Panama Hat – The perfect summer hat

Recently I received my new Panama hat from Tonak a Czech company that you could read about tin an earlier post here on the website (link). That´s why I decided to write a article dedicated to the Panama Hat to learn more about it’s story.

A Panama hat (toquilla straw hat) is a traditional brimmed straw hat of Ecuadorian origin. Traditionally, hats were made from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica palmata plant, known locally as the toquilla palm or jipijapa palm. Panama hats are light-colored, lightweight, and breathable, and often worn as accessories to summer-weight suits, such as those made of linen or silk. Very interesting is that the art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in December 2012.


Together with Fabio Attanasion during the TBD Eyewear trunk show at Engelska Herr.
Photo: Pontus Jonsén

Beginning in the early to mid-1600’s hat weaving evolved as a cottage industry all along the Ecuadorian coast. Hat weaving and wearing grew steadily in Ecuador through the 17th and 18th centuries. Straw hats woven in Ecuador, were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations, subsequently acquiring a name that reflected their point of international sale, “Panama hats”.

The popularity of the hats was increased in the mid-nineteenth century by the miners of the California Gold Rush, who frequently traveled to California via the Isthmus of Panama. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States visited the construction site of the Panama Canal, and was photographed wearing a Panama hat, which further increased the hats’ popularity.

Another interesting aspect of its history is the tradition of the black band with which the majority of Panamas are trimmed. This originates from its most popular period in 1901, the year of the death of Queen Victoria.

There are different qualities of Panama hats, depending on the fineness of the weave, and therefore can suit every pocket – from the exclusive Montecristi Panama hat, which can take up to 4 months to weave, to the standard woven Panama, which can take only 2-3 days.

Dependent on shape and weave, some Panama hats can be rolled up, making it a desirable feature for travel.


My interpretation of a summer look featuring my panama hat from Tonak

To ensure many years of enjoyment from wearing your hat, it is important to remember to treat it with care. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Do not fold your Panama, or scrunch it up, as it will not only damage the shape of your hat, but also the straw could crack
  • Avoid pinching or crushing the natural fibre from the crown
  • Do not pull the hat from the edge of the brim
  • Avoid use in the rain as it may lose its shape


  • Your hat can be cleaned using a damp cloth or a gentle facial wipe/ babywipe – try to remove any dirt marks with a dry cloth first, and then using warm water gently try to remove the mark with a clean cloth
  • Avoid rubbing too hard as this may damage the natural fibres of the straw


  • Should your hat lose its original shape, you can steam it gently to try to regain its shape by hand and dry it gently using a hairdryer
  • The brim can be reshaped by using a steam iron on the lowest setting and a clean damp cloth, ensuring the iron does not come into direct contact with the straw itself

(All tips above on how to care for your Panama har are collected from “The Panama Hat Company”)


Really love the Tonak “T” on the side of the hat!

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