Not just any straw hat, this. No, this is a straw hat made from undyed toquilla palm leaves — i.e. panama. It has a short, upturned brim, and a teardrop crown. It is very light and breathable — so much so it is easy to forget it is actually on your head. Always cool to the touch, too, and soft against the skin.
The making of the hat is one of the most breathtakingly skilful undertakings in all the world. The panama is boiled, dried, boiled, dried, boiled again, smoked over coals, dried in the sun — and then slit into thin strands of uniform width by fingernail, kept long and very sharp for just such a purpose.
The panama is then woven in a way unaltered in centuries. The artisan responsible begins with a clutch of strips, and again with fingers, laces them together. This takes several days — with first the crown woven, under pressure over a head-shaped form, and from another angle, the brim.
The hat is then blocked at the hat factory. This is a deceptively simple name given to the numerous, painstaking operations — across shaping, trimming, finishing, and cleaning — to give the hat its final shape. Not to be forgotten is the suede band, tacked to the hat by hand.
How to identify a hand-woven panama hat in one simple step: the concentric weave, here, spiralling out from the apex of the crown. This is done by hand with an accuracy and precision which is barely conceivable.