The Panama Hat
Panama hats are truly a timeless beauty in the hat world. However, this straw hat has a long history to its credit. Before the modern Panama hat came into the existence, its predecessors dated back centuries ago.
The discovery of the early Panama hat was made when the Spanish arrived on the Ecuadorian land. The inhabitants of the place were wearing a strange headwear made from straw. The strange straw hat they were wearing was very light in weight and color. The Straw Hat was long, covering the head, ears and neck. According to the Spanish Conquistadores, these straw hats looked more or less like the nun’s headdresses. They name the straw hats as toquilla after the nun’s headdress. Ceramic figures dating back from the 4000 B.C were found with the same headwear that the Spanish had described. These were the records of the predecessors of Ecuador Panama Hats.
Pre-hispanic cultures of Ecuador were the first to use the toquilla straw to weave and wear the straw hat. How the Straw Hats came into the shape of the modern Panama Straw Hats is that the Spaniards soon started wearing the hats made from the toquilla straw. The Spanish colonialists soon began to produce European style straw hats replacing the traditional long straw hats. They hired skilled weavers from the town of Montecristi and Jipijapa in Ecuador. Soon these places turned themselves into major hat-weaving centers.
The Montecristi Hats are one of the finest Panama Straw Hats today. After Ecuador gained independence from Spain, an entrepreneur called Manuel Alfaro settled in Montecristi in 1835 and established a hat production business using his own straw plantations and hiring skilled weavers. His business went well and soon he started exporting to Panama, since it was becoming an important commercial center. Later on he opened shops in Panama, which attracted the attention of buyers from around the world, who soon associated this Ecuadorian product with the country of Panama. Now the Panama hat is the finest and most expensive straw hat in the world. With a legacy behind, this straw hat is indeed a wonder that still survives now.