The weaving of the Panama hat is a UNESCO listed cultural heritage of Ecuador, a tradition that dates back to the mid 1600’s. Made with light-weight straws plaited from the leaves of the toquilla palm, it has become a ubiquitous feature of the seaside and tropics, and worn even by the likes of President Roosevelt during his visit to the Panama Canal in 1904.
Although the hat is unquestionably Ecuadorian in origin, the name Panama is somewhat of a misnomer. The name actually came into popular existence during the Californian gold rush in the mid 1800’s, when miners travelling through Panama bought these hats. Panama hats are now made all over the world, but their true home is still Ecuador, where they are hand-made using skills and knowledge passed down through the generations.
“In a world filled with industries, technology and machines that replace hand labour, there is a hidden world in my country, a world where
working hands and the ancient wisdom still prevails and is kept alive.” Founder of MAKI HATS
“A fine hand-made Panama hat can cost thousands of dollars. It is said that a ‘superfino’ Panama hat can hold water and, when rolled up, be able to pass through a ring.”
At Bleue UK, we take great pride in finding and stocking hand-made hats from two leading designer brands from Ecuador –Maki and Artesano. Artesano hats are well-known for their quality and durability, while Maki hats, made to the same standards, are unmistakably fashionable with their contemporary range of colours and styles. Both brands are also socially and morally conscious of the need to support local artisans and their families to be self-sufficient and, at the same time, to preserve the tradition of hat making for generations to come.
CARING FOR YOUR PANAMA HAT
Your panama hat is made of natural fibres and is therefore easily damaged if not handled with care. Follow the rules below to care for your hat:
- Don’t expose the hat to rain or let it come into contact with water. Doing so will result in staining of the material and weakening of the structure after drying.
- Don’t strain, bend or put any undue pressure on the hat, as this will deform it.
- Don’t expose the hat to extreme humidity or high temperatures. High temperatures will dry out the straws and make them brittle.
- To remove small wrinkles, place a damp cloth on the brim of the hat and iron it at a moderate temperature.
- To remove small dirt spots, try rubbing it with a dry cloth and, if not successful, use a baby wipe or damp cloth with very mild detergent.
- In the event that your hat loses its shape, you may try to recover its shape by steaming it over boiling water while re-shaping it with your hands.