Indigenous Crafts, tips

Panama Hat – Choosing the perfect one

at a weavers workshop in Montechristi

We went to Ecuador to find the perfect Panama Hat so you don’t have to. We scoured Cuenca and the famous Montechristi to source quality panama hats for you to enjoy.

A genuine Panama hat is hand-woven and is made from toquilla straw with the process of making one being long-drawn and taking months to finish. The exercise starts with selecting the right palm foliage, which is then boiled and dried in the tropical winds – all the while making sure the straw is not directly exposed to the sun. It then goes through bleaching, washing and drying to attain an even whitish tone, after which the straw is bundled up and sent to the weaving villages. A master weaver working on the straw would take anywhere between one to three months, depending on his skill and the size of the hat.

The Importance of the Right Hat Size
Wearing the right hat size can make all the difference with how your Panama looks on you. You don’t want it too big – so it flops down over your ears and blows off – nor too small – so it perches on the top of your head, and gives you a red mark on your forehead and headache after a while – as neither are a good Panama look!

How to Measure your Head
If you do not know your hat size, carefully measure your head using a flexible (cloth/plastic) tape measure.

To ensure you measure the circumference of your head correctly, the tape measure needs to be over the middle of your forehead, just above your ears and sit midway at the back of your head. Do not pull the tape too tightly unless you want your hat to be as tight. Measure yourself 2-3 times just to be as accurate as possible.

If you do not have a flexible tape measure, a piece of string will do (although not as accurate). Once you have measured your circumference and marked the string, lie it flat and measure it. eg 57cm or 22 1/4 inches. You now have your hat size!

Our hat size chart will help you place your order.

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions.

Taking care of your hat

Always grab your hat by the brim and not by the crown.
Maintain the shape of your Panama hat by being careful of how you pick it up and put it down. When you pick up your hat, use the brim rather than the crown of the hat. When you put it down, put it with the crown facing down to avoid distorting the shape of the brim. If you do need to straighten the brim of your hat, you can iron it on low heat with a cloth between the iron and the hat to prevent the delicate fibers of the hat from burning.

Proper storage of your hat can prolong its life and avoid damage to its overall shape and color. A Panama hat needs to be kept in a cool, dark place when you are not wearing it. The straw fibers are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so storing it in places such as the back of the car on a hot day is a bad idea. Extreme heat will cause the fibers to dehydrate and crack, leading to a frayed appearance. If your hat is subjected to hot weather, spraying your hat with water from time to time will prevent the fibers from cracking.

Hat boxes are the best way to store your hats.
When it’s time to take off your Panama hat for the day, place it in its hat box, or on a hat rack, or a block specifically made for storing hats. Hat boxes are the recommend option over all other options. Do note that leaving your hat on a flat surface will cause it to bow in the front and the back.

Stain removal from Panama hats can be tricky without permanently damaging your hat, especially if the stain has soaked into the hat’s fibers. Start out by dipping a cloth in cold water just enough to make it damp and gently rub on the stain along the grain of the hat. This will work best for rudimentary blemishes that crop up on the surface of the fiber. If the stain or dirt is not ingrained in the hat fiber, you can also try using a soft-bristle brush to remove it. Removing stains quickly is crucial as if left late, it could soak into the fiber causing permanent damage.

If your sweatband is wet from sweating, turn it inside out when drying to prevent staining.

To avoid sweat stains, turn the hat inside out when you have a wet sweatband, and rest the hat on the band.

If you are feeling quite adventurous and want to take a shot at cleaning the hat yourself, you will need a mild uncolored soap, a soft cloth, and warm water. First, pour some water into a cup or a bucket and add the soap to it. The soap needs to be undyed to avoid discoloring your hat fiber. Stir the soapy water until it blends without bubbles. Soak the cloth in this mixture and rub along the grain of the hat over the stain till it fades away. Using baby wipes or facial wipes often works just as well, too.

The final step would be dipping a cloth in warm water and caressing the entire hat with it while being mindful of moving the cloth along the grain of the fiber. After this elaborate procedure, let the hat dry somewhere clean and dark. Your hat will be good as new and won’t lose its shape as long as you follow these steps.

Panama hats are an excellent accessory for both men and women, and they come in many different colors, shapes, and styles. Maintenance is key – ensuring that it remains with you for many years, without you needing to hit the stores frequently for a new one every summer.