From the beginning of the 17th century, the weaving of hats as an artisanal work started to evolve along the coast of Ecuador. This trend continued to grow in the 18th century. In the 19th and 20th centuries the hats were being exported, but before reaching their final destinations in the rest of America, Asia and Europe, they were sent to the Isthmus of Panama, a narrow piece of land situated between the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean, thus the name “Panam hat” although the hats are being made in Ecuador.
The popularity of the Panama hat increased in the 20th century, when more and more famous people and actors were wearing it, including President Theodore Roosevelt when he visited the construction site of the Panama Canal in 1904.
Although it isn’t a true palm, Carludovica palmata (toquilla palm) is the palm-like plant used to make the Panama hats. Its leaves are different from the leaves of true palms, and unlike true palms it does not develop a woody trunk. Its soft, flexible, and durable fibers make it the perfect material for the Panama hat.
Today, a world renowned product, the Panama hat represents the talent of the Ecuadorian artisans passed on from generation to generation, every hat being a unique product, handmade with great attention.
The traditional weaving of the Ecuadorian toquilla straw hat was inscribed in 2012 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, by UNESCO.
There are 2 regions in Ecuador known for making the Panama hat:
– Cuenca : here, they usually make ordinary quality hats; each hat takes 5 days to make.
– Montecristi : this is where they make semi-fine, fine, super fine and extra fine hats; an artisan can work for 15 days at a semi-fine hat and up to 6 months at a super fine quality hat.
In Romania, these stylish hats can be bought from SC Ramsor Import-Export SRL, a small company based in Bucharest which sells products imported from Ecuador. The company works directly with the artisans from Montecristi and Cuenca, offering a large range of products at reasonable prices:
The products can be found at:
– the Madame Briolette store, in Unirii Square, Bucharest;
– the Dion Style store, in Victoria Shopping Center, Bucharest;
– the Mont Blanc store, in Promenada Mall, Sibiu;
– on the online store Andes Market
You can also visit the official Facebook page.