Toque Talk

What do you think of when you hear the word “toque”? Is it even a word that you use? Maybe, like many of us of a certain age, you associate toques with the hats worn by those “hosers” Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, respectively), hosts of the 1980s “Great Canadian North” comedy show.

Toque is certainly a Canadian term, but its history and meaning goes back many winters and covers continents.

The word “toque” means “hat” in Breton (the Bretons of Europe also settled in North America). The word’s origin is linked to the Spanish word toca, meaning “women’s headdress,” and the Arabic word taca for “opening” and taqia for “hat.” Toque has been in use in English since 1505.

What we call a “toque” in Canada is often referred to as a “beanie,” “watch cap” or “stocking cap” in other English-speaking countries. The hats may have first been worn in Canada by coureurs de bois – French and Métis fur traders. And while we think of them as knit caps, toques in other parts of the world could be hats with little or no brim, like chef’s hats. In fact, they were popular in France from the 13th to the 16th century, when they were worn by French magistrates and often by chefs.

Toques have become a major fashion trend in recent years, popping up on Instagram from popular brands such as Herschel and Under Armour. In Canada, you would be hard pressed to find a house that didn’t have a couple of toques in the porch.

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