Hat Types: The Toque

Toque | Royal Hats

During our recent look at the classic pillbox hat, readers Barbara and Louisa May asked some questions about the “toque” style of hat. Through this conversation, I came to understand the toque not only as a unique style of hat but also as the answer to our turban-pillbox hat mystery!

History: As I understand, toque hats were a brimless hat widely worn by men in Europe between the 13th and 16th centuries (see here and see here).  After falling out of fashion, the toque style morphed into what we know as a chef’s hat today. During the Edwardian era (1900-1910), the toque regained popularity as a hat for women. Edwardian toques were usually adorned with spiky hussar plumes or puffs of ostrich feather.

Characteristics: A brimless hat that sits off the face.  Although the sides of a toque fairly straight, the crown shape of a toque is usually rounded or peaked on one side. Toques characteristically look as though they were made of wrapped fabric or straw. This pleated or ruched look makes them resemble a voluminous turban although their shape is closer to that of a rounded pillbox. Traditionally, a calot hat sits back, tightly fitting to the crown of the wearer’s head while a toque sits forward on the top of the head.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Queen Mary adopted this hat style during the Edwardian period and continued wearing it for 30 years (a marvellous newspaper article about this can be read here). Today, Queen Máxima and Queen Mathilde and their Belgian hat designer Fabienne Delvigne have revived this style in a version worn back further off the face.

 Queen Mary, 1932 | The Royal Hats Blog  Queen Mary, 1935 | The Royal Hats Blog  Queen Mary, 1937 | The Royal Hats Blog  Queen Mary, 1937 | The Royal Hats Blog

Queen Mary in 1932, during her Silver Jubilee in 1935, and at coronation events in 1937

Queen Elizabeth,1978| The Royal Hats Blog Princess Astrid, 1999 | The Royal Hats Blog Queen Paola, 2001 | The Royal Hats Blog Queen Margrethe, Dec. 12, 2013 | Royal Hats

Queen Elizabeth,1978; Princess Astrid, 1999; Queen Paola, 2001; Queen Margrethe, 2013

Duchess of Gloucester, March 3, 2007 | The Royal Hats Blog 2005-10-28 Nelson's 200th anniversaryR Lady Helen Taylor, June 14, 2014 in Stephen Jones | Royal Hats

Duchess of Gloucester, 2007;  The Duchess of Cornwall in 2005;
Queen Máxima, 2013; Lady Helen Taylor in 2014

Here is Fabienne Delvigne’s revived toque hat variation, still voluminous but worn further back off the face:

For months we have debated if Queen Máxima and Queen Mathilde’s hats were turbans or pillboxes and I hope this answer provides some clarity. My sincere thanks goes out to readers Barbara and Louisa May whose questions and suggestion made me research further into what a toque really was. I am so curious what the rest of you think about the toque, both as Queen Mary wore it and during its royal revival this year?

Photos from Topical Press Agency, Popperfoto, and Popperfoto via Getty
Corbis; Photonews via Getty; The Royal Forums; Jens Astrup via Berlingske
Mark Cuthbert via Getty;  Tim Graham via Getty; Patrick Katwijk via Dutch Photo PressMax Mumby/Indigo via Getty;

23 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Toque

  1. Just got around to reading this article ( opened mail but too busy to read ).
    Great article. Very informative. I loved the comments that the Queen wore the hats to please her husband, but especially the fact she wore a floral toque to cut back the undergrowth in the garden. I can just picture it now …..! Thanks Hat Queen…. Made me giggle.

  2. That newspaper article made me unbelievabley happy. And it has the best headline that I’ve ever seen “Queen Mary still wears toques”.. I’m going to be giggling at that all day!

  3. Oh, you made me laugh today, HatQueen! And I learned something new at the same time. Who knew a toque was a ladies hat of with dignified sartorial ancestry?
    In Canada we believe a toque is a toque -> a knitted cap, sometimes with a pompom on top. Anyone who watched Bob and Doug McKenzie – a pair of fictional Canadian brothers who hosted “Great White North” on SCTV starting about 1980 – will know exactly what we’re talking about… A toque is the hat both Bob & Doug wore as they drank their “two-four” (case of 24 beer).
    The Canadian pronunciation I am familiar with is more like “two-k” as in the number “two” with a “k” sound at the end. But there are variations from one end of our long country to another. Many American chuckle when Canadians say “a-boot” instead of “about”, and “roof” instead of “ruff”. On the other hand, we think some Americans talk funny too! It is all in good fun and subject to interpretation. It just goes to show how the english language changes character over time and distance. In my mind either pronunciation you suggest will work in Canada, eh?
    As for ladies fine hats, I cannot get my head around calling this millinery creation (part turban, part swirly pillbox) a toque. Don’t you love the different perspectives we bring to the Royal Hats table?

  4. Mmmmm……….I’m not sure I agree with the premise presented here. The toque is a very specific type of hat, and I don’t think a brimless hat worn on the crown or back of the head qualifies as a toque just because it is covered with ruched, folded or braided fabric. There was a revival of toque – like hats in the 80’s too, as I recall. I think the Countess of St. Andrews wore one for her wedding. Another place to see a true Queen Mary type toque is on ‘Downtown Abbey.’ The inimitable Dowager Countess of Grantham has worn several classic toques. I’m going to go against the majority here and disagree that those fabric covered pilbox hats are really toques.
    (And to really confuse things, in the area of the US in which I live, they call ski hats ‘toboggans.’ Have you ever heard of anything so silly? As if anyone would wear a wooden sled on their head!)

  5. Your research about the different kinds of hats and their history is so interesting. I learn so much! I am just amazed how much Queen Elizabeth looks like her grandmother. When I first saw these photos of Queen Mary, I thought it was Queen Elizabeth wearing costumes.

  6. How brilliant of Fabienne Delvigne to update this Edwardian hat shape in the way that she has. She has made an old fashioned and slightly dowdy hat look very modern and extremely fashionable.

  7. Wonderful post! Well done on finding that interesting article on Queen Mary. Your posts are always interesting and we are all learning from you.

  8. Queen Mary is very regal and distinguished looking, and I love the toque hats on her. I like some of the current toques as well. I like the one that Princess Mathilde wore in 2011, and also the ones worn by Queen Maxima this year. However, I do think my favorite one was the one worn by the Duchess of Gloucester in 2007. My favorite Queen Mary toque was the one from 1932.

  9. I find these posts about the different hat types so interesting. Looking at Queen Mary’s hats, you can see how the modern hats today are quite similar. I don’t really like this style for myself but the two new queens wear them very well.

  10. I love that newspaper article. It seems that female royal fashion has always been a popular subject for newspapers.
    My favourite of the ones above is the nude Matilde toque. It’s not my favourite colour but with the placement and the hair it looks fantastic.

  11. Don’t like turbans and don’t care for these much other then the ones that look most like the one Queen Marry has on. It’s nice to know the history behind this design however – thanks.

  12. And Ella, as you know, of course, if one is Canadian, it is not this at all. A toque or tuque is a knitted hat that is taller than a beanie but shorter than a chef’s hat, so more in keeping with but shorter than the 13th and 16th century versions. Which of course, makes sense since it is based on the hat the Coureurs de Bois wore in the 17th century. So if you ask for a toque in Canada you will get a warm knitted cap, not a ladies’ hat! (although of course, all Canadian women own several toques or tuques)

  13. I moved to Canada some years ago, and heard mention of a toque and had no idea what poeple meant – and this is the official wiki entry:

    In Canada, toque, or tuque /ˈtuːk/, is the common name for a knitted winter hat, or watch cap (also called a beanie). The Canadian English term was assimilated from Canadian French tuque.

    I still think of a knitted winter hat as a beanie, can’t get used to them being called a toque 🙂

    • I would say that Wiki isn’t entirely accurate. A beanie here usually means a knitted cap that is pulled down all the way, like a watch cap. Traditionally, in Canada, a toque mean a knitted cap that had some height–the kind you would often see topped with a pom pom for example., so that the crown of the hat is not in contact with your head. While toque can be used more generically here to mean any knitted cap, it more commonly means the type of hat that I described.

  14. Great post, I really enjoyed it. This article about Queen Mary’s toques is a little wonder!
    I think you got it right: the pillbans are a new variation on the toque style.

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