Glorified during the 19th century, the Panama has since been considered the prince of straw hats.
But a Panama hat is not from Panama. So why the name?
The traditional brimmed hat made from the plaited leaves of the toquilla straw plant is of Ecuadorian origin. Like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, the straw hats woven in Ecuador were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas, and Europe. For some products, the name of their point of international sale rather than their place of domestic origin stuck, hence “Panama hats.”
Known to hat enthusiasts simply as a “Panama”, they are also known as a Jipijapa (named for a town in Ecuador) one of the centers of the hat trade.