July 29, 2015

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Borges & Scott is one of the UK's leading Panama Hat producers and distributors.  We supply milliners, clubs and societies with 'off the shelf' and bespoke Panama Hats.

What is a Panama Hat?

So, we get lots of questions about Panama hats.  We'll always do our best to answer these and will start posting some of them to this blog soon.  However, before we do that, it's probably best if we spend a little time thinking about the basic question - what is a Panama hat?

If you know the answer to this, then that's great - please explore the rest of our blog and website.  But we do find that, particularly among non-hat wearers, there is confusion.  Some think that a Panama is defined by the fact it's a straw hat with a black band around it.  Others think that it's a reference to a particular shape of hat.  Yet others have no idea - when you tell them that you work for a Panama hat company they look blank and ask "what's that?"".  

So let's start by addressing a couple of these mistakes.  The shape of a hat does not make it a Panama.  There are numerous different styles and shapes of hats out there - such as the Trilby, Fedora, Pork Pie, Homberg and Folder.  But these can all be made by a variety of techniques in many different materials.  For example, you can have a heavy weight felt Fedora that's perfect for British winters.  Neither does the combination of white material with a black band make a hat a Panama.  There are lots of cheap imitations that look like this and call themselves Panamas, but are made out of paper pulp or synthetic fabrics that make them hot and sweaty to wear.  Equally the genuine article can come in all sorts of colours and have all sorts of decorative finishes.

In our eyes, a genuine Panama is defined by one thing only.  The material it is made from.  It has to be Toquilla Palm fibres.  

The Carludovica Palmata (to give it its scientific name) is not actually a palm - technically it's a "Monocotyledon" rather than a plam, because it does not develop a woody trunk.  But we'll ignore that technicality.  This plant produces a beautiful flower and has been cultivated from Central America down to Boliva.  However, its main home is in the humid coastal regions of Ecuador.  Fibres can be stripped from the central stem of young plants and carefully washed, softened and dried to produce a wonderfully soft, flexible and strong fibre.  These fibres can be woven into a variety of shapes - one of these is a cone like shape that forms the basis of a Panama Hat.  Once you have this cone (or "hood") you can bleach, dye and/or shape it as you wish.  

Please explore our store to see the variety of shape and colours we have chosen to make up our range - all of which are true Panama Hats!  


David Scott
David Scott

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