The Strand Magazine, published in 1902, reporting on the newest fad of the time – the Panama hat:
One hundred pounds for a straw hat! Enough with which to take a three months’ holiday, enough to keep your son a year at college, enough to buy a small farm. And yet so astute a financier as Mr. Lyman Gage, ex-Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, recently paid that sum for an extra-fine Panama hat, and reckoned, moreover, that he had made a good bargain. King Edward VII also is reported to have paid a Bond Street hatter £90 to secure “the best Panama in London”; while Jean de Reszke, the noted tenor, has paid the topmost price—something under £120 — to procure a similar object in America. Ex – Mayor Van Wyck, of New York, is chuckling over his success in securing a Panama which dealers have told him is superior in quality to either King Edward’s or the one owned by Jean de Reszke. He paid only £50.
These instances of extravagance are not mentioned as a reflection upon the perpetrators, but merely to illustrate the extent of “the Panama hat craze,” one of the most expensive fashions ever adopted by men. Expensive, because a Panama of even medium quality cannot be had for less than £5, and if you aim at having one that maybe tucked away in a vest pocket like a lead pencil, or slipped through a finger-ring, the price is, to most persons, prohibitive. In spite of this costliness, however, Panama hats are being dispatched from South America absolutely in ship-loads, and about half the population of Ecuador are engaged in supplying hat luxuries for the men of Europe and America.