6. The Toque

The Toque, who knew!

To begin with, where did it come from? My educated guess is that it was started life as the  “Phrygian Cap” (left) a brimless, limp, conical cap that fitted snugly around the head, worn by the liberated slaves of Phrygia.

In Antiquity, Phrygia was first a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Asian Turkey, c. 1200–700 BC.


From there, it reappeared during the “Age of Enlightenment (long 18th century (1685-1815)) and was worn by the French Libertarians as a symbol of their liberty, where it was almost always depicted in red, and known as the red cap (bonnet rouge) or liberty cap (bonnet de la Liberte).

Self Portrait with a Phrygian Cap
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson – 1792



It arrived in the new world in the mid 1700’s. In Angela Gottfred’s entry “What They Wore” http://www.northwestjournal.ca, about the Voyageurs, she notes that “Alexander Henry the Elder’s memoirs described Voyageurs as wearing “a large, red, milled worsted cap’ in 1761” and that “David Thompson also noted that in 1786 voyageurs wore “long red or blue caps, half of which are hung down the head.” She goes on to mention that “Some toques were brought into the Northwest by the NWC and HBC, and turn up on various inventory lists and in journals from 1786 onwards, described as “milled caps”, “grey milled caps”, “worsted caps”, “grey worsted caps” and “scarlet worsted caps”.

Genre Studies of Habitants and Indians
Anonymous; Canadian
watercolour over pencil
Centimetres: 190 (height), 317 (width)
circa 1780
Quebec; Canada; North America
Royal Ontario Museum
Sigmund Samuel Trust
Detail left, full below

Frances Anne Hopkins ca1858


2000 – The toque/tuque is a hat…