Panama hats have always been made in Ecuador.

From the 1600’s, the weaving of hats out of the leaves of the toquilla palm has been done on the western coast of Ecuador.

The best hats are called Montecristo’s and are from the village of the same name in the province of Manabi. These hats are light colored, lightweight, breathable and have long been popular in hot climates where protection from the sun is needed.

Hats are also sold and made in Cuenca and the price varies from thirty five dollars to a thousand dollars. The finer the weave the more expensive the hat.

It can take a skilled craftsman up to six months to make one of these exclusive hats, a day for the least expensive ones. When you pick up a fine hat, it is light. You can roll it up in your suitcase and it returns to its shape when you take it out.

President Theodore Roosevelt popularized the Panama hat when he wore one at the Panama Canal. A grandiose man, he was a President with an ego too large for whatever hat he was wearing.

It is said that a fine Panama hat made in Ecuador will hold water and pass through a wedding ring when rolled up. There are few craftsmen still alive that have the skill and patience to weave these masterpieces.

Machine made and cheap is the mantra of our times.

 

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