Panama hats, among all straw hats, are a work of art, but not every hat that is called a Panama actually deserves the name. While most straw hats are handwoven, a true Panama must be woven in Ecuador. Weavers in Montecristi, Ecuador began fashioning the hats from local toquilla straw in the 17th century. But when Panamanian exporters started shipping the hats around the world in the 1800s, the Panama hat earned its name.

Craftsmen have passed their unique spiraling weave technique from generation to generation. Weaving only at night so their sweat doesn’t damage the straw, these hat makers adhere to strict standards of weaving similar to suits made of fine Italian wool.

The timeless appeal of Panama hats has led to many imitations. But for quality and style, none can beat the original—hand-woven for generations in the mountains of Ecuador.

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