panama hat

Panama hats were worn by some of the most famous men in history, including the likes of Al Capone, Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill and many others Traditionally made in Ecuador, the Panama hat is a stylish headgear that is originally woven from palm fiber. It was considered as a status symbol for men since decades. Today, however, the hats are making a comeback.

Custom-made hats are in demand all over the world with German milliners refining the ones that are imported from Ecuador. This is because people are looking for something unique. No matter styles and trends that have come and go, the hats are always here, especially in summer. They provide unique protection from the sun. Here?s a brief look at the history of this special hat.

panama hat

Panama Hats via Flickr

Panama hats swept people off their feet after being spotted on Theodore Roosevelt during the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906. This event spurred the production of these hats not only in the US, but also in Europe.

Current Trends in the Panama Hat

Making their way into famous boutiques in Düsseldorf, the hats are indeed experiencing a return of sorts. The Panama hats can be skinny, wide, firm or slack. The hat ribbon can be a classic black or done in leather or casual material. Ladies hats are generally adorned with handmade flowers. The selection of colors is immense and varies from beige and light shades to bright red and green.

Toquilla Straw: For qualifying as a Panama, the hat should be hand-woven with good quality straw, the paja toquilla, which is grown on the foothills of the Andes.

Montecristi: The best known of all Panama hats, it is tough to come across genuine Montecristis. The hats are so called because of the place they are found in. Montecristi in Ecuador grows quality toquilla straw that has fine strands. Using these, master artisans can attain a superbly tight weave, ultimately taking the hats months to complete.

Roll-up: Most genuine Panamas are often ruined by rolling and stuffing within suitcases. Do not roll these hats unless you have been advised to do so. Otherwise, the hat will lose shape, breaking the straw.

Fedora: Popular for decades, fedoras have been sported by eminent personalities. These hats have a sweeping crown, are pinched in the front and have a mid-sized brim which can be snapped at the back. It dips slightly on the eyes.

Optimo: Distinctive for their rounded crowns and central ridge, optimos owe their popularity to British travelers to the tropics. The ridge perhaps became popular from the habit of rolling up the hats while packing. The style is commonly seen in the UK.

All hats are not created equal, and the best of them do not look or feel as if they are made out of straw. The ones with good quality are smooth, silky and delicate, much resembling fabric. The hats are classified into fine, standard, superfine and extra fine, although there is no set standard for this differentiation. In general, the Panama hat gets a higher rating if it is made of more fibers.