Why the Hat?
A hat is not just a head covering, it is a symbol that shows the public one is skilled, experienced, has a professional attitude, and proud to be a member of a unique group of professionals. Recently a very good chef, said I do not wear a hat because I am bald, told me that he does not understand what a chefs hat really is, or realizes the need to brand oneself. Wearing a professional uniform at least in public (particularly the media) is one VERY SMALL but important value of a chef, and is their contribution to the cookery industry.
Wearing a hat in a public arena demonstrates the chef believes in showing their professional status, and demonstrates they belong to a unique group who have professional standards in practice. We need to understand why people hang up certificates, pin badges to their lapel, or add qualifications to their business card. For the same reason, to show they associate with the standards behind the brand. This is especially true of the classical symbolic hat.
Of course wearing a hat does not definitely prove a person is a professional chef; however are other ways that is easily established.
A classic chefs hat in many cases in Australia has been replaced by the cap. Even though this is not a global fashion, this alternative is acceptable under the Australian Culinary Codes of Practice as the minimum standard.
However, to collectively brand and protect the culinary industry, whenever a chef appears in a commercial kitchen for the media arena, a classical hat is the preferred image. This brands the both the individual and the whole industry. Individually and collectively, everyone wins.
I also personally believe students should wear caps till the day they graduate at school, and should be presented with a classic hat (even a paper one) as a symbol gesture that they now belong to, and are acknowledged by professionals in the industry.