You don’t need to have a bad hair-day to toss on a hat. In fact, it’s one of the summer’s must-have accessories. A hat dresses up any look in an effortlessly chic way. At the beach, my go-to is a floppy sunhat. The wide brim provides plenty of shade. But I am looking for an every day Panama, one that feels less feminine and more Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. A medium brim woven-straw hat with a Fedora flair… because the shape works for nearly every face and style.
Anecdote. While I was in vacation with my family in Riviera Maya (Mexico), I borrowed the hat that my husband bought in a local shop. Normally, I encourage local shopping. But this hat is missing that certain je ne sais quoi? And it has a funny smell of wet straw, like it’s coming directly from the barn.
That got me dreaming of a genuine Panama made from toquilla palm in Ecuador. Perhaps a Brent Black? The purpose of his company is to keep alive the art of fine hat weaving in Montecristi, a little town in Western Ecuador. The hand-made woven hats are real pieces of art. Plus they are not bleached with peroxide, which can weaken the straw if it is overdone. If a hat is very white, chances are it has been bleach with peroxide.
On his Internet site, Black explains that in “Montecristi, the hats are bleached with sulphur fumes. This is basically the same process that is used to turn brown sugar into white sugar. Hats bleached in this manner may be very light, but they will never be bright white. Most Montecristi hats are ivory color”. For him, it’s “the combination of fineness of weave, quality of weave and color of straw that determines the price of a hat. The other factor that affects the price of any particular hat is the shaping and finishing.” “Unfortunately, all over Ecuador, street vendors and stores sell Cuenca hats declaring the hat to be a Montecristi hat, he says. There are more Cuenca hats sold every year that are falsely called Montecristi hats than there are real Montecristi hats sold.”
Nowadays, traditional production is increasingly rare. Most natural straw hats are woven and then steam is applied to create the shape of the hat on preformed blocks. The hats from Brent Black are custom-made and custom-sized. He even offers some foldable Panama so you can easily bring your hat with you on vacation. Priced range from 500$ to 5000$. That’s a
little too much for me, unfortunately.
In my search for a cool Panama, I’ve rounded up other interesting woven-straw hats from brands such as Emmanuel Tomasini, Gamboa, Goorin Brothers and J. Crew -priced from high to low. Traclet also offers many brands and styles of Panama, such as the Roll up Bailey. I haven’t made up my mind yet.
Do you own a cool Panama? How do you style it?
Book to read: Tom Miller, The Panama Hat Trail: A journey from South America
Let’s stay connected: Bloglovin – Instagram @3cstyle_fashion
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