Friday, November 14, 2014

Fun Facts: Panama Straw Hats – Classic, Trendy and Sophisticated Style

Sun Hats with a Panama Hat Vibe

The panama hat: a beautiful hat with a long tradition.  The iconic white hat with the black band has been a symbol of cool, sophisticated style for decades.  Panama straw hats have graced famous heads from Theodore Roosevelt to Cameron Diaz… from Sean Connery to Rihanna.  Timeless and smart, panama style hats are still as fashionable as ever.  Let’s explore their past, and look at some great modern options for sun-protective panama inspired hats.  

First, let’s clear up the name confusion: panama hats are not from Panama!  They have been made in Ecuador for hundreds of years, since, perhaps, the 17th century.  Their move northward began in the 19th century, and in 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing a panama hat, while visiting the Panama Canal construction site.  That clinched their popularity, and they became a common accessory, seen in films and worn by movie stars.  The classic profile, cool comfort, and sun protective qualities have remained popular through the decades, and panama style hats remain a favorite hat choice today.

Panama Hat History and Manufacture
Left: Theodore Roosevelt wears a panama hat (Image from Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Center: panama hat under construction (Image by Superbass CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Right: panama hats in Cuenca, Ecuador (Image by Theodore Scott CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The creation of an authentic panama hat is performed by skilled artisans using techniques that have been passed from generation to generation.  It all starts with the toquilla palm tree, whose leaves are harvested, then separated into long, fine straws.  The straws are boiled, then baked with sulfur, to bleach the material to a cool white.  Then the weavers begin the meticulous process of weaving the slim straw into a gorgeous hat.  Once the basic form of the hat is complete, it is washed, beaten with mallets, and shaped with hat forms and irons.  A specialty weaver completes the hat by weaving in the ends in such a way that they will never unravel.  Though a basic hat may take a day or two, for the finest panama hats, the process can take as long as several months!  These works of art, known as “Montecristis”, or “superfinos” are made from the finest straw by master weavers.

We love the look of panama hats – they’re effortlessly cool… and they’re literally cool!  The woven straw make for breathability, and they’re trademark white color reflects the sunlight.  In addition to striking good looks, a panama style hat provides fantastic sun protection.  Considering where they originated – Ecuador – we can only imagine that those original weavers were eager to protect their heads from the intense equatorial sun.  They certainly knew a thing or two about good sun protection!  SolEscapes carries many hats that carry on the tradition of sun protection teamed with gorgeous, panama-inspired looks.

Havana takes the classic panama details in a very playful direction!  The 3” brim has a black contrast stitch, and the ends end in a fun fringe.  The classic black band and pinched crown provide classy balance to this stylish, sun protecting champ.

Alhambra The pale Triton straw along with the wide black band set the Panama hat mood.  Alhambra is packable, plus the 4” brim and 40+ UPF rating make for excellent sun protection. 

Belize is about as suave as they come.  Made of panama straw, Belize has a gorgeous diamond pattern woven into the front of the crown.  The black band and black contrast stitching around the brim add classy details. 

Santana is a beautiful option for a feminine hat with a panama vibe.  The creamy white straw is woven into a structured crown and 4” brim.  The brim can fold up or down, giving two different looks.  The wide black band is finished with a subtle bow.
Brookline – though made of 100% cotton, Brookline has the cool, crisp look of a panama hat.  Its belted hat band is a chic detail that belies the comfort and functionality of an all-cotton, packable sun hat.

sun hats with a panama vibe

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