Panama Hats Don't Come from Panama
Nope- Panama hats come from Ecuador and always have. What’s more, they come from only two places in Ecuador where the micro climate favors the growing of toquilla, the straw from which genuine Panamas are hand woven, as they have been for centuries. When the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century, they soon figured out that the close woven straw sunhats worn by the natives would keep them cool and comfortable too so the Spaniards adopted the hats and took them back to Europe and around Spanish America. Soon they were prized and popular.
So, why, you might ask, is it called a Panama hat? First of all in Ecuador it is not. There, it is just called a ” toquiilla” However, very early on, the hats were shipped to Panama for sale and distribution. The narrow isthmus which separated Atlantic from Pacific ocean was an important trading hub even before the arrival of the Spanish, so it made sense that it would become a distribution point for the Ecuadorian hats.
The Panama hat really came into its own in the 19th century. It was the toast of the 1855 Paris Exposition, selling out and creating quite the fashion buzz in Europe. Once the California Goldrush began in 1849, men on their way from Europe and the East Coast of America to make their fortunes in the goldfields sailed to Panama, crossed the isthmus and re-embarked on the Pacific side for California. Along the way they encountered ” Panama Hats”, snapped them up and wore them in the gold fields.
During the building of the Panama Canal, workers and visiting officials discovered the Panama Hat and brought it back to the United States. Teddy Roosevelt sealed its upscale chic social status by sporting a Panama on a much publicized 1906 canal construction inspection visit.
By the turn of the 20th Century the Panama Hat was hip, and thanks to socialites, celebrities, royalty and movie stars, it has remained so ever since. For both men and women, nothing makes a better summer fashion statement or is as cool and comfortable to wear in warm climates as a genuine, hand woven, Panama hat from Ecuador.
Panama Hat Info Online
Not all Panama hats are equal. Generally speaking quality costs. Cheap Panamas are not usually real Panamas but are made from paper or plastic or substitute straw or machine made. A fine quality Panama hat will not be cheap, but with proper care and maintenance you will have it for a lifetime.
Check the grades of quality of Panama hats here
The Panador Hat Company works directly with the artisans and craftspeople of Ecuador to bring you high quality and help the hat makers improve their local economies. The Company works with both the United States Government and the United Nations to this end. Check out their website
Another American source for good quality Panama Hats here
The internet’s largest handicrafts emporium is an excellent place to buy genuine Panamas
Get an overview of the history of the Panama Hat here
Watch the video below to see Panama Hats being made and to meet some of the makers