History of the hat

Panama hats are an iconic symbol of Ecuador, yet their name is associated with Panama.
So why are they called ‘Panama Hats’?
There are several theories as to how the straw hats got their name; and it’s likely that each theory has contributed in some way.
One thesis is Panama’s key location.
During the 1800’s Ecuador saw little tourism or trade, unlike Panama - the main link between North and South America. Because of this, many exported their hats to Panama to be sold to passing tourists, as well as to be shipped internationally, thus gaining the name 'Panama Hat'. 

Another theory is due to the ‘Gold Rush’ in 19th Century. Popularity of the hats grew when miners travelled to California via the Isthmus of Panama. Many bought the straw hats while passing through, and referred to them as their as 'Panama Hat'.


In 1881, the 23-year project to build the Panama Canal began. Many of the workers wore the hats to fend off the strong tropical sun, also adding to its association with Panama. These hats were perfect for the job since they are lightweight and breathable.


The Panama hat gained even more fame when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed in one of the hats while visiting the Panama Canal construction in 1906.



The photo was widely published in the U.S. and his new accessory was mistakenly called a Panama hat; from that moment on the name “Panama Hat” really stuck.