I enjoyed reading this excellent New York Times piece summarizing the current state of Panama hats, which, contrary to its name, originates in Ecuador.
The finest versions of this classic hat are made near the town of Montecristi. Traditional weaving of Panama hats involves no machines – just hands, eyes and enormous focus.
The author Roff Smith should be commended for putting the hatmaking artisans front and center in his article.
Trivia question: Did you know Panama hats are the only item in menswear to be recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage?
One day I look forward to making a visit to Ecuador and perhaps even meeting the artisans mentioned including Simón Espinal. His hats average a staggering 3,000 weaves per inch and he makes only 2-3 a year.
I think this quote by Espinal says it all – “You cannot allow your mind to wander even for a second. When you are weaving it is just you and the straw.”