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What is a Toque?

A toque is a type of hat with a history as rich as its fabric. Originally worn by chefs as a symbol of expertise, it has evolved into a fashion statement beyond the kitchen. With its unique blend of function and style, the toque has become a beloved accessory. How has its significance changed over the years? Explore the toque's transformation with us.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A toque is a hat, but the term is used to refer to several different styles, which can be confusing when no details to differentiate the hat are provided. Generally, a person can figure out which sort is under discussion from the context; a 16th century French nobleman, for example, probably did not wear a chef's hat, while fashionable 18th century women most certainly did not wear knitted beanies.

The name, which is French, first appeared in English in 1505. It probably was borrowed from the Spanish toca, which means “headdress.” The Spanish themselves appear to have picked up the word from the Arabic taqa, which is used to refer to a veil or shawl that covers the head.

This portrait of King Philip II of Spain shows a tocado, similar to a toque.
This portrait of King Philip II of Spain shows a tocado, similar to a toque.

In 16th century France, a toque was a hat worn by a nobleman. French noblemen were allowed to wear varying types and numbers of plumes on their hats, depending on their social rank, and these plumes were used as social cues to determine how someone should be addressed. The classic French version was made from velvet, and it had a rolled brim. The style was also adopted by some members of British society.

A black folded-brim beanie.
A black folded-brim beanie.

A toque blanche is a specially designed white pleated hat traditionally worn by chefs, although many drop the “blanche.” Originally, chefs of different ranks wore hats of varying colors; it is believed that white was adopted for sanitary reasons, because it is very easy to bleach. The term “toque” is also used to refer more generally to any sort of small, close fitting hat with no brim, classically worn by women. This type was immensely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries among women of all classes, and it is closely related to the cloche hat, which made a big fashion splash in the 1920s.

A toque blanche, or chef's hat.
A toque blanche, or chef's hat.

The term is also used to refer a knitted hat that is worn straight or with a rolled brim. In Canada, these hats are called “tuques,” probably in a corruption of the spelling. Americans often refer to these hats as beanies. A knitted hat can be a very comfortable garment, especially in cold weather, since the fabric keeps the head of the wearer warm, and the rolled brim can be adjusted to cover the ears so that they do not get too cold.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

Sara007

Does anyone know if it is difficult to knit your own toques? Would it be an OK project for a beginner to undertake?

I have just started knitting and so far have been able to manage a scarf by myself. I would like to make a matching toque and gloves. So far the pattern for the toque looks simple enough, I am just not sure if there are any tips I should follow.

Also, if you add a cute pom-pom to the top of the knitted cap, is it still technically a toque? I am not really up on the different names for hats.

manykitties2

There is nothing better in the winter than a heavy toque to keep your head warm. They are cheap and stylish, and you can pick one up pretty much everywhere.

When I was visiting Canada one of the things I noticed was that a lot of people there had toques with the logos of hockey teams on them. I am not much of a hockey fan myself, but I can certainly see the appeal. I think one of the best things I liked about the toques in Canada were that they were good quality and made nice souvenirs for the tourists who visit.

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    • This portrait of King Philip II of Spain shows a tocado, similar to a toque.
      By: Lisby
      This portrait of King Philip II of Spain shows a tocado, similar to a toque.
    • A black folded-brim beanie.
      By: uwimages
      A black folded-brim beanie.
    • A toque blanche, or chef's hat.
      By: dp3010
      A toque blanche, or chef's hat.