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Chef Hats – Why Are They So Tall?

By Taylor James


Updated on

You probably know that the kitchen workers wear white as a sign of cleanliness. The chefs usually wear a white coat and checkered pants, along with a tall, pleated, white hat. This is pretty much the standard worldwide. But why? 

Chef hats are tall because they signify the rank in the kitchen. The taller the hat, the higher ranking. That’s why chefs wear the tallest hats. These hats are also called white hats, toques blanches, or just toques and date back to the 1800s. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the toques and tell you why chefs wear them, Why they’re so tall, and what the pleats on them mean. Read on to find out more about the history of chef hats and the reason they’ve been popular over the globe.      

tall chef hats

History of Chef Hats

Chefs used to wear a head covering before the 1800s to prevent their hair from dropping into the food, but the toques became popular in the early 1800s. 

This type of culinary hat has roots in France when the French chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, started wearing toques and standardized them. Then Auguste Escoffier, the famous French chef, brought them to London later in the century. 

The color of the hat used to indicate the person’s rank in the kitchen until Talleyrand insisted that the toques must be white, which indicates cleanliness. In the past, the kitchen workers who stirred, minced, or did other cooking tasks used to wear hats in different colors to make it easier to tell their job. Check out this very popular chef hat on Amazon

Why Do Chefs Wear Tall Hats?

Chefs must obviously wear hats for sanitary reasons, but why do they have to be so tall?

The height of the toques simply signifies rank in the kitchen, and that’s why chefs wear the tallest ones. Most chefs wear hats that are 9 to 12 in (22.86 to 30.48 cm) tall. However, a long time ago, the famous Marie-Antoine Carême wore a hat that was 18 in (45.72 cm) tall. The hat was so absurd that they had to use cupboards to keep it standing!     

What Are There Pleats on the Chef Hats?

Same as height, the pleats on it indicate the chef’s experience: the more pleats on a hat, the more ways that chef knows how to prepare food. That means if the hat has 100 pleats, the chef knows 100 recipes, ranging from cooking eggs to frying meat. 

Do Chefs Still Wear Toques?

Nowadays, there are multiple forms of functional headwears. Of course, chefs still wear toques in some kitchens, but some chefs wear skull caps, hair nets, or even baseball caps to keep your food hair-free.  

Final Thoughts

Chefs need to wear a hat to prevent their hair from dropping into your food. The tall, pleated, white hats chefs usually wear in the kitchen, called toques, have roots in France and date back to the 1800s, but they have become a global standard ever since gradually.
The height of the hat and the number of pleats on it signify the person’s rank and skills. That’s why the chef wears the tallest with the most pleats. Discover more about chef hats here.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.