San Diego Trilby £125.00
Midsummer Panama £110.00
Alfred Panama £155.00
Signature Panama £155.00
Seagrass Panama £75.00
Down Brim Panama £135.00
Panama Trilby £155.00
A Panama hat or just Panama is a traditional brimmed hat of Ecuadorian origin that is made from the plaited leaves of the toquilla straw plant (Carludovica Palmata). Straw Hats woven in Ecuador, like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas and Europe. For some products, the name of their point of international sale rather than their place of domestic origin stuck, hence “Panama hats!”
Of course, products were only able to pass through the Panaman Canal, due to its’ construction by mainly British engineers, and this was when the hat came back to England
They’re also known as a Jipijapa after a town in Ecuador once a center of the hat trade. The Oxford English Dictionary cites Jipijapa a term used as early as 1834.
Panama hat quality is a heavily disputed subject. There are two main processes in the hat’s creation: weaving and blocking. The best way to gauge the quality of the weave is to count the number of weaves per square inch. Fewer than 100 would be considered low quality. There are many degrees of increasing quality, up to the rarest and most expensive hats, which can have as many as 1600–2000 weaves per square inch, and these hats sell for thousands.
The quality of the weave itself, however, is more important. A high weave count, even an attractive-looking one, does not guarantee a well-woven hat.
The Quality of a Panama hat is somewhat subjective, but there are broad categories, beginning with the Brisa, Fino, Superfino, culminating in the Montecristi Superfino.
Within these categories there are sub-levels, so one might say a Brisa 4 for example, with the best Brisa being around a 14. This denotes, not just the weave, but also the colour and quality of the straw, the feel of the hat and weather there are any holes or imperfections in the hat.
It is said that a Panama of true quality (a “superfino“) can hold water and when folded for storage can pass through a wedding ring.
Although the Panama hat continues to provide a livelihood for thousands of Ecuadorians, there are fewer than a dozen weavers capable of making the finest “montecristi superfinos” remain. The UK’s Financial Times Magazine (Jan. 2007) recently reported that there may be no more than 15-20 years remaining for the industry in Ecuador, due to the competition of paper-based (Toyo) Chinese-made imitations, especially where a few giant hat producers dominate and manipulate the market.
The classic Panama hat can have any colour ribbon, but the more usual ‘black’ dates to 1903, and the death of Queen Victoria, when all gentlemen wore black ribboned hats!