How to Wear a Panama Hat in Style

July 20th, 2015

Classic menswear is making a thunderous comeback. Men (and women) are wearing more tailoring than they have in a long time, and the average consumer of fine clothing is more knowledgable than ever. It’s not just the suits and sportcoats that men are making long-term investing in, it’s the old-world accessories that complete these traditional looks, too.

Last Fall/Winter was primetime for the felt fedora. It was hard to go out into the streets of NYC or LA and not see a wide felt brim of some kind. I think it’s great. Men look great in hats, and there’s a certain class and elegance to them. My favorite part though, is that the majority of these guys didn’t just ditch the hat when the Spring/Summer rolled around (when you need a hat most). Instead, the went seasonal and invested in a proper straw hat capable of handling the heat.

The Panama hat is the Spring/Summer equivalent to the felt fedora. It’s the perfect accessory to keep the sun out of your eyes, hide your bad hair day, and/or add the finishing touch to your lightweight tailoring. Today we share with you some history of the Panama hat, a couple of our favorites online, and some ideas on what to wear it with.

Silk Blazer & Linen Trousers

The Panama hat is a traditional brimmed straw hat of Ecuadorian origin. Traditionally, they were made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica Palmata plant, known locally as the Toquilla Palm. In 2012 the art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat was internationally recognized as a piece of Intangible Cultural Heritage; a term used to define practices, traditions, knowledge and skills that communities pass down from generation to generation as part of their cultural heritage.

Recently our friend Nick Fouquet, the handsome boho-chic hatmaker in Venice, travelled to Ecuador and created this video to shine some light on the dying art of fine hat weaving. It’s a really fascinating story when you consider the rich history of this garment, practice and trade. Beginning in the early to mid-1600’s hat weaving evolved as a cottage industry all along the Ecuadorian coast. Hat making, and wearing, grew steadily in the region through the 17th and 18th centuries. Straw hats woven in Ecuador, like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the Americas and Europe. Therefore, the term “Panama Hat” (used as early as 1834) refers to the product’s point of international sale, rather than its place of domestic origin. 

The popularity of the panama hat was increased in the mid-nineteenth century by the miners of the California Gold Rush, who frequently traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States visited the construction site of the Panama Canal, and was photographed wearing a Panama hat, which further increased the hats’ popularity. Panama’s were later worn by many early-twentieth century film stars in Hollywood productions, quickly making them a highly sough-after style. And now, after several relatively dormant years for the men’s headwear industry, it’s the bloggers and menswear enthusiasts who are brining them back. Although, for true traditional dressers, they’ve never left. 

Trim Double-Breasted & White Jeans

Our Art Director Alex “Crawdaddy” Crawford shows us a little “East Coast meets West Coast”, finished off with a vintage panama hat that his dad bought in Hawaii about a decade ago.

A Linen Knit & Tailored Trouser

You should already be reaping the benefits of at least one smooth piece of linen knitwear, and trousers that fit right.

A Tropical Business Suit

Niyi Okuboyejo knows a thing or two about accessorizing a summer look.

A Black Mohair Suit and Linen Shirt

Definitely ditch the socks.

It’s All About Leisurely Tailoring

I would avoid wearing it with a t-shirt and jeans; a panama hat looks best with some tropical tailoring. We’ll be able to supply some of that for you next season, but for now check out some of the straw hats that we recommend online: the “Benchmark” by Stetson, the “God Father” by Goorin Bros, and the “Quito” by Borsalino.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier

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