History of Straw hats & Felt
hats - Straw dress hats
dress hats, such as the boater, homburg and fedora, all of which
came into vogue towards the end of the 1800s, marked the emergence
of a new social informality and a less rigid class structure.
By the early 1900s, straw boaters were widely worn in the summer months,
by both the middle and the working class.
The boater, a stiff straw hat with a moderately
deep, flat-topped crown encircled by a petersham ribbon and a flat
narrow brim, was universally popular with men and women for the country,
the seaside and boating. From 1880-1920, the boater was a requisite
for the tennis court and picnic, and worn by men and women alike
for casual summer wear. Another hat worn by the seaside was
the helmet, made of cloth with a small brim
and a helmet-shaped sectional crown.
The humble sublimity of the straw hat swept with
all its glory through the 1890s—1920s. The boater, so called
because it originally topped off the striped blazer and flannel trouser
outfit worn by young men while rowing, developed into the universal
style for both men and women. American men wore the boater with a
modest brim, slightly tilted on the head in a cocky mode, embellished
only with a wide, striped grosgrain or silk hatband.
The evolution of modern straw dress hats is marked
by important changes which took place in the middle 1930s. Summer
previously been merely cool-looking became, cool and comfortable
on the head. Paralleling the shift from hard derbies to soft hats
in felts, the emphasis shifted from hard straws to soft straws.
Some of the better known soft straws are Open-weave
Panama, New braids, Hanoki, Hemp, Peanit, Leghorn, Baku, Bangkok,
The popularity of the Panama straw dress hat soared
at the start of the 20th century when a photograph of U.S. President
Roosevelt sporting a stylish fino appeared in the world press. The
demand for the chic hat rose. Prominent companies around the globe
began distributing them. In Turkey, modernization laws banned the
traditional fez in 1925 and mandated the use of Panama hats. By 1944
the Panama hat had become Ecuador's primary export item.
By the second half of the 20th century, the popularity of hats waned.
Yet, Ecuador's finely woven Panama hats maintained their mystique.
Indeed, expert hatters throughout the world compete for premium grade
specimens. Famous people from bygone eras to our day have been captivated
by the elegance of the Panama hat. It has graced the heads of Winston
Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, Humphrey Bogart, and Michael Jordan,
to name but a few.
Of course, there are inexpensive mass produced imitations
of the genuine Panama. However, many of these crack; others do not
In contrast, the genuine Panama is light and airy, and it lasts a
lifetime. Each is hand woven and therefore is one of a kind. Prices
range from a few dollars for the coarser hats to over $1,000 for
the rarest, the superfinos of Montecristi. Quality is determined
by the fineness and regularity of the weave as well as the consistency
of color. But always remember this: A genuine Panama hat is made
only in Ecuador.
some time away from the fashion scene, Panama hats are now coming
back with a vengeance, and there's no better way to tell the
world that you're a powerful man who recognizes the importance
of image, than by choosing a panama dress hat that suits you.
Evolution of Straw dress hats - read more
Felt dress hats - read more