What is a panama hat?

You’ve seen them before these iconic hats. The best known and most common is the model whose body (the whole of the hat) is in a white color, paired with a classic black band.

This sounds pretty standard for a summer hat, so what makes them so different from other typical summer hats?

In short, a panama hat is a hat that despite the name comes from Ecuador, (confusing I know)how this comes about you can read here.

In addition, a true panama hat is always, but always hand-woven.

Keep this well in mind because this allows you to easily recognize if it is the real thing. This weaving technique has been passed down from generation to generation and gives each hat its own characteristic and style.

The hats are made exclusively with the young shoots of the toquila palm not to be confused with tequila. This palm is found in the region and is an excellent plant for making hats from it.

sample panama hat

Why are they being copied?

These hats are coveted for many reasons including its style, comfort and breathability.

That the process in making this hat is labor intensive, you could at least call it. (see article)

This is all due to the craft, time and passion that creep into these hats that spans over several generations.

This results in a higher price tag than cheap hats, but is well worth it for the quality you get.

Unfortunately, because of this, there are many copycats who claim it is the real thing. They claim they can offer the same hat that can cost around 100 euros by default (depending on quality) it at 50 or less.

Don’t believe any of it here unless you literally buy it from the source and can see it with your own eyes.

How do you recognize an authentic panama hat?

Fortunately, there is a fairly easy way to spot a genuine panama hat, but it doesn’t hurt to ask the following questions of the seller (or saleswoman):

  • Where is this hat made? (bow question) The answer has to be Ecuador .
  • How are they made? Answer: hand-woven.
  • What kind of material did they use for the hat? A: With the young shoots of the toquila palm.

Now it may also be that the salesman or saleswoman happens not to know. In the last section, I’ll show you how to figure it out without questions.

thinking man with hat

Below I give you a picture of two hats, one of which is the real Panama.

Can you guess which one it is? (Think before you scroll on for the answer.)


top of real panama hat on wooden floor

This was a trick question, because in the beginning I described what a classic standard panama hat looks like. If you chose the white hat with a black band, your answer was wrong.

Not a big deal, because most people never guess, only if they know what to look for. The easiest way is to simply look at the top of the crown.

The photos below show the top side of both crowns. Do you see the difference? The real one has a flower pattern going from the center outward. The others the weaves are straight, usually want indicates that these are machine made.

top panama hat close up

The real panama hat

top not hand woven hat

Not handwoven

Hopefully you have become a little wiser after reading this article and with it I hope to save you from the fake junk, because the real ones remain the best.