The history of Panama hat goes as far back to the 16th century when it was considered a cottage industry within the coastal communities of Ecuador. These straw hats were traded through the isthmus in Panama that was the gateway to eastern America and Europe. The popularity of this hats grew with visiting hat makers from these regions that were captivated by the fine quality of the weaves. Hence it was coined the Panama hat due to the point of trade instead of the country of origin.
U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing a Panama hat when he visited the construction of the Panama Canal, and thereafter the signature of a delicately weaved straw hat with a black band rose to its iconic status of today. The Panama hat became the signature style of elegance and sophistication amongst the social elite whilst discovering new worlds; often spotted on the heads of adventurers’ in films.
In 2016, the artisans in Ecuador received recognition from UNESCO when they were included in the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as efforts to safeguard the craft.