comes from an era in the early- to mid-1900s when professionals (and the public in general) wore hats on a regular basis, and their profession could be quickly identified by their hat. A policeman's hat would be different from a chef's hat. As for a literal detective's hat, think of Sherlock Holmes wearing his archetypal deerstalker hat. There's also further discussion on this topic over on English.SE here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/4743/…
    – flith
    Dec 7, 2016 at 7:16

This seems to be an example of idiom.

To "put on one's X" in this context means to put yourself in a particular frame of mind. So "put on one's detective hat" means to put oneself in an inquisitive frame of mind, regardless of whether one is a real detective or not.

Similar constructions are "put on one's thinking cap" and "put on one's dancing shoes".

  • >It means to put oneself in an inquisitive frame of mind, regardless of whether one is a real detective or not. Thank you for your accurate answers.
    – ABC
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:55

Depending on the context it could either mean - the person put's on a real detective's hat or - the person imagings that he's a detective (might be an idiom).

I've seen examples of the kind where "face" was instead of "hat".

  • He put on a smiling face and left the room.
  • >face was instead of hat Thank you for your good information.
    – ABC
    Dec 6, 2016 at 11:59
  • 2
    Putting on my critic's hat, I can confidently say that this answer is completely wrong.
    – TonyK
    Dec 7, 2016 at 2:06
  • TonyK explain, sir Dec 7, 2016 at 6:39
  • There is no such thing as a 'real dectective's hat' - Police detectives don't wear a uniform, and the deer stalker stereotype is a fabrication on top of a fabrication, so whatever the context it cannot be a referring to a real 'type of hat routinely associated with a detective'. So unless it is another policeman who has a dectective, say is a sergeant working under a detective, and is putting on 'the hat belonging to their detective', it won't be a real hat. Such a context is unlikely. Dec 7, 2016 at 10:11
  • @PeteKirkham A deerstalker cap is considered to be a detective's hat. But yes, I see what you all mean. Dec 7, 2016 at 10:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .