The Panama hat is actually a traditional hat made in Ecuador of woven toquilla (a palm-like plant) straw. The hats are brimmed, light-colored, and lightweight. The quality (and price) of a Panama hat is judged by the number of weaves per square inch – the more there are, the better the quality.
The hat-weaving industry in Ecuador is centuries-old. The best quality hats come from Manabi. Like other South American exports, the hats were sent to the Isthmus of Panama and then went by ship around the world. Thus the hats became known by the name of the place of international sale rather than by their place of origin.
They became increasingly popular when the Gold Rush miners introduced them to the U.S. in the mid 19th century. When Teddy Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal construction site, he was photographed in one of the hats, which were worn by the construction workers there. Panama hats are still popular today for both men and women.
Written by TheSpectrum