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Panama Hat Origin & History of Panamas ©

Some of the most frequent questions when looking to purchase a Genuine Panama Hat are: what is the origin of these hats and why they are called “Panama Hats” ?, Are Panamas made in Panama or Ecuador?, Who invented the Panama hats?

I will summarise your doubts about the origin of the iconic "Panama Hat" to help you to make the right decision.

The origin of the famous Panama Hats can be traced from the 16th century when the Spanish conquerors first noticed the beautiful headpieces worn by the natives of the region which is now called Ecuador, in fact, the Incas located on the costal regions of Ecuador were the first people who were observed weaving hats from the fibrous Toquilla palm plant.

It wasn’t until the 17th centuries that these rather sophisticated weaving practices involved in the creation of this hat eventually gained worldwide popularity. A visionary man by the name Manuel Alfaro, native to Ecuador, was the first to see the trade potential behind these finely crafted hats, and set up the business to export hats from Montecristi (Ecuador) to Panama. This business project coincided with the flow of miners coming from the east coast of the United States looking to get in on the Gold Rush.

Despite their name, Panama hats originate in Ecuador where they are made to this day. Historically, throughout Central and South America, people referred to Panama hats as "Jipijapa," "Toquilla," or "Montecristi" hats (the latter two phrases are still in use today).

The hats started to be called Panama and become famous in the 18th century, the attractive and lightweight straw hats that Panama Canal workers often wore, caught the attention of many Americans who travelled through Panama to reach California - United States, in search of gold. They became rapidly appreciated by everyone because the hats helped them to the resist the strong sun during their long journey.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1906, when a photo featured by the "New York Times" journal boosted the “Panama Hat” popularity. This photo showed President Theodore Roosevelt wearing a black-banded straw hat - nowadays known as (Continue reading...)


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