A Panama Hat is a straw brimmed hat made from fibers of the toquilla palm. It’s great for the tropics because it’s light weight, breathable, and protects from the sun.
But, the Panama hat is actually made in Ecuador! Panama was (and is) a hub of travel, transportation, and commerce. The enterprising Ecuadorians realized that they could sell a lot more hats in Panama, and when the hats were carried far and wide by people who had bought them in Panama, they became known as Panama Hats.
An Ecuadorian Panama hat is an art form that is very labor intensive, taking even eight months to make, and the best ones can cost thousands of dollars.
Panama also has straw hats that I think are even more beautiful. They aren’t as finely woven but they have interesting patterns. They are commonly worn by working people, usually in more rural areas.
Also, since these hats are part of the traditional Panamanian clothing, you will see them in parades and events that also feature women in polleras, the gorgeous traditional dresses and accessories of the beautiful Panamanian women.
Now you know. The next time you see a “Panama Hat”, you’ll know if it comes from Ecuador or Panama.