Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Have you ever said the word “toque” to a non-Canadian only to be met with a blank stare? Full of Canadian pride, I decided to research this ubiquitous Canadian word. And what did I discover? A toque is simply a brimless hat…
In France, toques are most commonly known as chef’s hats. Yep, those tall, white, pleated hats, which, incidentally, are supposed to resemble a cooked egg and should have exactly 101 pleats. Next door, during the medieval period, the market for knit hats was controlled by the British guild and none were imported in order to protect local wool workers. Smuggling wool out of the country was also a no-no punishable by the loss of a hand (knitters, cringe!) and referred to as “owling” – this law was in place for over 450 years! Believe it or not, knit hats were a luxury item reserved for aristocracy. But they couldn’t keep the fashion to themselves for long… A different style of toque became popular with “common” men and women in 14th – 16th century Europe, often made of velvet or felt and plumed with feathers and other fashionable accoutrements (see Grace Kelly).
Finally, I found some reference to the Canadian usage of “toque”: derived from the French Canadian word, “tuque”, and first found in print in 1870, the definition is “knit winter hat” (see Mackenzie brothers). The fashion apparently began with the fur traders (now this is more like it, Canada)…the adventurous woodsmen had to keep their knitted caps on to stay warm during the harsh winter nights. Also, red stocking caps became a symbol for freedom and the pursuit of liberty during the 1837 Canadian Rebellions. Knit hats are contemporarily equated with the word “beanie” (see Jacques Cousteau), “stocking cap” or “night cap”, “skull cap”, “snow cap”, and so on.
According to urbandictionary.com a “toque” is “the ultimate in high Canadian fashion. Worn year round whether it's cold or warm outside. And yes it does get warm in Canada!” That’s right! Proud to be Canadian and proud to wear my toque outdoors, indoors, and sometimes at night. Proud to be a thermoregulation expert. Eh?
This article originally appeared in Knit and Caboodle's monthly newsletter. To sign up, visit: Knit and Caboodle
Posted by bohoknits at 2:22 PM