Dick Carroll on The Armoury Panama Hats

Our local hat aficionado, Dick Carroll, gives his thoughts on The Armoury's latest Panama hat selections.

I’ve always worn hats, I actually have a family history in millinery, and the Panama has an enduring quality, a wearability, that other hats somehow lack. I sold hats for seven years in Sydney, I put a lot of heads in a lot of Panamas, and when I was asked to pen a short piece about our new stock, I had to do it. This season we ordered two beautiful, and quite different, Panama hats, a classic superfino Montecristi and a textured crochet weave fedora.

The Crochet weave adds a casual rugged durability that takes a traditional Panama several years of patina to wear in. The brighter blue grosgrain ribbon brings a bit of vibrancy and the frayed ends create a more relaxed vibe. Good for a first hat wearer wanting to experiment, or to add some colour to your summer wardrobe.

The Montecristi superfino is a serious hat, truly one of the finest weaves in the world, its supple, flattering and surprisingly light. We had ours made with a very dark navy grosgrain band instead of the usual black to add a little depth and visual interest. A classic 2 ¾” brim that is wide enough to keep out of the sun but not ostentatious, and a slightly square, teardrop, crown will suit most heads. They look as at home with a rumpled polo shirt as with a three-piece suit, and the superfino quality is so light you’ll likely forget you're wearing it in either case.

I could go on and on about how these hats are painstakingly hand woven by Ecuadorian masters, using straw from the native palm “carludovica palmata,” or about how they are so soft and light you barely feel them on the head. But Panamas really speak for themselves, and they are surprisingly easy to wear. Maybe it’s the material, the simple fact that a straw hat says, I’m wearing this to protect myself from the sun. And to an untrained eye that’s all it is. But to those in the know, the beautiful, slightly textured weave, the subtle colour variation in the hand-pulled fibres, the ever so slightly unruly nature of the shape. It’s a Panama.

As an ex hat salesman, I’ve heard it all and common questions include, “Can I roll it up?” (not really) “Shouldn’t it be tighter?” (it shouldn’t, it will tighten over time) “How do I maintain the shape?” (steam and a small amount of moisture help keep the straw supple, lots of moisture doesn’t), but the best way to get a true understanding and appreciation of these hats is to come by the store and try one on. Ask us some questions in person. We will get you hatted up in no time.

Our hats are also available online. Check out our What's New section to choose the right Panama hat for you.