Cool, crisp and ever so suave, traditional Panama hats are a courtly nod to the era when straw hats first became fashionable summer wear for sophisticated gentleman. Embodying that yesteryear refinement in a decidedly contemporary way, the Panama hat adds a dash of sartorial personality to tailored suits and casual looks alike. It’s their inimitable ability to grace anything paired with them with an extra measure of elegance that gives Panama hats modern flair as well. Lightweight and light hued, often constructed with ventilated crowns, these hats redefine cool in every sense of the word.
Artisan Handwoven Panamas
Even as far back as when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one as he toured the construction of the Panama Canal, which some credit as the derivation of the hat’s name, Panama hats have continually gained popularity. In fact, Panama hats derive their moniker not from their place of origin but rather from their place of export. Genuine Panama hats are made in Ecuador — from the local straw known as “paja toquilla,” or toquilla straw — and shipped internationally through Panama, giving rise to their name.
Handwoven in a time-honored tradition that is passed down generation after generation, by artisans who have refined the crafting of these hats to an art, toquilla hats can be made as quickly as one day. However, the most exquisitely designed Panama hats, crafted in the coastal city of Montecristi, take up to two weeks to complete, with the greater the number of weaves per square inch being the mark of distinction.
Now closely associated with these tropical, seaside locales, the Panama hat has become the summertime hat of choice not only for its cool factor but also because of its classic silhouette, casual elegance, beach brio and international flair.
A vintage look that never loses its appeal, the characteristic large, round brim and high crown adorned with a black band is a menswear classic. It’s an instantly recognizable silhouette, one that marks the wearer as a man of style and substance. Paired with a linen, silk or even seersucker suit, a traditional Panama hat such as the Retro or the Benchmark 150th conjures a classic look that offers at once a nostalgic touch of gentility and a current dash of individuality. That’s a winning combination in one silhouette.
The inherent panache of a genuine Panama hat is without question. That’s why it brings the same urbane aura that it bestows on a tailored suit to casual weekend wear. It’s a casual sort of elegance, unstudied, nonchalant and definitely captivating. Worn with khakis or jeans and an untucked T-shirt or a guayabera shirt, a Panama hat like the Montego or the Havana, with their playful yet manly aesthetic, becomes the defining piece for a look that is both casually elegant and thoroughly masculine. This is the look of a man completely sure of himself and unabashedly at peace with all that that conveys.
When it comes to beach hats, virtually any hat with a brim will do. After all, if all you want is a sun hat, an ordinary baseball cap will work. However, for the well-dressed man, a trip to the beach may well be an opportunity to relax, but it’s not an occasion to slack off in attire. For that reason, the Panama hat becomes the ideal beach hat. Comfortably reclining in a beach chair on the sand or walking along the boardwalk, the man who wears a Panama hat such as the Airway, Aviator or Whippet, along with swimming trunks — with or without a shirt — makes both a fashion statement and a personal statement: He brings the brio.
It’s the tropical look, particularly resplendent in those with the ventilated crowns but not limited to them, that gives Panama straw hats their international flair. From Ecuador to New York or London, with many other ports of call around the globe, this hat has a definitively Latin quality that makes It universally enticing. Yet each man adds a bit of his own personal style and culture to his look. That’s international. That’s flair. The tilt of the hat, the placement on the head, the accessorizing, all work together to imbue the Panama hat with global appeal. That’s why this toquilla straw hat will always be the hat of choice for men’s summer fashion.