We stopped wearing hats and gloves in public sometime after the second war. It's always been assumed that this was solely because of a change in the fashion mood, but I have another idea.
It's recently been reported that one in four passengers on public transport have faecal bacteria on their hands. And most colds and flu viruses are picked up through the skin of the hands by touching contaminated surfaces, such as handrails and hanging straps on trains, tubes and buses. So next time you look at that tube strap, imagine it covered in little bits of poo and flu bugs. Why would you not wear gloves?
Sorry if this is sounding a bit Howard Hughes-ish, but I think our forebears were onto something. And perhaps they wore hats to prevent the head-lice that infest the moquette upholstery from finding a new home on their own heads. And scarves to prevent the thriving colonies of bed-bugs that live on public routes from the East End into the City from hitching a ride home.
As public hygiene improved in the sixties and seventies, the hats and gloves disappeared. Now that we're back to the thirties in terms of public health, perhaps they'll make a comeback.