As one of the most iconic, timeless, and luxurious fashion accessories in the world, a Panama hat is a must-have for stylish men and women alike. But despite its fame and esteemed reputation, the Panama hat can be somewhat of a mystery.
For starters, contrary to what the name suggests, Panama hats are not from Panama. They are from Ecuador. More specifically, they are made of Ecuadorian straw from the toquilla palm plant.
Allow us to give you a little Panama hat history: Back in the early 1600s, hat weaving became a growing industry in Ecuador. While the town of Montecristi is considered the birthplace of these fine hats, the city of Cuenca has since become a major hub of hat makers.
Fast forward to 1904, when United States President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing an Ecuadorian straw hat at the site of the Panama Canal. It was that moment when the Ecuadorian "montecristi hat" became known around the world as a Panama hat.
Secondly, a Panama hat is a material (Ecuadorian toquilla straw), not a single hat style. This means Panama hats come in a variety of hat shapes and colors, some of which we'll share below.
Finally, even though all genuine Panama hats must be crafted from toquilla straw, not all Panama hats are created equal. There are different quality Panama hats depending on the fineness of the straw and weave. There is no official grading system, but some hat sellers offer grades that are labeled as fino (fine), fino fino (very fine), or ultrafino/superfino (super fine).
Panama Hats to Fit Your Personality
Now that you've been schooled on the particulars of the Panama hat, it’s time to shop our top picks that will level up your wardrobe based your own personality.
Classic: Fedora Panama Hat
You prefer clean lines, tailored fits, and will always choose timeless over trendy. As such, a classic fedora Panama hat is just your speed. Suited for both men and women, Chronicle by Biltmore won't disappoint with its lightweight hand-woven Ecuadorian straw construction and shorter 2-inch brim that keeps things orderly without venturing into dreaded trilby territory.
To prove that simple does not mean boring, the map print on the double bow trim adds an unexpected dash of charm. Available in caramel or grey, this fedora Panama straw hat is a keeper.
Hipster: Pork Pie Panama Hat
Admit it. You're a hipster. You have the tats, vinyl, thick-rimmed glasses, and beard to prove it. So naturally you want to rock a pork pie hat, that fly short-brim topper beloved by jazz musicians since the 1940s. Although these flat-topped hats are usually constructed of wool felt, go against the grain with the Montegro straw pork pie hat by Biltmore.
Made in the USA from handwoven Ecuadorian straw, this smart-looking straw hat features a simple black grosgrain band and unobtrusive 2-inch brim that'll take you from your daytime co-working office space to late-night concerts in the park. For more fashion inspo, check out these other hipster hats to add to your shopping wish list.
Adventurous: Outback Panama Hat
You like to take chances and your unyielding sense of adventure translates into all aspects of your life, including your wardrobe. So why would you choose anything less than Muirfield by Scala, a versatile statement-making Panama hat with style to spare?
Breathable and lightweight, this hand-woven straw hat features a handsome vented crown and a three-inch brim for optimum sun protection. The slim, stitched leather band adds just a dash of flair while the Dry-Lex Eco sweatband will keep you feeling as breezy as you look.
Elegant: Safari Panama Hat
Quality is your middle name. You believe that you get what you pay for, which is why you'd rather invest in a well-curated collection of essentials than a trove of trendier items that won't be in season a few months from now. Naturally, an authentic Panama hat is a must for your closet.
To that end, consider Roswell by Scala Classico, a most sophisticated safari hat crafted from hand-woven Grade 8 Ecuadorian straw. Ideal for dressier daytime affairs, this high-quality hat will make you feel and look like a Hollywood star.
Relaxed: Outback Panama Hat
You value comfort, love a natural color palette, and lean toward laidback looks. No wonder you see yourself in Taos by Scala, a graceful straw Panama hat crafted from hand-woven Ecuadorian straw. Available in two shades — natural (shown) and putty — this outback-style hat with teardrop crown and 2 7/8-inch brim is a practical, polished pick whether you're horseback riding in the mountains or mingling at a garden party along the coast. Even better, you can try it on right now with our AR virtual try-on, so you know what it’ll look like before you buy.
Bold: Wide-Brim Panama Hat
You have no problem standing out in the crowd and the wide-brim York Beach straw hat from Brooklyn makes sure of that. A study in form and function — it makes a bold statement while offering optimum sun protection — this round-crown headpiece won't let you down. The two-tone weave and dramatic 4-inch brim makes it the quintessential summer hat for women when heading to the beach, weekend brunch, or the Kentucky Derby.
An Ecuadorian Original
Mistaken identity aside, the Panama hat continues to hold its place among high fashion. And because it's a matter of material, not shape, this Ecuadorian creation comes in a variety of styles and colors to suit any personality.
Of course, hat care is crucial, especially when it comes to high-end hats like the Panama, so don't miss our guide on three easy ways to clean your hat. For more options, don't miss our guide on how to find the best Panama hats for men and women.