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Portrait of Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola - 002b.jpg
King Philip II of Spain, wearing the Spanish tocado, late 1500s. Painting by Sofonisba Anguissola
TypeNarrow-brimmed or brimless hat
MaterialKnitted yarn, starched cloth, or velvet

A toque (/tk/[1] or /tɒk/) is a type of hat with a narrow brim or no brim at all.[2]

Toques were popular from the 13th to the 16th century in Europe, especially France. The mode was revived in the 1930s. Now it is primarily known as the traditional headgear for professional cooks, except in Canada where the term toque is primarily used for knit caps.[2]


Woman's toque from England, c. 1860 at the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Young ladies wearing toques in a fashion drawing from 1800.
Tasseled toque from 1917 New York.

The word toque has been known in English since around 1500. It is a loan word from the French tuque (15th century), presumably by the way of the Spanish toca 'woman's headdress', from Arabic *taqa طاقة, itself from Old Persian taq 'veil, shawl'.[3]

The word toque in Breton means 'hat'. The spelling with ⟨que⟩ is Middle Breton, and the Modern Breton spelling is tok. Old Breton spells the word toc. The word was borrowed into the French language for both the chef's uniform and the knit cap.[citation needed][contradictory]

History and uses[edit]

A tall, black toque made of silk or velvet, often ornamented with an aigrette, was fashionable among the Spanish nobility during the 1500s. This style is seen in a 1584 portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia as well as Sofonisba Anguissola's 1573 portrait of Philip II of Spain, both in the Museo del Prado. The style spread across Europe, being adopted in France, England, Germany, and Italy. The toque diminished in popularity in the 1600s as wide-brimmed and cocked hats became fashionable, but reappeared as a predominantly young women's fashion in the 1800s, accompanying long dresses and chignon hairstyles.[4]


Le Chef de l'Hôtel Chatham, Paris (c. 1921), oil on canvas by William Orpen

A toque blanche (French for 'white hat'), often shortened to toque, is a tall, round, pleated, starched white hat worn by chefs.[5]

The toque most likely originated as the result of the gradual evolution of head coverings worn by cooks throughout the centuries.[6] Their roots are sometimes traced to the casque à meche (stocking cap) worn by 18th-century French chefs. The colour of the casque à meche denoted the rank of the wearer. Boucher, the personal chef of the French statesman Talleyrand, was the first to insist on white toques for sanitary reasons.

The modern toque is popularly believed to have originated with the French chef Marie-Antoine Carême (1784–1833), who stiffened the casque à meche with cardboard[7] .



The pleated, low, round hat worn in French universities – the equivalent of the mortarboard or tam at British and American universities – is also called a toque.


In the Napoleonic era, the French first empire replaced the coronets of traditional ("royal") heraldry with a rigorously standardized system (as other respects of "Napoleonic" coats of arms) of toques, reflecting the rank of the bearer. Thus a Napoleonic duke used a toque with seven ostrich feathers and three lambrequins, a count a toque with five feathers and two lambrequins, a baron three feathers and one lambrequin, a knight only one ostrich feather (see Nobility of the First French Empire).


Toque is also used for a hard-type hat or helmet, worn for riding, especially in equestrian sports, often black and covered with black velvet.

Knit cap[edit]

In Canada, tuque /tk/ is the common name for a knitted winter hat, or watch cap; the spelling touque, although not recognized by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is also sometimes seen in written English.[8] The Canadian-English term was assimilated from Canadian-French word tuque, and first appeared in writing around 1870.[9][10][11]

The fashion is said to have originated with the coureurs de bois, French and Métis fur traders, who kept their woollen nightcaps on for warmth during cold winter days. Such hats are known in other English-speaking countries by a variety of names, including beanie, watch cap or stocking cap; the terms tuque and toque are unique to Canada and northern areas of the United States close to the Canada–United States border.

In 2013, CBC Edmonton launched a poll to ask viewers how they spelled the word. The options given were toque, tuque or touque. Nearly 6,500 people voted, with Edmontonians remaining divided on the issue.[8]

In recent years knit toques have resurfaced as an extremely popular fashion item, they are used all year round, seen not only used outdoors for weather but as an indoor fashion accessory. Many toques are used to promote or advertise as items of Canadian memorabilia, i.e. Canadian NHL hockey teams, Canadian provinces and cities, and many more popular culture artifacts.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Similar hats


  1. ^ "the definition of toque".
  2. ^ a b "Definition of Toque". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "toque". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  4. ^ Chico, Beverly (2013). "Toque". Hats and Headwear Around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 449–451. ISBN 978-1-6106-9063-8.
  5. ^ "Definitions for: Toque". Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  6. ^ Bedell, Jane (2013). So, You Want to Be a Chef?: How to Get Started in the World of Culinary Arts. Simon & Schuster. p. 69. ISBN 978-1582704364.
  7. ^ Engber, Daniel (28 March 2014). "Who Made That Chef's Toque?". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b "Thousands vote on correct spelling of Canadian knit cap". CBC News. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  9. ^ "toque" and "tuque" in Katherine Barber, ed. (2004), The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.), Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-541816-6.
  10. ^ "tuque" at
  11. ^ "toque" and "tuque" at Merriam–Webster Online.


External links[edit]