Panama - practical and stylish
Preceded by the sweet scent of flowers and refreshing spring rains, summer is at our doorstep. Along comes the sun and all its hot blessings. It's a good idea to cover your head, if only for the sake of your health and a bit of shade. At the same time you can look good, thanks to a simple yet graceful hat. In this post, we will talk a little about a typical summer hat - the panama hat - while answering the usual questions about why, how and when.
The moniker "Panama" hats is somewhat misleading, as they originate from Ecuador. They are woven from the fibres of the leaves of the toquila palm tree, usually by hand, and are characterised by their light weight, bright, usually natural colours and flexibility. Among the classic patterns - let's forego the others today - there are various shapes and finishes, often very similar to those familiar from the felt hat family, such as the fedora, variations of which are also relatively the most popular among panama patterns.
In European fashion, they are usually finished with grosgrain ribbons, although indigenous versions are often either devoid of these. On the other hand some are richly adorned with colourful feathers and other trinkets.
But why is the panama the perfect hat for summer? A couple of considerations. The first is the weight of the finished hat and therefore the comfort of wearing it, especially if the day is hot. Woven panamas are definitely lighter than even the thinnest of felt hats. The presence of the weave itself is also a huge advantage. Depending on its tightness, gusts of wind can be felt, in a word - ventilation. The colour of the hat and its importance cannot be overlooked - after all, it is it's bright colour that helps to reflect the sunlight.
Traditional panamas can be found in shades ranging from roasted straw to almost snowy white, but the most commonly produced variant is the natural, sandy shade of the raw material. Other colour finishes are also seen, but we must remember that the dyeing process usually strains the capacity of the fibres, which affects the lifespan of the product. Therefore, good quality products are almost exclusively found in the aforementioned natural shades.
It's no secret that the hat has fallen out of favour over the last few decades, and yet until quite recently it was still a garment that you never left home without. As advocates of classics - but practical ones at that - we are trying to redeem this graceful piece of headgear a little. In summer, men reach for a variety of headwear, most often baseball caps.
However, panama hats must be given a chance, especially if you don't usually wear those. It's a very good and accessible starting point into the world of hats - even if you don't decide later on other year-round hat variants, the panama will definitely stay with you for the sunny seasons.
Although for a hat, it is insanely versatile - we can experiment with combinations of sportswear and panama. We're going to focus on an area that is a little more safe, i.e. classic. All things considered, such a hat goes well with any summer styling with a sports jacket, complementing it and giving it a summer chic, elegant but not fussy look. So here we can utilise all manner of linen blazers, wool tropicals or even marine, navy blazers.
The hat's grosgrain trim always gives us extra scope when it comes to colour coordination - we can always link it to another item of clothing, such as a tie or trousers. It will be a very interesting addition to an outfit worn at weddings in the countryside or garden style, which have become so popular in recent years, as a complement to, for example, a brown linen suit. The panama is also seen as a characteristic element of the "holiday" style and therefore part of a casual and comfortable outfit.
Without hesitation, we can wear loose, airy linen trousers and an equally casual pop over or polo shirt, topped off with a panama hat and espadrilles. You could try something even more beachy - a terry cloth shirt, swim shorts and a panama to match. It's time for an evening meal in an atmospheric Italian town, and we're feeling a little... inadequate in a t-shirt?
A light, summer-appropriate blazer, chinos or cropped trousers and a panama will check all the boxes, as a set that is elegant yet not overdone. And because of how 'casual' a hat the panama is, let's not be afraid to experiment.
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