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Please educate me on Panama hats

oc_in_fw

Contributor
I won't do it until February or March, but I am going to be getting a Panama hat for this summer (it starts early here). So, I do have a few questions. Do they "breathe", or is the heat trapped inside? Since they are light colored, is heat build up not a big thing? I am thinking that the budget will be around $150 or so- can I get a quality one at that price point? Any other insights you can think of would be appreciated. So, here is everybody's opportunity to educate the new Steward (lord knows I need it :biggrin: )
 
Years ago I read that true Panama hats were made by hand by a dying breed of craftsmen that spent long hours weaving the hats while in a less than comfortable position. These hats went for thousands of US dollars but lasted for decades and could be rolled up. I'm not sure about what's available today.

If I could afford a true Panama hat I'd like to test it against what's made today and see if there is really a noticeable difference.

I recall that the information I read said that true Panama hats breathed and kept the head cool under blazing sun. They were very durable and very comfortable.

I don't know that today's iterations, however they are made, differ.

I would do some research on these and see what the current state is then pick one that's in your price range and give it a go. My personal suspicion is that what's made today is still very good even if it isn't made by the old craftsmen. That said I'd still like to experience the difference.

Chris
 
All I know about them is that they are made in Ecuador where weaving is a massive tradition passed down through generations, and they are called Panama hats because they were shipped out of ports in Panama (I watched Stephen Fry in Central America).

There is also a community here in the Yucatan Mexico called Becal, where the hats are still made traditionally in a cave to keep the fibers humid and moist. Here is a link:

http://www.mayadiscovery.com/ing/handicrafts/sombreros.htm
 
Years ago I read that true Panama hats were made by hand by a dying breed of craftsmen that spent long hours weaving the hats while in a less than comfortable position. These hats went for thousands of US dollars but lasted for decades and could be rolled up. I'm not sure about what's available today.

If I could afford a true Panama hat I'd like to test it against what's made today and see if there is really a noticeable difference.

I recall that the information I read said that true Panama hats breathed and kept the head cool under blazing sun. They were very durable and very comfortable.

I don't know that today's iterations, however they are made, differ.

I would do some research on these and see what the current state is then pick one that's in your price range and give it a go. My personal suspicion is that what's made today is still very good even if it isn't made by the old craftsmen. That said I'd still like to experience the difference.

Chris
Some very good information up top. Hand-made are still available. True Panama hats are made by hand in a time-consuming and painful process on a special "bust". Panama's aren't actually from Panama; in the early days, traders found these beautiful hats made in Ecuador. Panama was a large trading spot back then, so the traders took them there after buying from Ecuadorians. Hence, the Panama hat. The best ones are made in Montecristi, Ecuador. They cost between $500-$25,000 (not a misprint), depending on the weave tightness. This is the best purveyor in the world: https://www.brentblack.com/

There are other good Panama's made by hand, and you can buy them for anywhere from $100-$300 dollars online. Just a difference in the weave count and discoloration imperfections. They will all keep the heat out and keep your head cool. Try to find a cotton, rather than leather, inside band if your head tends to sweat a lot.

All decent ($150 and up) Panama's will do the same job as the more expensive, and all are hand-made. It's a question of $$. I have two from Brent Black, and they are works of art. I am never without one on. Ever. Obviously, I live in a year-round summer.
 
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Good info above. Look up panamabob or panama hats online for some of the better quality and prices, and read about the two basic types of fibers used. One type is a little more expensive but the big determining factor is the fineness of the weave. The more strands per inch r whatever measure you use the more expensive. The finer, smaller strands tend to make a softer more floppy hat. I find the more expensive,finner weaves to be hotter and got one this summer with an open weave around the crown.
 

oc_in_fw

Contributor
I've been reading the "How to buy hats" section on the Brent Black site. The guy is a character. I think I may be spending more than originally anticipated
 

oc_in_fw

Contributor
Good info above. Look up panamabob or panama hats online for some of the better quality and prices, and read about the two basic types of fibers used. One type is a little more expensive but the big determining factor is the fineness of the weave. The more strands per inch r whatever measure you use the more expensive. The finer, smaller strands tend to make a softer more floppy hat. I find the more expensive,finner weaves to be hotter and got one this summer with an open weave around the crown.
Is Panama Bob still having problems getting orders out?
 

strop

Moderator Emeritus
Is Panama Bob still having problems getting orders out?
Haven't ordered from him in a couple of years.

I've ordered Cuenca hats from http://www.panamahatsdirect.com/ but not Montecristi. I look at the Cuenca as almost disposable. I wear them for yard work, golf, to the pool,etc. and when they get grungy or cracked, I toss them. The sizing on the Cuenca was a bit hit or miss. When I complained, he basically said, what can you expect from a hat that costs so little shipped from Eucador. He was basically right, but still didn't sit well with me. I'll probably eventually get one on sale.

The other palce that has a nice selection, or did last spring is Delmonico Hatters in New Haven, Conn. I've ordered several times with great customer service.
 
I've been reading the "How to buy hats" section on the Brent Black site. The guy is a character. I think I may be spending more than originally anticipated
Brent is an original, for sure. I have spent time with him in Hawaii. He is passionate about what he does because much of the funds goes back to the village to make their lives better. He is the only buyer of the really top-notch weavers, and he blocks the hats himself rather than using a press, which would be faster. I had to give him measurements 3 times to get mine perfect for me. This is why he charges what he does. They are not the only hats around, but his $500. minimum hat price is for a hat that is FAR superior to a $1500. Panama Bob.
 

pbrmhl

Contributor
Some very good information up top. Hand-made are still available. True Panama hats are made by hand in a time-consuming and painful process on a special "bust". Panama's aren't actually from Panama; in the early days, traders found these beautiful hats made in Ecuador. Panama was a large trading spot back then, so the traders took them there after buying from Ecuadorians. Hence, the Panama hat. The best ones are made in Montecristi, Ecuador. They cost between $500-$25,000 (not a misprint), depending on the weave tightness. This is the best purveyor in the world: https://www.brentblack.com/

There are other good Panama's made by hand, and you can buy them for anywhere from $100-$300 dollars online. Just a difference in the weave count and discoloration imperfections. They will all keep the heat out and keep your head cool. Try to find a cotton, rather than leather, inside band if your head tends to sweat a lot.

All decent ($150 and up) Panama's will do the same job as the more expensive, and all are hand-made. It's a question of $$. I have two from Brent Black, and they are works of art. I am never without one on. Ever. Obviously, I live in a year-round summer.
This is spot on. Unfortunately, my Brent Black was torn when yanked on a hat hook. (The fine weave Panamas are more like linen than denim.) Less fine weaves are not only cheaper, but also more durable.
 

oc_in_fw

Contributor
Brent is an original, for sure. I have spent time with him in Hawaii. He is passionate about what he does because much of the funds goes back to the village to make their lives better. He is the only buyer of the really top-notch weavers, and he blocks the hats himself rather than using a press, which would be faster. I had to give him measurements 3 times to get mine perfect for me. This is why he charges what he does. They are not the only hats around, but his $500. minimum hat price is for a hat that is FAR superior to a $1500. Panama Bob.
Thanks
This is spot on. Unfortunately, my Brent Black was torn when yanked on a hat hook. (The fine weave Panamas are more like linen than denim.) Less fine weaves are not only cheaper, but also more durable.
Should I get one, I will make sure not to hook it :biggrin:
 
This is spot on. Unfortunately, my Brent Black was torn when yanked on a hat hook. (The fine weave Panamas are more like linen than denim.) Less fine weaves are not only cheaper, but also more durable.
Brent will have the original straw from which the hat was woven, and he can do repairs. I would call him and tell him what happened, send him a pic and see if he can salvage your work or art.
 
I've been reading the "How to buy hats" section on the Brent Black site. The guy is a character. I think I may be spending more than originally anticipated
That's what happened to me, I doubled my original budget (had to rationalize that I was being a patron of the arts!) and got a $1,000 Fedora. I couldn't be happier, the hat really is a work of art and random strangers compliment me on it every day. It's the best looking Panama I've ever seen, and a friend of mine who's the son and grandson of hatters agreed.

Brent's excellent to deal with, very affable on the phone and I can't recommend his work more highly. And that stuff on his website about the weaving school he founded and the medical assistence he brings in is not BS, it's the real deal. I did some sleuthing before I bought the hat and got independent confirmation.

In my book, Brent Black is the only place to buy a Panama.

Photos here: my new Brent Black Panama arrived.. - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/my-new-brent-black-panama-arrived.47849/post-10220430
 
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oc:
All great info above (the best Panamas are hand-made), and I saw this article today in the NY Times concerning Panamas.

1595282988277.png
Creamy as silk, costlier by weight than gold, the color of fine old ivory, a Montecristi superfino Panama hat is as much a work of art as it is of fashion.


Master Weaver Simón Espinal examines the weave on one of his masterpiece hats.


Mr. Espinal focuses on keeping straight the countless strands of straw as he weaves another of his masterpiece hats.

Works Cited: Panama Hats

"When you are weaving it is just you and the straw". Master Weaver Simón Espinal
 
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Great. Now I want one. I wear hats all the time. So I guess these are primarily for dress given the cost of a nice one. How's the durability and the maintenance. I don't suspect I'd want to wear one working or fishing and get it all dirty and sweaty right.
 
Great. Now I want one. I wear hats all the time. So I guess these are primarily for dress given the cost of a nice one. How's the durability and the maintenance. I don't suspect I'd want to wear one working or fishing and get it all dirty and sweaty right.
I'm very careful to keep it clean, but pretty much any time the weather's good and I'm leaving the house it goes on. Not when I'm grubbing in the garden or doing a brake job, but absolutely when I'm on a grocery run. I've been really careful to have clean hands when I handle it and I've managed to not sit on it yet, so after a year and a half it still looks nearly pristine.

Grabbing it by the pinch can break the straw. Avoid rain, a little bit is okay but too much and it'll need reblocking. If you live in the desert it's probably a good idea to occasionally hang it on the bathroom door hook while you take a shower, but last summer I was in Las Vegas for ten days and it never felt brittle. I've gotten some marks out using a clean, high-quality pencil eraser, or a wet cotton swab with maybe a bit of woolite in the water (that was brown sugar schmutz from a cinnamon roll). Straw is very absorbant, so pizza or fried chicken stains are probably permanent; my hatter friend suggested that the right kind of industrial solvent (old school dry cleaning fluid) might work, but Brent wasn't willing to recommend it because he'd never tried it.

It feels supple in the hand, like smooth cloth, and I can certainly see how one of Brent's $20k hats would feel like linen. Mine weighs only 2-1/2 ounces, and has gotten blown off my head a few times. Fortunately not when I was looking over the side of Pike's Peak.

You need one. Seriously. Tell Brent that Tom P. from Michigan said so.
 
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