There is something about a woman in a hat, something that says style and mystery, with an air of fashion. Travelers to the warmer parts of Latin America, unused to the sun and its glare, are quick to find shade under a wide brim. Forget the baseball hats and the floppy Tilley-style Australian exports: find something that says “I’m special and I’m different.”
Gautemala produces their own version of fiber-woven ‘˜panama’ style hats, with a Mayan twist thrown in, but the better quality hats are still imported from Ecuador. Mexico produces a series of cowboy style sombreros but they’re usually heavily lacquered.
The finest straw hats in the world are known as”Montecristi’s”. Hats so fine, they almost defy description. Montecristi panama hats are made from toquilla straw, from a specific variety of a palm, hand-split into strands not much thicker than thread and woven so finely, at first a panama hat appears to be made from linen. Masterpieces of detail, the edges of these panama hats are woven back into the brim,and are never trimmed and sewn like lesser quality panama hats. Each panama hat is woven by a single artisan, hand-blocked, and takes months to complete. Because there are so few master weavers of panama hats left (two generations ago there were 2000 panama hat weavers; today there are about 20 weavers of panama hats), these works of woven art are becoming lost art, as in forever. Buy the best you can afford and treasure the history. Besides that, you’ll be looking excellent.