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ON TREND: Panama hats

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As any schoolboy knows, the Panama hat doesn’t actually come from Panama. No, it originated a few hundred kilometres further south in Ecuador. The name derives from its popularity during the building of the Panama Canal, particularly when President Roosevelt of the United States visited the construction site and sported his straw hat.

Ideal for the climate, Panama hats are made from the plaited leaves of the toquilla straw plant and, as a result, are generally lightweight, and breathable, so one’s head doesn’t get too sweaty.

Some of the very best are made in the Ecuadorian town of Montecristi. Made by hand, it is said they can hold water and when rolled up be passed through a signet ring.

In terms of styling, they look good with blazers or linen suits, and are part of the seasonal uniform worn during the English summer during Ascot, Henley and Wimbledon. A Panama hat can also be worn with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or with a dapper linen suit. You can dress it up or down, the overall effect is always fabulous.

If you are buying a good quality one, it is an investment, so here are some tips on how to make sure you get it right.

1. Check there are no small holes or gaps as a result of the weaving.

2. Make sure the texture and colour is uniform, and that the weave is even. Of course as they are hand woven there will be flaws, and the odd idiosyncrasy will just add to its charm, but beware of any major flaws.

3. Look for a hat that is strong yet pliable, that holds its shape but doesn’t seem synthetic or fake.

4. Always handle a Panama hat by its brim.

5. Never wear it in the rain; it will lose its shape, unless of course it’s a Montecristi.

6. When it comes to a hat, size really matters. If you don’t know your hat size then measure the circumference of your head from the middle of your forehead just above your ears to a midway point at the back of your head. Repeat the measurement a few times to make sure it’s accurate.

Where to buy a Panama hat

Hamac Dubai
The beachwear emporium, with branches across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, stocks a range of Panamas for men and women in a host of colours. Prices start at a reasonable AED335 and go up to AED650.
Contact: www.hamacdubai.com/stores

Roberto Cavalli
The Italian fashion designer has stores in Dubai Mall, The Beach (JBR), Mall of the Emirates and Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. Prices begin from AED875.
Contact: www.robertocavalli.com/store_locator/

Goe Hats
Available later this summer at Harvey Nichols – Dubai later this summer, Goe Hats are unique, hand- painted hats by Dubai resident, Tarsila Schubert. Originally hailing from Sao Paolo, Brazil, Tarsila has Tarsila lived in several different cities in Latin America, which has inspired her desire to create one-off versions of the iconic hat. She paints original artworks on each genuine Panama hat.
Gallery: www.instagram.com/goehats/

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