The History of the Chef’s Uniform

The history of modern day restaurants and the chefs who run the kitchen is full of interesting details. The restaurant industry, with all the trials and changes it has gone through, has become a major success story; the art of cooking is one appreciated across nations and cultures. While the growing popularity of restaurants and eateries attests to the overall success of the industry, the history of the chef’s uniform is something that’s not widely known.

Evolution of Restaurants

Over the years, the way we have dined has changed greatly. Although, traditionally, most families dined in at home, industrious men and women have found ways to sell meals. This initially got its start in roadside inns and taverns, but the trends have changed so that modern-day restaurants and catering companies are the norm.

Evolution of Chefs

In addition to all of these changes, the person behind the stove has also evolved. Many modern chefs wear the traditional white double-breasted jacket, patterned pants, and tall chef’s hat. However, this has not always been the case.

The uniform did not make an appearance until the Byzantine Empire invaded Greece. Persecuted chefs donned similar attire to priests in Orthodox Church monasteries. This was done in order to blend in and escape notice of those hoping to imprison or persecute them for their free thinking in the kitchen. After the invasion, tall hats continued to be worn to symbolize the escape, and they were later adopted by The Roman Empire.

Illustrations of chefs from the fifteenth-century highlight an apron. From then on, chef’s attire evolved into the more familiar uniform of today, which is most similar to the uniform worn by French chef Marie-Antoine Carême in the mid-19th century. Here is a look at the history of its main parts:


Dating back to the 16th century, the chef’s hat has up to 100 folds, which can represent the wearer’s knowledge and expertise, while rank in a kitchen may be identified by the toque’s height. Toque is the Arabic word for hat. Today, the primary purpose of the chef’s hat is to prevent hair from getting into food.


A double-breasted design helps cover up spills. The chef’s coat is also made of heavy cotton that protects the wearer from hot liquids and the heat of ovens and stoves. Traditionally, the coat is white to signify cleanliness, but chef coats are becoming popular in other colors. It also features a unisex style and has long sleeves to protect arms from burns.


Aprons were traditionally used to protect clothing from stains and smells. They were also used to clean or dry hands, which doesn’t meet today’s hygienic standards. The modern chef’s apron is a thick material that shields against potential spills of hot liquids, and can be quickly removed to protect undergarments and skin.


In Carême’s time, a black and white houndstooth pattern was popular, but this has been replaced by a checkered design that distracts from spills. Pants are also loose-fitting, so chefs can move about the kitchen more easily.

If you’re looking for restaurant uniforms and chef’s uniforms including pants, coats, butcher wraps, smocks, or bib aprons, you can find them at Prudential Overall Supply. Request a quote or call 800-767-5536 today for assistance.

The History of the Chef's Uniform