Panamanian in name, but not in fact. The Panama hat is original from Ecuadorr and is produced mainly in the cities of Jipijapa, Cuenca and Montecristi with the fibers obtained from the leaves of the dwarf palm Carludovica palmata.
The first news on Panama hair dates back to 1500, when the Conquistadores saw it worn by the natives, who use it to protect themselves from the sun, but its origins are certainly much older.
It was brought to Europe by the Spaniards and after conquering Napoleon too, its fame grew progressively, until in 1800 it became the favorite hair of gold diggers who went to California via Panama.
But the "fame" comes in 1906, when Theodore Roosevelt wears it during the inauguration ceremony of the Panama Canal: it is on this occasion that the "jipijapa" becomes the "Panama".
Cleared by the American president, the Panama hat asserts itself as a glamorous accessory, appearing on the "famous heads" of Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, Harry Truman, Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, Richard Nixon, Jaqueline Kennedy, Mick Jagger, Sean Connery and many others.
The original Panama hat is the one that is woven in Ecuador with "toquilla straw", produced in the western region of Manabi from the leaves of the dwarf palm Carludovica palmata, commonly known as "Palma toquilla".
The processing of "toquilla straw" is ancient and laborious. To obtain it, the leaves are divided into filaments which are first immersed in boiling water and then hung to dry, until they take the form of wavy "strings".
The "strings" are then sent to the artisans of various villages and towns in the interior, including Jipijapa, Cuenca, Montecristi, Pile and Tavalo, who select them based on quality and fineness, separate them from each other and after having moistened, they weave them by hand to create the hats, using a wooden base for shape and size..
An experienced craftsman takes about 4 hours to make a Panama and every day more or less 40 are produced.
The quality of the hat depends on the "fineness" of the fibers and weaving, on the basis of which we speak of Panama Quito, Brisa, Cuenca and Montecristi. Some also propose a division into sub fine, fine, super fine and fine fine, but these are non-standardized measures.