The Legendary Panama Hat
Did you know that the “Panama” hat actually originated centuries ago in Ecuador, even before Columbus arrived in South America? Then, in the 1800’s, the hand-woven Ecuadoran straw hats were sent to Panama for workers on the Panama Canal project to serve as protection from the hot sun. Travelers and merchants then began purchasing the hats at Panamanian ports and the misnomered “Panama” hats began to make their way across the globe.
Today, the legendary hats continue to be hand-woven in Ecuador, home of the finest weavers in the world. Made of the rapidly renewable toquilla palm straw, the eco-chic hats are lightweight and soft, yet extremely durable. Each hat is unique and the very finest can take up to six months for a master artisan to complete – a masterpiece of fine art and tradition.
The Ecuadorian art of hand-weaving the straw hats was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2012, a designation used to define traditions, knowledge and skills that communities pass down from generation to generation as part of their cultural heritage.
Visit La Rubia in Key West and at our online store for the finest selection of authentic Panama hats for both men and women, offered in an assortment of shapes, colors and weaves; as well as fair-trade handbags, totes, scarves, palm ivory jewelry, ikat weavings, alpaca sweaters and more, all directly from Ecuador’s artisans.
How to Care for Your Toquilla Straw Hat
- Panamas are not rain hats. Excessive moisture will cause your hat to lose its shape.
- Conversely, excessive dryness will cause the straw to become brittle. Do not leave your Panama in a hot car for extended periods of time.
- We do not recommend rolling, folding or packing your Panama as this can cause creases, cracks and loss of shape.
- Always handle your Panama by its brim or by cupping the crown upside down in the palm of your hand. Never handle your Panama by pinching the front part of the crown and do not tug on the back-braided brim edges.
- Dust your hat lightly with a clean, dry cloth. Remove small spots from your hat by gently rubbing the spot with a damp cloth or baby wipe.
- You can regain your hat’s brim shape by ironing it on a medium setting.