Panama Hat Day
Did you know that May 15th is Panama Hat Day? I know this only because, religiously, on May 15th my father would switch from his felt fedora to his Panama Hat which was basically a straw fedora with perhaps a lightly wider brim. My father wore a hat year-round as did many men of that time. But…he would never, ever wear a hat inside. I shudder to think what would have happened had he seen those of following generations casually wear hats inside, worse yet at the dinner table. Once I even saw a boy wearing a baseball cap in church, and I had all I could do to keep from going over and flicking it off his head as I think my father would have done.
So about that Panama hat… What is known as the Panama hat actually originated in Ecuador , probably in the 17th century. It is a brimmed straw hat woven from the braided leaves of a palm-like plant. But since the hats were shipped to the Isthmus of Panama before being shipped to Asia, the Americas, and Europe, they became known as Panama hats by 1834. California Gold Rush miners popularized the hat which became even more popular when Teddy Roosevelt was pictured in one in 1904 while visiting the Canal.
Creating a Panama hat involves weaving and blocking. There is a grading system based on the number of weaves per inch. A Panama hat of the finest quality containing as many as 1600 -2500 weaves per square inch, can hold water, and when rolled for storage, can pass through a wedding ring according to Christian Oliver , writing for Reuters in 2007.
No doubt my father’s hat was mass-produced, but it had a mystique about it, and I was always excited to see him take it out of a special hat box and don it for the season on May 15th.
© Dorothy C. Judd
Next post: Monday, May 18th