If I ever go to Panama I would know what to bring back as a souvenir: the world-renowned Panama hat. The one that Hemingway loved to wear. Well, no actually. If I wanted to buy the original Panama hat I would have to travel too Ecuador were it’s called jipijapa o sombrero de paja toquilla (toquille is the plant which leaves are used to create the hat).
When Spanish conquistadors arrived in what is now Ecuador in 1526, inhabitants were already wearing a type of headwear made of woven straw. After their arrival Spanish conquistadores promote the production of these hats and in the early to mid-1600’s hat weaving evolved as a cottage industry all along the Ecuadorian coast.
So why it’s called Panama hat? For a long time the hats were shipped first to Panama before they reached other destinations all over the globe. Also, in 1906, american president Theodore Roosevelt wore it while visiting the construction sites of the Panama canal. The picture was widely published around the world increasing the hat popularity (and all without Facebook!)
The quality of the hat dipends on the number of sweaves used. The rarest and most expensive Panama hats, the Montcristi Superfino, are hand-woven with up to 3000 weaves per square inch. They can cost up to 10.000 dollars!
In 2012 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists