A generation from now, the centuries old art of the Panama hat may have disappeared. Where there once were more than 2,000 of them, today a dozen master weavers, capable of making hats so finely woven that they feel like they are made of linen, remain in Ecuador. And no, the others have not moved to Panama. Panama hats are made in Ecuador.
Panama hats are ideal for summer as they keep the wearer shaded, weigh little more than a pair of sun glasses, and have an open weave that promotes air flow and cooling. There are many styles but the classics are the Optimo, with a rounded crown like the hat in the drawing, and the fedora/trilby, in a variety of brim sizes. They typically have a black ribbon.
B. Brent Black is the proprietor of the Panama Hat Company of the Pacific, located in Kailua, Hawaii. Black is a specialist in Montecristi Fino quality Panamas and his web site has a wealth of information on the hats, the weavers, the weaving process and the area. He also offers a wide variety of styles in every shape under the sun and dealing with him gives the buyer some guarantee that he is getting what he is paying for. Since there is no formal grading system for Panama hat quality, it's not surprising that there are many more sellers of “Super Fino” hats than there are weavers of Super Fino hats. Some of them don't even come from Ecuador.