A Panama from Ecuador.

May 09, 2013

Compay SegundoYou don’t have to be Hannibal Lecter or a budding Egyptologist to wear a panama hat. I wish people knew this and accepted this headpiece for what it is. Unfortunately many Brits only wear them incognito abroad where they know the neighbours can’t see and a lot of them fail to pull it off.

It’s probably an age thing. The younger generation can’t really wear a panama without evoking a smirk, especially in old Blighty. But if you’re lucky enough to be 30+ you have that particular licence.

The modern panama is an offshoot from straw hats Ecuadorians have been sporting for hundreds of years. Like lots of other South American goods they were shipped through the Panama Canal for European markets. Apparently this was enough to confuse the whole world and the name panama hats stuck. Unlucky Ecuador. But don’t worry; Monsieur London remembers the truth.

Now that the warmer weather is finally upon us the panama hat is ready to make a well deserved come back. Best worn in city parks with a matching suit. A look that embraces all things summer whilst simultaneously suggesting that you, the wearer, are naturally at home in a Stella Artois advert. 

Panama hat weaves

Theodore Roosevelt was a champion of this particular piece of headwear. A famous snap of him in 1906 getting his hands dirty with construction workers enjoyed a stint in early 20th century American popular culture. This was rekindled post- war when the panama fuelled a surge in popularity in the golden age of Hollywood.

If this brief history has enticed you into boldly exploring panamas then good for you. Here's how you do it. The more weaves the better the quality. Rare and expensive hats can carry over 2000 weaves per square inch. Don’t care about that statistic? Well … it' s still a lot of stitches per square inch for a hat. For those with cash to burn there are even rumours, in panama hat circles, of a Montecristi Superfino made in rural Ecuador. This little number is so finely stitched it can hold water and can be folded up into a cool box. There are a lot of Montecristi Superfine knock off nigels out there so make sure to check the quality of weaving.

James Fredrick Gray

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