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Tag: Panama Hat

The Panama Hat Craze

Panama Hat Weave
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.

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Hats Off to Ecuador

A short piece on panama hats from an issue of The Rotarian in 1956:

The next time you put on that crisp, cool “Panama” hat, remember to thank the Ecuadorians – they made it! This year their South American country will produce 4 million hats, 90 percent of which will be exported to the United States. And, as it has every year, Panama will get the credit. One story has it that Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Panama Canal, bought Ecuadorian straws in Panama marketplaces; others engaged on that project followed suit – and the vogue was born. The toquilla straw of Ecuador became known as the “Panama” – and the name has stuck.

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Vintage Stetson Ads

From the late 1940’s. Common hat models were the Stetsonian, the Diplomat, the Vogue, and the Casual.

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Shopping for Summer Hats – Part 4

The results of my search – a Stetson branded panama hat with a plain ribbon and 2″ narrow snap brim.

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Shopping for Summer Hats – Part 3

Not quite willing to buy one online yet, I instead stopped by Seattle’s only hat store – Byrnie Utz Hats. It’s been open since 1934 and the interior decor probably hasn’t changed much since. Brands carried: Borsalino, Stetson, Dobbs, Christys, Scala, and many many more.

After about spending an hour in the store trying on and comparing panamas, I picked out one – a Stetson. (next post)

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Shopping for Summer Hats – Part 1

Some inspiration from Free & Easy to get things started.

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Made in Ecuador

While shopping around online for a panama hat for summer, I came across this trailer for a documentary on how they’re made. The process of weaving them looks grueling, and it puts some perspective on why some panama hats can cost hundreds of dollars and more.

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