The Style Icon that is the Panama Hat.

Posted on by Lizzie Watson

The style icon that is the Panama Hat, has fixed its place firmly in the British sporting event world. It's a perfect travel accessory with a history as unique as their iconic design. But what are the origins of this mighty hat, and why do we love it so?

Our story begins in the 1880's during the construction of the Panama Canal. Lightweight hats made of straw fibre with wide brims were worn by workers to protect them from the heat of the sun. When President Theodore Roosevelt wore one during his visit to the Canals in 1906, it took the world by storm, and from that moment, this humble, dutiful hat became known as the "Panama hat" - a reference to the Panama Canal and not to Panama itself, as the hats are made in Ecuador where their traditional birthplace is a town called Montecristi. 

 Teddy Roosevelt wears the Panama Hat

Teddy Roosevelt visits the Panama Canal in 1906

This cottage industry produces hand-woven, artisan hats, by weavers who are masters at their craft. The straw is selected for thickness, flexibility, strength, and colour, and weavers will work as they walk, cook and tend to their businesses. The skill involved in creating a unique fold-able weave is a mark of their mastery.

The weave on the top of the hat is unique to the weaver, and this spiral of rings spanning out from the apex of the crown determines its quality, as well as fanning our adoration for such beautiful craftsmanship.



Christys’ imports its Panama hat hoods directly from Ecuador in their original rough coned shape, and their summer collection is a celebration of the versatility of this hand-woven Toquilla straw material.

UNESCO - who promote cultural heritage and the equal dignity of all cultures and strengthen bonds among nations - added the art of hand weaving the toquilla straw hat to the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, and as Christys naturally identifies with this unique craft they continue to make the Ecuadorian Panama the backbone of all their summer collections, as they have done for over a century.

They are then shaped, blocked and finished by hand in the UK to the highest traditional standards. 

The raw Panama hat sits over steam for a few moments

The freshly steamed Panama hats are pressed into moulds.


Each Panama may start life on the coastal plains of Ecuador, but a Christys classic bleached, semi-bleached or natural Panamas are true works of art, and their inherent understated style epitomizes the classic British summer. They have become a staple part of summer dressing and are frequently seen at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, Henley Regatta and Royal Ascot. 

Stella McCartney made wearing a Panama hat effortlessly chic when she attended Wimbledon.

If you're looking for a classic bleached white hat for a garden party or a sky blue one for drinking cocktails by the sea, the Panama is style personified - like a watch, pocket square or scarf, the final touches to an outfit can be the most effective.  




We think every Panama is worthy of a place in your wardrobe, but if you're looking for an original iconic one, then the Classic Preset has a Christys' emblem of heritage and quality which was established in 1876 as one of the first ever global trademarks. This is quality you can take with you on every adventure and it will last you a lifetime.