How a Genuine Panama Hat is made?

Handcrafted entirely by skilled artisans from Ecuador, the art of hand weaving Panama Hats follows traditional methods passed down through generations. Typically performed in the warm ambiance of their homes, these craftsmen meticulously weave each hat, preserving a centuries-old tradition. Recognised as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012, this art form faces the threat of extinction. Here, we elucidate why Genuine Panama Hats are not only unique but also rare treasures in the global market.

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The authenticity and superior quality of a ‘Panama Hat’ are intrinsically tied to its origin in Ecuador. The exclusive material utilised in its creation, known as “Toquilla straw,” is sourced solely from the coastal regions of Ecuador. Derived from the plaited leaves of the Carludovica Palmata plant, this particular straw undergoes harvesting during the final quarter of the moon phase, ensuring maximum flexibility and durability.

What determinate the price of a Genuine Panama Hat?

The thinner the woven, the better is the quality of the Panama hat. All La Marqueza Hats® grades have been categorised from "Fino" grade (*WPI 8-10) up to "Ultra fino" grade (*WPI 32-42) *Weaves Per Inch. Only the most expert artisans can weave the finest ones because great ability and precision is required to work with very fine straw.

Click here to know how to spot a fake Panama Hat


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How much do panama hats costs? price


 What about the Panama Hat market prices?

It is important to note that certain dealers may market hats under the designation of “Genuine Panama Hat,” despite the fact that many of these hats are actually manufactured in countries such as Colombia, Peru, Mexico, or China. In these cases, alternative materials such as Iraca, Tetera, and Enea straws are commonly utilised, resulting in significantly lower quality and durability compared to Toquilla straw. The traditional process employed in Ecuador is widely recognised as the most superior method, with a strict prohibition on the use of chemicals throughout the entire manufacturing process.

 While some buyers may perceive themselves as securing a bargain or exceptional deal, the reality is often different—they unknowingly purchase counterfeit hats. Genuine Panama hats are distinguished by flawlessly woven, light-coloured, lightweight, and breathable attributes. The finesse of the weave and the meticulous craftsmanship involved in creating a complete hat from Toquilla straw epitomise its exceptional quality, warranting recognition of its inherent value.

What is the best panama hat?

The first part to be woven is the pattern

 In the initial stages of creation, only a select few straw fibers are utilised, gradually augmented with additional fibers until reaching a width typically ranging between 5 and 10 centimetres. To weave the hat body, artisans employ a wooden block mould to meticulously shape the hat, starting from the brim and progressing upwards to achieve a height ranging from 7 to 15 centimetres.

Following the shaping process comes the “remate” or tying off phase, an exclusive technique employed solely by expert weavers to complete the brim of a Panama hat. This intricate method, known as ‘back weaving,’ involves delicately turning the straw back toward the crown and weaving it into a loose band encircling the outer edge of the brim. 

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The next stage is the creation of a hat

This intricate process, traditionally performed by skilled women artisans, is known as the “azocada” or tightening phase. Here, the tied-off fibers are meticulously tightened to maintain the integrity of the weave, followed by precise clipping of any excess fibers.

Subsequently, the hat undergoes a washing or “whitening” procedure, followed by careful sun drying. Once the hat assumes a bell-like shape, expert craftsmen use precision and strength to return it to its original form—a stage known as “compostura” or reshaping.

Finally, the hats are blocked and finished to the highest standards in our United Kingdom warehouse. Each hat is adorned with a soft, breathable cotton sweatband and a silk top protective patch for enhanced comfort and durability.

Performed entirely manually using heritage techniques

The treatment used to process the straw is another key factor to determine the quality, and here the "Montecristi hats" stand out, entirely handmade by the most skilled artisans in Ecuador and considered the best in the world where the use of chemicals is not allowed during the whole process. In fact, UNESCO recognised this precious art as world's Intangible Cultural Heritage on December 5th, 2012.

Other factors to judge the best quality are if the hat can be folded (rolled), the general shape of the hat, and last but not least it is important to check if all the hat edges have been minutely finished by hand with the same straw, avoiding those hats that have been sewed by machine (bound edge) or glued down (under-welt).

What is a genuine panama hat?



At La Marqueza Hats, we personally inspect and select the hats one by one in Ecuador. Our specialist team employs magnifying glasses accurately assess the grade of each hat, particularly for the 'Extra Fine' and higher categories, as these hats have very thin straws to be counted by naked eye. Next, we carefully evaluate the weave uniformity and the colour consistency.

It is essential to understand that the skilled artisan essentially creates a fabric entirely by hand, underscoring why our hats are regarded as masterpieces. As the width of the straw is halved, the amount of work required increases exponentially— a hat twice as fine takes four times longer to weave. This explains why a hat that appears only slightly finer than another may command a higher price. The incremental increase in fineness, multiplied by the numerous weave “intersections,” can translate to several additional weeks of weaving time.

Best quality Panama Hat grades

In summary, certainly 'fineness of weave' is the most important factor when grading a Panama hat and to determine the price, but don't forget the 'quality of the weave', the 'colour of the straw', the 'hat shaping', and of course the 'origin of the hat'.

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What about the Panama Hats made in Cuenca - Ecuador?

The Cuenca Panama hats are excellent quality as well, as long as these keep the same characteristics that have been mentioned above. Cuenca is another region in Ecuador and these hats are also considered genuine as they are hand-made using a very similar weaving technique with few differences.

One of the most important differences between Montecristi and Cuenca hats, is that in Montecristi, the hats are handcrafted employing double straw, meanwhile in Cuenca the artisans use single straws. This factor entitles more time to make a hat and it would influence the quality in terms of durability over time.

Click here to learn more about the weave difference between Montecristi and Cuenca hats