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All About Panama Hats

Panama Hat

Are you trying to figure out what’s missing from your summer outfit? While a lot of people will opt for a chic scarf or a flashy belt, the accessory that’s missing from your outfit could be something as simple as a hat. Panama Hats can instantly add class and a relaxed, fashion forward feel to any outfit. These hats can be a great accessory during the summer, and with the right look, both men and women can feel comfortable sporting them.

You’ve probably seen the panama hat being worn by some of the most stylish icons in pop culture, but did you know that there’s a rich history behind the Panama Hat that dates all the way back to the 1800s?

Where Did The Panama Hat Come From?

Panama Hat

The Panama hat actually isn’t from Panama, these stylish hats originate from Ecuador. Hat weaving had become a lucrative business for people that lived along the Ecuadorian coast. These hats were made of leaves from the Carludovica palmata, and this material made them a light, breathable hat to wear in warm climates.

The Panama hat was named as such despite originating from Ecuador because these hats would be shipped from small towns around the Andean mountain range to Panama. Gold prospectors that were en route to California would pick up these hats, and they were named ‘Panama Hats’.

How Is a Panama Hat Made?

Although these hats can add a stylish, easy going look to any outfit, these hats are anything but easy to make. These hats can’t be made without leaves from the Carludovica palmata, a palm-like plant that needs to be relatively dry before it’s harvested. These leaves are easily manipulated, and the hat is weaved by experts.


Part of the appeal of a Panama hat is that it’s simply made and weaved out of leaves. However, you can determine whether or not a Panama hat is high quality because of the number of weaves per inch. Montecristi hats are said to be the highest quality Panama Hat that you can find, these hats have around 3,000 weaves per square inch. The high quality hats were nicknamed Montecristis after the town of Montecrisit, which is where you can but some of the best Panama hats in the world.

Superfino Hats

The term “superfino” refers to a high quality Panama hat that can hold water because it’s so perfectly weaved, and if you roll it up, you should be able to pass it through a narrow space like the wedding ring.

Anatomy of the Panama Hat

The Panama hat consists of several pieces that help bring the entire look together. The folded bend at the top of the hat is the crown/crown shape. The solid colored band that you’ll see wrapped around the hat is the hat band, and in some styles, this is where you’ll see a small decoration like a feather. The wide brim of the hat is what you can rely on to cover parts of your forehead and skin from the sun.

Additionally, if you flip a Panama hat over, you’ll find the under rim of the hat as well as the inner band or sweatband. Some hats will come with an inner liner, but it’s not uncommon for a hat to be made without this piece in mind.

Panama Hat Styles

There are several different styles of Panama Hat. They are:

Fedora style panama hat
  • Fedora: The fedora is considered to be a style of Panama hat because it appears to look identical to the Panama hat. However, a true Panama hat is weaved from dried leaves, while the Fedora is often made of wool or felt.
optimo style panama hat
  • Optimo: The optimo is easily identified by the crease that goes down the center. This style originated from people having rolled up their Panama hats by the brim.
golf panama hat
  • Golf: This is a style of Panama Hat that’s commonly worn by golfers since it offers your ears and neck protection from the sun, band it breathes exceptionally well. There’s a full, folded brim all the way around this hat.
Gambler Panama Hat
  • Gambler: This Panama hat has a wide brim that’s around 3 inches, and it has a oval shaped crown, these hats appear flatter from the side.
planter panama hat


  • Planter: This style of Panama hat is ideal if you really need to stay out of the sun, it has an extended brim and a rounded, molded crown.

Tips For Choosing A Panama Hat

You’ll want to keep a lot of things in mind when you’re trying to select a Panama hat. When you go shopping, you’ll want to make sure that the rows in the hat are as straight as they can be, you’ll want to be realistic when looking for this because it’s nearly impossible to find a perfect, inexpensive, Panama hat.

Additionally, you should double check that there aren’t any gaps in the rows it, this is an indicator of the skill of the weaver. You should also double check that the hat isn’t bright white if you want a 100% authentic hat from Ecuador. In Ecuador, the hats are bleached with sulfur fumes, so they won’t have that stark white color that comes from bleaching a fabric with harsh chemicals.

While you can still find purchase a hand weaved Panama hat, most hats are shaped by a machine. There’s a small number of these hats that are actually shaped and blocked by the weaver, and this extra step is very expensive.

Here’s a few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Double check the country of origin. If authenticity is important to you, you’ll want to know if your Panama hat came from Ecuador.
  • The vendor that you purchase your hat from should be able to tell you everything about the hat, whether it’s hand weaved, the country of origin, etc.
  • In the long run, you will always regret your purchase if you purchase based on price and not quality. Be prepared to spend a bit more than you’d like if you want in your collection an exceptional hat.

Caring For Your Panama Hat

Now that you know how to look for a perfect Panama hat, you need to know how to protect your investment! Here’s a few tips on how to keep your Panama hat looking brand new and stylish for years to come.

How To Fold A Panama Hat

To prevent damage to the shape of your Panama hat, follow these steps to make sure that you’re folding your hat correctly:

  • Flatten the brim all the way around, if it’s rolled in some places, unroll it.
  • Turn your hat on it’s side.
  • Fold the hat along the center, and push one side of the hat against the other, it should create a hollowed out U-shape.
  • Don’t press your hands into it to fold it tighter, loosely roll it up, and bind it if you like.

How To Reshape Your Panama Hat

If your hat loses its shape over time, you can use either of these methods to get it back to its former glory:

  • Stuff the inside of your hat with tissue or any soft material you can find like packing peanuts and pop out any dents or folds in the hat. Leave the hat stuffed with tissue for a few days.
  • If your hat doesn’t have an inner lining, you can use a clothing steamer to help get your hat back into shape. You can uncurl the brim with a steamer, or roll it.

How To Clean Your Panama Hat

Cleaning your Panama Hat is pretty easy. You can use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to wipe down your hat along the brim and the crow. You can also use a baby wipe or makeup wipe.

cleaning panama hats

Pros and Cons of Panama Hats

The Takeaway

You can add a Panama hat to almost any look and you’ll look fantastic. Panama hats are so versatile and popular that you can look to some of your favorite celebs for style inspiration. For ladies, Selma Blair, Sandra Bullock, and Diane Kruger have been spotted rocking the Panama hat. For gentlemen, you can turn to amazing actors like Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, and Brad Pitt if you want a few tips on how to wear this hat.


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