It’s summer (on June 21, anyway), and it’s the season of bright sun and warm, or hot, days. Almost every men’s magazine or blog is extolling the virtues of a straw hat—-especially the Panama, which of course is woven in Ecuador—-and for good reason. A good hat will keep the sun’s rays out of one’s eyes and protect the skin of the face, and balding heads, from the ravages of our otherwise friendly star.
The Panama, which has gone in and out of fashion ever since the building of the Panama Canal (hence its name), seems more popular than ever, and there are now a myriad of styles that may well be woven in Ecuador but are nothing like what bosses wore with their linen suits at the turn of the last century. Not that there’s anything wrong with a straw hat of any kind—-not even those made in China, sometimes of paper and not straw—-but there’s something to be said about a real Panama; a hat that will outlast fashion trends and you might even be able to hand down to your progeny. Male or female.
Genuine Panamas, especially Montecristis, can cost a fortune, and depending on the hatmaker or milliner one might even spend in the thousands of dollars for a weave so fine that the hat feels like a superior cloth—-and yes, you can indeed roll those up. But there are fine Panamas at far more affordable cost, from venerable houses such as Borsalino, that can still last a lifetime and look as good as anything you might see on the Rue Faubourg or Madison Avenue. This one is classically shaped fedora, with a tan band (rather than the traditional black), and wearing it either brim up or brim down (in harsh sunlight) can be either a statement of fashion, or just pure whim. Hats are fashionable, yes, but they are functional too. And the function is to help keep a cool head and block the sun—-so if you’re blocking the sun, it’s good to remember that wearing sunglasses with a straw hat is still somewhat gauche, for the same reason, say, as wearing suspenders with a belt.