History of Straw hats & Felt
hats - Western straw hats
the mid 1800s, Ecuador, a South American country, was shipping its
exportable wares, including straw hats, to the Isthmus of Panama.
The hats were picked up by gold seekers crossing the isthmus overland as they rushed to
and from California. Clark Gable wore a classic Monte Carlo style panama straw
hat in the 1939 movie depicting the Civil War years, Gone with the
A wide variety of natural and synthetic materials
are used to make straw hats which give maximum comfort and pleasing
style. Some of the better known soft straws are Open-weave Panama, New braids,
Hanoki, Hemp, Peanit, Leghorn, Baku, Bangkok, and Madagascar.
Panama straws are body hats made of toquilla fiber,
which is woven in Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. Quality depends on
fineness and evenness of fiber and weave, cleanliness of fiber and
firmness of brim edge. The finest Panamas are woven in Monticristi,
New braids are too many to enumerate. Originally
most all came from the Orient. Today, an increasing number of new
and sturdy weaves are coming from South American and the West Indies.
Some are coming from Ecuador, and made of the Panama toquilla fiber,
some from the coconut palms of the Bahamas, some from the Virgin
Islands, and many from other tropical countries. Most have fine natural
color, others are dyed in desired shades.
Hanoki is a lightweight, open-weave body straw hat,
made of a Chinese wood fiber twisted into fine, ropelike strands,
and woven. It is offered under a variety of trade names, can
be blocked in a variety of felt hat shapes, and has a fine, mellow
Hemp material is light and resilient, and originates
in Manila. It is machine-woven into open-weave, porous bodies. Close
to 600 strands, each consisting of two or three twisted fibers, go
into the finished hat. The Sisol Hemp is hand-woven in the interior
of China, using Manila hemp.
The Split-Peanit is a body straw hat, hand-woven
of split fibers obtained from leaves of the pandan tree, a palmata-like
shrub that grows in Java. It is porous, light in weight, made of
a strong, durable fiber and moderately priced.
Leghorn is a featherweight, open-weave hat made
of specially cultured and woven wheat fiber, shipped from the port
of Leghorn, whence it gets its name. The finer, upper portion of
the the wheat stalk is plaited into Leghorn braid. This straw hat
is light, durable, clear and bright in color.
Baku is a body straw hat made of Philippine fiber
which is exported to China, and woven by Chinese experts. It is an
extremely lightweight, porous, fine-woven hat, having the appearance
of a fine mesh screen. In better weaves, it is also called Shantung.
Bangkok is another straw body hat made in the Philippine
Islands. The fiber is obtained by stripping strands of the Buri Palm
leaf into straws. The Buri Palm also supplies the fiber for Balibuntal
hats. Balibuntal fiber is extracted from the stem and mid-rib of
Madagascar is one of the lightest straw hats made,
and is produced from a porous, water-resistant cloth made of split
palm leaves, on the Island of Madagascar. Cloth is cut and sewed
in various hat shapes.
Although the above constitute the better-known straws,
there are many more.
back to Western felt hats