The panama hat or also known as a hat originally from Ecuador is made with the dried and then intertwined leaves of the Carludovica plant also known as the toquilla palm. Over the years it has become a real legendary hat, rich in tradition and culture. The art of weaving this iconic hat has been considered an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO since 2012.
Panamas are traditionally light in color, light and breathable and often worn as accessories for spring and summer clothing, such as those in linen or silk
The tightness, the subtlety of the weave and the time spent weaving a Panama hat complete with toquilla straw characterize its quality. In fact, the cost of an authentic quality Panama hat can vary from a few hundred euros to thousands due to its intense and artisanal workmanship. The thinner the fiber, the longer the work required to make a hat and consequently it will have a higher price.
Starting in the late 20th century, these hats became popular due to their ease of use and breathability.
The origin of the name Panama hat
One of the first cities to start weaving Panama hats was Principal in Ecuador. Straw hats woven in that locality, like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, were first shipped to the Isthmus of Panama (thanks to its commercial liveliness, and the start of the famous canal in 1904), then sailed to their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas and Europe, acquiring a name that reflected their international shipping / sales outlet - "Panama hats" - rather than their place of national origin.
Another reason that contributed to the affirmation of the name “Panama hat” is due to the gold miners who traveled through Panama in California, during the historic California gold rush. The prospectors told people who admired their hats that they had bought them in Panama. Hence, the hats quickly became known as "Panama hats".
In fact, despite their name, Panama hats originated in Ecuador, where they are still made today. Historically, throughout Central and South America, people referred to Panama hats as "Jipijapa", "Toquilla" or "Montecristi" hats (the latter two names are still in use today).
Panama hats first appeared internationally at the 1855 Universal Exhibition in Paris, where Panama hats were first presented on a global scale.
Another reason for the success of the Panama hat was thanks to the President of the United States of America Theodore Roosevelt who wore a Panama hat during his visit to the Panama Canal.
During his trip to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal, President Theodore Roosevelt took advantage of the event and his natural ability to advertise his image, posing for some photos at the Panama shipyard in 1906.
The photos of the visit show him dressed completely in white, with a panama hat on his head
While the Panama hat continues to provide livelihoods for thousands of Ecuadorians, fewer than a dozen weavers remain capable of producing the best "superfino Montecristi".
These companies help communities sustain their traditions and intangible cultural heritage.
How to recognize a real Panama made in Ecuador?
On the top of the dome you can see the typical spiral weave that extends outwards while inside the hat there is a hot stamped seal with "Made in Ecuador"
The process of building a style classic
The two main processes in creating a Panama hat are weaving and locking. The two most common types of textures are the cuenca and the brisa. The cuenca weave has the appearance of a herringbone pattern and uses slightly more straw than the brisa weave. The brisa texture has the appearance of small diamonds / squares. This type of texture is less intricate but perceived as finer than the cuenca texture by some as being lighter.
Other types of textures include crochet, patterned, twisted, and new order.
If you have the opportunity to visit us in our hat shop in Rovereto, in Trentino, we will show you a Panama hat under construction.
How the quality of a Panama hat stands out
The quality of a Panama hat is defined by the strength of the weave. The fine texture of the hat is ideal for protection against the tropical sun. Historically, a simple square instrument resembling a frame was used to measure the tightness of the texture. The opening of this frame was 25mm, or about 1 inch. The governor set this frame one inch from the brim of the hat, then counted the peaks of the transverse wefts, called carerra, moving in a parallel direction. The tighter the plot, the more carerras are counted.
How much does an original Panama hat cost?
The price of Panama hats depends on the time and quality that a weaver puts in the hat. It could take a master weaver up to eight months to weave a single hat. The hat then goes through multiple finishers that shape the brim, remove imperfections, bleach the straw and add internal and external marks.
The best quality hats are known as Montecristi, named after the town of Montecristi, Ecuador, where they are produced.
Among the best producers we can include the very famous Borsalino, which produces panama for men and panama for women.
The rarest and most expensive Panama hats are hand-woven with a maximum of 3000 wefts per square inch.
In February 2014, Simon Espinal, a 47-year-old Ecuadorian Panama hat weaver considered among the best in his craft, set a world record by creating a Panama hat with four thousand wefts per square inch that took eight months to handcraft. from start to finish.
According to popular tradition, a "superfine" Panama hat can hold water and, when rolled up, pass through a wedding ring.
You can see the price of an original Panama hat on our online store , which also includes the famous Borsalino Panama hats . Obviously we also have cheaper versions (but always of excellent quality and produced in Ecuador) under the Cappelleria Bacca brand of Panama hats.
A hat not only for men
The Panama hat is not only exclusively for men, but there is also the panama hat for women, with a wide brim and the same incredible quality of workmanship. Obviously, nothing detracts from the fact that the men's version can easily be worn by a woman.
Look in our online catalog, the models of Panama hat for women available. See all Panama hats available on the online hat catalog.