How to spot a fake Panama Hat? What is special about Panama Hats?

How to spot a fake Panama Hat? What is special about Panama Hats?

The famous ivory white (cream) hat with the characteristic black band, is made of very thin straw from the Toquilla palm which exclusively grows in the tropical coastal area of Ecuador.
These hats became famous thanks to the amazing quality of its straw and lightness, which makes them comfortable and easy to wear. The finest examples of these legendary hats were being worn by illustrious people like Churchill, Roosevelt and Napoleon. If white and natural colour Panamas are more classical, nowadays is possible to dye the straw with any shade obtained from natural pigments.

How to buy a Genuine Panama Hat UK

Meticulously hand-woven, the Ecuadorian hats are considered a national symbol and treasures of Ecuador. The authentic and the only ones, that are recognised by the UNESCO as world’s intangible cultural heritage in 2012 are made in Cuenca city and the most renown hats are made in the village of Montecristi, where only 2,000 hats are produced every year.

Montecristi Panama Hats tips to buy a panama hat


Panama Hats made in Cuenca Ecuador
But like in almost everything, the fake market exists alongside the genuine one. Imitations of the hat are mostly made in India, Peru, Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan.

 If you are one of those that appreciate the quality and beauty, the following tips will help you to spot the ‘fake’:

1. Ask about the material used, the imitation hats are made from poor quality straws like the Iraca, Tetera, Enea and worse yet, there are hats made from raffia, paper or plastic. The Toquilla (Carludovica Palmata) is 'the one', a beautiful plant in the Cyclanthus family that gives that smooth effect to the authentic hats, and as all natural materials, this straw fibers show the presence of imperceptible impurities, compared even with diamonds in the nature to determinate its quality.

2. Look at the top of the hat, if you see a circular rose on the center of the crown, then it is genuine as that is the beginning of the hand-weaving. Copies don't have that rose, the imitations have a square or a triangle on the top centre.

Real Panama hat and fake panama comparison

3. The characteristic natural scent, a genuine Panama hat is made from Toquilla straw (a short-stemmed palm cultivated in equatorial humid and tropical coastal areas), thus, that gives off this unmistakable distinct flowery scent.

4. Special attention to the 'back weaved' brimAll the seams and edges of the hat must be minutely finished by hand with the same straw, and never sewed by machine (bound edge) or glued down (under-welt). Remember, we are talking about straw hats considered master pieces worldwide, so, even their edges should reflect its purity and millinery art. Therefore, it is very important to get a nicely finished edge with no material other than straw and no stitching.

why are panama hats so expensive


5. Have a look inside, the weave should be uniformly done with few or no gaps between the interlaced straws. Less holes means better quality. (Learn here about the types of weaves, which one is better and durable?)

6. Check the inside tags or labels and look for the brown stamp that guarantees the origin, the finest will even have the weaver’s signature hidden out there.

Genuine Panama Hat authenticity brown mark tag label

7. The real Panama hat can be folded or rolled up. But this doesn’t mean that the hat can be stored rolled up or folded because the purpose of rolling a Genuine Panama Hat should always be for the convenience of travel only, as it would lose its shape and it might require to be ironed to recover the original shape.

Foldable Panama Hat in a travel tube UK rollable hat crushable panama

8. Finally, the original hats can be carefully hand-washed using warm water to gently remove any mark using a clean cloth but without detergents, and even ironed to be reshaped as you like.

Keep in mind that a Genuine Panama Hat is an individual masterpiece of craftsmanship – it has been conscientiously hand-woven from a natural fibre, so treat it as such.