Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Panama Hat - Made in Ecuador???

As I´m sure you are all asking, why is it called a Panama hat if it is produced in Ecuador? Not to worry, the Shapiroadventures.com team has found the answer!! But first, here is an ancient Ecuadorian torture device used to slowly pierce the brain through the skull and then extract it!!

Just kidding, this device is used to measure the size of the head of the future Panama hat wearer. Panama hats are made from a certain type of palm leaf, the leaves are basically cooked in such a way that the fibers are easily separated and then women in local villages weave them into hats. They come in many varieties from a simple hat that costs about $20-$30, all the way up to the extrafine variety which can cost nearly $1000 or more. The quality of the hat is determined primarily by the size of the palm fibers. Smaller fibers allow for a much tighter weave but require much more work, and the smaller fibers last longer and are more durable. According to our tour guide, a Panama hat maker can make five or six of the cheap hats in a week, whereas the extrafine hats can take up to three weeks to weave. After the women weave the hats, they sell them to the main factory here in Cuenca where the hats are treated, measured, shaped, and sometimes died for style. Historically the hats were shaped on a marble or stone and hammered into shape. Nowadays they use this machine to press the hats using heated aluminum and hydraulic pressure.

After the hat is treated and shaped, a tag is sewn into it with the name of the factory and size. The hat is either then exported, or put onto someone´s head in the store in the factory.

And you are all probably still wondering why is this Ecuadorian-made hat called a Panama hat? During the time that the Panama canal was being built, the workers needed really good hats because of the sunny conditions in Panama. It turned out that they had their pick of hats because of all the import and export business that goes on in Panama. They ended up using these Ecuadorian hats and since many of the initial hats were exported out of Ecuador via Panama, they took on the name Panama hat.

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