At this year’s Pitti Uomo the classic Panama hat became a star again. After the revitalization of classic headwear in the last few years, it is not a striking observation, but a very welcome one. More and more young menswear aficionados discover this charming object, both because of the wonderful craftsmanship and the stylish appeal that goes along with it. Here at SARTORIALE we are hardcore fans of this classic style, so we thought to share some interesting facts about it.
The birth country of the Panama hat is Ecuador, where they call them "sombreros de paja toquilla". As the most emblematic product of Ecuador, until today it is the choice of the most discerning gentleman of the world. Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Prince Charles. The list can go on and on if we would like to investigate all the noble man, who wore these fine straw hats for summer. However, we should mention, that not all Panamas are equal. The level of craftsmanship can highly differentiate them, which means that the finer and more even the weave of the straw, the more beautiful the end product is. We appreciate this even more, because of the handmade nature of the hats, there are not two alike, neither are any of them perfect. Beauty lies in the „perfectly imperfect” appeal of them, just as with the finest handmade suits or shoes. Prices are also according to the make, the so called ’superfinos’ could be sold for as much, as 25,000$. The weavers, who produce those can only make five hats per year.
Montecristi and Cuenca are the two citys, where most of the production takes place. The most reknown weawers work in the former, that is why Montcristi Panamas are the most regarded on the market. There you can find only small family businesses working from their home, they offer small quantities in the finest quality available. Cuenca is the „industrial” center of the Ecuadorian hat trade. Most companies, who manufacture for international businesses are located there, producing a good quality in more affordable pricepoints.
As with most handmade products, as time goes by, fewer and fewer artisans are left, who can produce in a truly outstanding quality. Young people in Ecuador are reluctant to carry forward the tradition of this emlematic work, most of them seeking their luck somewhere abroad, leaving their country. Producers fear, that the industry will die eventually. Years ago they started to build up stockpiles from the most beautiful styles, to elongate the lifetime of their business. We think, it is important to advertise fine craftmanship like this, not just because it is an exlusive, luxury product, but because this is an industry, which needs to be saved. Fortunately in the last few years new associatons are formed, to sell Panamas in fair trade prices, selling them for countries like Spain.
Ernest Hemingway’s choice
We hope that with the renessaince of classic menswear on the internet, stories like this can travel further, showing the debonair elegance of items, like the Panama hat, to a wider audience.