Panama Hat History

ORIGEN DEL PANAMA HAT El “Panama Hat” tiene hondas raíces ancestrales. Los aborígenes de la costa de lo que hoy es el Ecuador ya utilizaban “tocas” fabricadas de paja toquilla para protegerse del sol.  La ligereza y frescura de esta fibra, propiciaron su utilización para fabricar sombreros que a través del tiempo se han convertido en un símbolo para el Ecuador, por ser una fusión de naturaleza, destreza manual de los ecuatorianos, y cultura popular.

ORIGIN OF THE PANAMA HAT

In the early 16thcentury, Straw Toquilla hats now commonly known as “Panama Hats” were made in the coast of Ecuador. The hats were handwoven with the use of fibers taken from the Carludovica Palmata palm. Native people used the hats for sun protection, however, the Panama hat became very popular due to its freshness, lightness and breathability. The hat today has become an important symbol of Ecuadorian culture and its traditions.

 

 

WHY PANAMA AND NOT ECUADOR HAT?

The Straw hats became known as Panama hats when the construction of the Panama Canal began, after more than 50,000 workers hired for the construction of the canal wore the straw hats to cover themselves from the sun during the long hours of intense work. Furthermore, The use of straw hat was popularized even more when President Roosevelt wore it at the inauguration of the Canal in 1914.

 

 

THE PROCESS

The weaving of the Panama Hat is totally made by hand. Artisans start weaving the crown using only a few strands of straw and incorporate more until reaching the desire diameter. Then a wooden mold its used to start given the hat its shape until they reach the skirt, which will be the last part of the hat. Finally, the artisan proceeds to make a special interlacing of the edge of the hat, leaving at the end long strands of toquilla straw.

 

 

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The weaving of the straw hats it’s not only a way for the artisans to obtain income, but rather it is a popular family tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. The weaving of the hats becomes an essential part of the life of the artisans and their family members who become involved in every single step of the process, which consists of gathering the material in the field, the tightening of the crown, the washing and dyeing of the toquilla straw, the shaping, modeling, and final decoration.