So, I’ve piqued your interest, and you are thinking, “This Montecristi thing—how do I go about finding a good Panama Hat?” You want that film noir look with the classic fedora. Or maybe you are tired of your sunburned ears and neck and are remembering when golfers and boaters wore hats, not visors or caps. A Monte Carlo or a skimmer might be just the thing. Use your head the way it was intended. Look like a grown up. A sophisticated grown up.
But you don’t necessarily want to throw the complete contents of your candy jar into the search. Must have a little left for a maybe a cigar and a mojito, and that overhead fan.
Or maybe you are in for the best of the best, but how do you know you’ve found it?
Weave density seems to be the main (but certainly not the only) criterion for grading a Panama Hat. An expert, Panama Bob puts it succinctly:
“Grading Panama hats is not an easy task. The fact of the matter is that no industry standard guides the grading of Panama hats anywhere in the world. Sellers use numbers, complicated math, or fancy brand names to sell their Panama hats. Some sellers don’t say anything about what grade their Panama hats are, nor do they offer an explanation for their grading of Panama hats. For Montecristi hats, we’ll just list the approximate number of weaves that cross a ruler as we count one inch.”
Take a stroll through a few sites and be amazed at the options and styles available. Lots of sites advertise Panama hats; here are some that grabbed my attention:
- The Panama Hat Company of the Pacific
In my humble opinion, by far the most professional-looking and complete website. Also, apparently the most “professional” prices. Not surprisingly, some seem to prefer to get their Montecristi Panama Hat information from this web-site and move on to some cheaper pastures for their hats. On the plus size, you’ll be hard pressed to find a negative review of their hats or service.He also has an exclusive relationship with the man who is almost certainly the best weaver today, and perhaps the best weaver ever, Simon Espinal. Not that often you get to wear something a true master-crafter may have held in his hands. Not often you have a $25,000 hat, either.
- Panama Hatworks of Montecristi
Run by “ Panama Bob” (who else?) the moniker of the web site owner, Robert Weber. This vendor seems to enjoy an excellent reputation on The Fedora Lounge Forum. One other positive point, his prices seem more affordable (I bought my own hat from him). He also has fascinating insights into the history and making of the hats; his web site is very informative and focused on the weavers and the hats.
- Panama Hats Direct
A shop managed by a US national living in Ecuador. Recommended, as it seems to offer quality hats at good prices, with the large number of satisfied customer testimonials found on the web-site being the proof. (Although, you might find some older negative reviews on Fedora Lounge, you have to respect a business that seems to have listened and changed.)Warning: This site still needs to learn that playing an automated audio file each time someone visits is annoying and was last cool about eight years ago, especially since is rather difficult to find how to make the damn thing shut-up. I really don’t understand why they don’t use their skills to create an informative video library that can be accessed easily on their web-site or on YouTube; anyway, moving on.
- The Panama Hat Shop
A shop that seems to offer the best prices for weave density, although some Panama hat enthusiasts on the Fedora Lounge Forum have found the real densities to be much less than advertised.
On a side note, I’m frankly rather surprised that no Government entity has stepped out to regulate the damn thing and kill the trade.
Deep breath, turn up the fan.
Combine all the hints I have provided, along with any of your own discoveries, shake or stir, by your preference, pour into a chilled glass and take the plunge.
Finally, in a shameless and self serving manner, I would like to remind everyone that we have a large selection of lime and citrus shaving creams, aftershaves and colognes, all perfect for the Canadian summer (for all the four weeks it lasts).
That is where we started all of this: I love summer. Where did I put my hat?
Photos (from top to bottom): Havana Fedora from the Panama Hat Company; Caballero from Panama Bob’s; Classic Gambler from Panama Hats Direct.