The Panama Hat from Ecuador is a legendary fashion must-have, adding timeless style & sophistication to any outfit. Learn more about this iconic hat.
The legendary ‘Panama’ Hat is my absolute favourite style of hat. Anytime I pass a hat store, I can’t resist going in and trying them all on in front of the mirror. They’re light, hard-wearing and cool-to-wear; evoking simple, understated and timeless elegance. Exquisitely hand-woven from Ecuador, the panama hat will last you a lifetime, for the beach or for the street.
They are considered to be the ‘Rolls-Royce’ and the ‘Cuban Cigar’ of the hat world, with a style that is sleek and highly distinguished; requiring remarkable levels of time-consuming hand detailing which makes it all the more attractive to hat connoisseurs. If you want to add instant ‘oomph’ to your summer outfit, male or female, then may I suggest the ‘prince’ of straw hats – the panama.
– ORIGIN OF THE ECUADOR ‘PANAMA’ HAT –
Despite its name, a genuine brimmed straw Panama hat is not from Panama, it’s actually handwoven from Ecuador (on the north-western coast of South America). The two primary centres of panama hat production and export there are Montecristi (on the coast) and Cuenca (in the Andes Mountains). The finer hats come from Montecristi.
Ever since the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, the indigenous people of the province of Manabi (in Ecuador) have been weaving with Paja Toquilla – a particular type of local straw that is used to make these famous high quality hats. In the 19th century, these hats were exported through the Isthmus of Panama (the Panama Canal; which links North and South America) for international sale to Europe and the US. Subsequently, the hats became known to the world as ‘panama hats’ to reflect their point of international sale rather than their place of domestic origin.
The popularity of the hats increased in the mid-nineteenth century by the miners of the California Gold Rush, who frequently traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt of the US visited the construction site of the Panama Canel and was photographed at the time wearing a Panama hat, which further increased the hats’ popularity. The hats were later worn by many early-twentieth century film starts during films. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century did panama hats become more associated with the seaside and tropical locale.
I have to admit, I go weak for a high quality #Panama hat, and can never resist trying them on when window shopping! I think #PanamaHats are so classy & sophisticated, perfect for summer, coastal days. My favourite styles are either a Trilby or Havana in bleached white with a wide brim. #fashion #hats #Style #PerthGirl #panama
– QUALITY OF A GENUINE ECUADOR HAT –
Genuine Ecuador hats are all woven individually by hand, with the top grade of hat taking 3 months to make. They are light coloured, lightweight, breathable and often foldable.
The two main processes in the creation of a Panama hat are weaving and blocking. Hats are commercially graded with numeric degrees to indicate quality based on The Montecristi Foundation’s grading system. These grades area calculated by measuring the horizontal and vertical rows of weave per inch. Keep in mind, the rarest and most expensive Panama hats are hand-woven with up to 3,000 weaves per square inch.
According to popular rumour, a ‘superfino’ Panama hat can hold water, and when rolled for storage, can pass through a wedding ring.
However, try and resist the temptation to screw the hat up to see how well it holds its shape (I also don’t recommend passing it through a wedding ring as many travel guides may suggest). Unless it is a really expensive hat, these tricks will just ruin your hat in general. A simple way to test the quality grade of your panama hat is through the tightness of the weaving – it should be so tight that the hat can hold water.
In February 2014, Simon Espinal, an Ecuadorian 47-year-old Panama hat weaver considered to be among the best at his craft, set a world record by creating a Panama hat with four thousand weaves per inch that took eight months to handcraft from beginning to end.
No other hat has been worn so much by A-lister celebrities. Brad Pitt, Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Cameraon Diaz, Beyonce, Miranda Kerr and Jessica Alba have all sported a Panama hat – cementing the hats popularity amongst the rich and famous. This timeless piece has of course been covered many personalities’ heads back in the old day, such as Ernest Hemmingway, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Paul Newman and Alberto Santos Dumont.
Here’s a look at some of the celebrities who have all adorned the famous panama hat:
– SUPPORT ECUADOR!!! –
Although the Panama hat continues to provide a livelihood for thousands of Ecuadorians, fewer than a dozen weavers capable of making the finest “Montecristi superfinos” remain.
Production in Ecuador is dwindling, due to economic problems in Ecuador and competition from Chinese hat producers whom produce replica’s of the hat faster in factories, at a much cheaper price.
Whether you decide to haggle over a $4 straw trilby panama hat at the markets, buy online or head for a stylish hat shop in Western Australia to pay $400 for a well branded one – an Ecuador Hat is an essential purchase. Just be sure that however you decide to purchase one – that you are indeed, buying an authentic, panama hat with a Made in Ecuador label on it. Support Ecuador – the original producers of the legendary ‘panama’ hat!