The Panama Hat

July 12, 2014

For hundreds of years, hat weaving has been an integral part of Ecuador's culture. It is a highly skilled craft with finely woven hats taking weeks to hand weave. But behind this style icon lies a history of exploitation, resulting in a traditional craft under threat. 

Founded in 1992, Pachacuti is the world's only certified Fair Trade hat specialist. By paying a fair wage and investing in the communities they work with, Pachacuti is ensuring that the timeless style of the Panama hat will endure for years to come. 

The unique straw used in Pachacuti's Panama hats, comes from the toquilla plant (Carludovica Palmata) which grows in the mountains of Ecuador. The fibre used in the production is organically grown and sustainably cultivated on a community owned plantation. Its harvest provides needed income whilst preserving the environment for future generations. 

The earliest documented evidence of a Panama hat is to be found on a small ceramic figure attributed to the Valdivia culture of South America from 4000 B.C! But it was King Edward VII that started the summer trend for Panama hats and linen suits at Goodwood in 1906.

Caring for a Panama hat

  • Panama hats should not be worn in the rain. They are sun hats. If the hat does get wet, try to keep it in its original shape when it dries.
  • Try not to pinch the front of the crown too much as this is what causes the front to crack. It is best to pick the hat up by the brim or by cupping the crown with an open palm.

Reshaping Hats

  • If the Panama becomes misshapen, you should be able to recover the original shape of the hat by lightly steaming it over a boiling kettle and then shaping the hat by hand back to its original form.
  • A blow dryer can be used on a low heat setting to dry the hat while you are holding its shape.
  • If the brim has become misshapen, you can iron the brim under a slightly moist cloth, with the iron on a medium to low setting (high heat can cause burn marks to the hat)

Cleaning Your Panama

  • Should your panama become dirty, one should first try to remove dirt by lightly dusting with a dry cloth. 
  • Should the mark prove stubborn and difficult to remove in this way, try using a moist facial or baby wipe. This should remove most marks, though care should be taken not to rub too hard.
  • It is recommended not to use soap and water to clean the hat.