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The Essential Summer Hat
In Singapore, we don’t have the chance to don lovely felt hats suitable for winters. But we do know that caps are for boys and hats are for men. So here’s how to avoid those trucker caps and own headwear like a man: The Panama Hat
The Panama is a rather basic hat, with colour for summer fashion. Contrary to what the name would have one believe, the Panama hat actually originates from Ecudor, still regarded as THE place to get your Panama hat. These hand-woven hats are a dying trade, thus the extravagant prices. The prices of a Panama is often based on the fineness of the weave. The Monticristis, for example, lies on the highest end of the spectrum, fetching prices of up to $25000.
Finest than the Finest
The process explains the price. Someone cuts down and prepares the fibers from long-stalked jipijapa plants, selects out the best ones, and then sends them to someone to “cut” the stalks into thin fibers with their fingernails. These “threads” are then woven together by hand to form the hat, and the blocking is either done by machine or hand, depending on the quality that is sought.
The best weaver alive, Simón Espinal, can weave hats with more than 50 rows per inch. He weaves only four hats each year. Three months to weave one hat. As you might imagine, weaving with straw about the thickness of dental floss is extremely demanding work. The weaver must maintain constant, continuous focus on the threadlike straws and what his/her fingertips are doing with them. If the weaver yields to the hypnotic rhythm of the weaving, and allows his attention to drift, inconsistencies and irregularities will result. Anyone who has ever done meticulous hand work knows how exhausting it is to maintain constant concentration, hour after hour. Simón says that four hours is about the limit without a break. The best weavers weave their best hats during the “cool” season, sometimes called the “dry” season. During the “rainy” season, they weave hats that are less fine than their finest.
The Panama Hat Company, followed by Panama Bob are the best places to buy these custom measured, hand made hats and be prepared to shell out a minimum of $1000. Yes, that’s a grand. US. My pick is the Montecristi Classic Fedora, although it will need a few more years before I can afford it.