Do you call it a beanie or a toque? Once the soft knitted hat crossed over from practical winter gear every Canadian teenager refused to wear, to essential fashion accessory, American culture imprinted its own terminology on the piece of clothing. While it’s now also widely known as a beanie, I maintain that a true Canadian calls this particular piece of headgear a toque. This is a hill I will die on.
What I will not claim, however, is that toques are the only stylish way to keep your head warm. As proof, here are six Canadian hat makers who fuse practicality with fashionability, one of whom offers the iconic knitted toque with a pom-pom on top. (Because it wouldn’t be a Canadian list without one.)
Where: Fernie, B.C.
What: Cozy AF double-layered fleece hats for cold Canadian days outdoors.
Why we love ’em: Champion freeskier Andrea Byrne fully embraces her time on the slopes as the inspiration behind her handmade goods. To get pictures of her wares out in the wild so she can showcase them on her website and socials in their “natural” habitat, Byrne smartly offers a discount on the buyer's next order if they send her their pics.
Workshop’s favourite: All and Extra’s signature Peak Throne Hat, available in a rainbow of customizable colours (if you happen to catch the drop before it sells out!).
Where: St-Raphael, Que.
What: Aviator and trapper hats handmade with recycled fur that’s been recovered from secondhand fur coats.
Why we love ’em: For nearly 30 years, maker Lucie Côté has been working with leather, having started out at a handbag company. Now her daughter assists Côté in creating her own line, using traditional techniques to make iconic styles.
Workshop’s favourite: The Davy Crockett Fur Hat for kids because I sported a similar one as a toddler, and how freakin’ adorable?
What: Felted-wool fedoras with hand-beaded brims.
Why we love ’em: Sage & Cedar Designs is the side hustle of Suzanne Moore, a Cree two-spirit nurse. (Side note: props to all the nurses for their work during the pandemic!) She sells via Instagram, one hat at a time, posting a notice when she’s ready to take custom orders or has a new design available. This just-do-it approach shows that you don’t need a big internet presence to sell.
Workshop’s favourite: The gold and jewel-toned beads with rose-and-rust diamond pattern accent are a beautiful complement to this wine-coloured felt hat.
What: Hand-knitted toques with big fluffy pom-poms. (Pictured at top)
Why we love ’em: Knitter Asha Arun is a one-woman hat-making factory, churning out chunk knits in a rainbow of colours. In addition to finished pieces, Arun has diversified her revenue stream, also selling patterns on Ravelry and her handmade pom-poms via Etsy, deftly extending her product line from work she’s already doing.
Where: Fredericton, N.B.
What: One-of-a-kind felted hats of merino wool and silk.
Why we love ’em: You can tell that milliner Trish Raine is in love with her materials. She fuses layers of merino wool and silk through “nuno felting,” upcycling damaged vintage pieces and thrift-store finds that she meticulously deconstructs. The results are ’20s-inspired cloches, fedoras and turbans featuring floral details, beaded embellishments and enticing textures.
Workshop’s favourite: The thoughtfully designed Gossamer Hat is specially made for people with hair loss. A thin layer of merino wool helps thermoregulate, while the all-silk lining is soft against sensitive scalps.
What: Adorable berets embellished with clouds, cats and animal ears.
Why we love ’em: Hats that’ll make you smile every time you put one on? Yes, please! The concepts are straightforward — like a yellow ball to make a white beret look like a fried egg, or a felted portrait of your fur-baby — but the results are delightfully whimsical.
Workshop’s favourite: With the simple addition of a leaf and stem, a plain beret becomes the sweet Summer Peach beret. It’s, well, just peachy!
Did we leave out your favourite Canadian hat maker? What other types of goods should we feature? Let us know in the comments!