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What Are Panama Hats?

Panama Hats History 

What are Panama Hats? You might think Panama hats are created in the country of Panama, but they’re actually created and handwoven in Ecuador. They originated in the early 1500s when Spanish conquerors discovered the native people of Ecuador wearing them. The hats emulated a rich and shiny appearance, and Spanish travelers thought they were made of vampire skin. However, these Panama hats were actually made from handwoven straw. They were often given different names, including jipijapa, toquilla, and montecristi. Now, several other countries manufacture Panama hats, but originals started in Ecuador.  

If these carefully crafted hats originated in Ecuador, then why are they referred to as “Panama hats”? During the American Gold Rush, many Americans sailed through Panama to get to California. It was in Panama that they first discovered these lightweight, unique hats. It wasn’t until several decades later that Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one of these elegant straw hats while he was observing the Panama Canal. After these events, people wrongfully assumed that the hats originated in Panama, and the name stuck. 

What Are Panama Hats Made Of, and How Are They Produced? 

So, what are Panama hats’ primary materials? Panama hats are made from toquilla straw. This straw comes from the leaves of the toquilla palm, also known as the carludovica palmata. These plants are homegrown all across the Ecuadorian coast, specifically in Manabí. The farmers separate the stems and boil them to remove the chlorophyll so that they can be dried for bleaching. The hat weavers use the fibers to create several parts of the hat, including stylish patterns, the brim, and the crown. They then finish the process with washing, bleaching, oven-treating, pressing, and ironing out the material. Depending on the quality, the hat weaving process can take anywhere from one week to as long as eight months.  

To grab your very own, be sure to check out our collection of Panama hats today.