The history of the Chef's hat

January 18, 2019

The history of the Chef's hat

The chef has always had his own uniform, for comfort, safety and of course his image...

But what is representing the most a chef, it his hat, a symbol of this esteemed and respected profession, as it was a real art. 

The hat, that through history has followed the trends but has always represented a symbol, even changing his shape. 

The hat was born with a practical and hygienic purpose: protect hair from the smoke of pans and, at the same time, avoid that hair could fall in the dishes and also limit sweating. 

But it is also a hallmark: every shape represents a role in the hierarchy prom the chef to the executive chef, from the apprentice to the kitchen hand. Pictures of the XVI century show this hierarchic features: the executive chef is wearing a wide-brimmed hat, the chefs a beanie, while the servants are wearing a simple bandana or kerchief.

In the XVIII century the hat is brimless, sideways, flabby and with a big pom pom at the edge, very similar to a nightcap.

Only in the next century the chef's hat completely changed his shape, thanks to the design of Antonin Carême, master pastry chef working in George IV's kitchens in the UK, who presents a new hat with an inside cardboard disk keeping the end of the hat ample, with a little bow as ornament.

From Antonin Carême's creations, the hat changed many designs, until the middle XX century, when the hat acquired his modern cylindrical extended shape (until 40 cm).  

(Nowadays, the height of the hat has been reduced to 30-35 cm for chefs and 25 cm for pastry chefs - with very limited exceptions)

Another modern change to the hat is the material: cotton has been substituted with absorbent paper and, thanks to the technical progress, it is possible to realize the hat in disposable material, that is comfortable, cheap and especially hygienic. 

The hat has become an expression of chefs character: if it is worn very ample, with pleats and slightly backward, usually the chef is an authoritative and irascible man. If the hat is worn sideways, usually the chef is considered a braggart. If, instead, the hat is worn spruced up and straight, normally the chef is a small man, meaning that he tries to stand out in relation to his coworkers.