Brimming with Style

20th July 2023

The Panama hat is one of menswear’s hardy perennials – a classic go-to that adds a touch of panache to your look and is perfect for social occasions throughout the warmer months, from glamorous garden parties to the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Words by Laura Lovett.

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For something that can look so quintessentially English, the Panama hat has exotic roots, emerging in central America in the 16th century – though in Ecuador rather than Panama. Here it was discovered that the local paja toquilla plant was the perfect raw material for light but sturdy headgear that offered protection from the searing heat. In fact for much of the 19th century the hat was known internationally as a toquilla – the name change is generally attributed to the fact that US president Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one during a visit to Panama.

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In Europe, it was crowned heads that helped make the hat fashionable. During the 1850s, a Frenchman returning from Ecuador presented one to Napoleon III, while in England the Panama was popularised by King Edward VII, who wanted to find something a little more comfortable than a morning suit and top hat for the races at Goodwood.

Today, the hallmark of a truly great Panama hat remains its ability to travel well – and the best way to ensure that happens is by investing in a top-notch hand-made model. Goodwood’s Panamas are made by the venerable London hatmakers Christys’, who shape and block them in the UK, working from cones weaved in the traditional manner in Ecuador. They’re made to last, which means your Panama won’t just protect you from the summer sun this season – it’ll be around to do the same 20 years from now. So if you want to get ahead, get a hat.

The Goodwood Panama hat is available from the Goodwood online shop. Find more summer hat inspiration here.

This article was taken from the summer 2023 edition of Goodwood Magazine.

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