The History of the Panama Hat

Traditional weaving of the Ecuadorian Toquilla straw hat was inscribed in 2012 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


The craftsmanship of toquilla straw hats – Ecuador is a motherland of straw Panama hats.


Today a genuine Panama hat, also known as a toquilla straw hat, is a high-quality accessory that meets the stringent standards and great demands of consumers all around the world. Each hat is a masterpiece and a unique handmade work done by Ecuadorian craftsmen and craftswomen. 

Being comfortable, lightweight, breathable, a Panama hat is an integral part of any trip on a sunny day and a stylish element of fashionistas’ wardrobe.


It is widely believed that this headdress appeared in Panama as it is easy to be misled by its name. In fact, the first Panama hat appeared in the 15th century in Ecuador where, at that time, hat weaving production pervaded more throughout the highlands and coastal regions as an engaging part-time hobby.


Only in the 17th century, those rather sophisticated weaving practices became part of Panama hat creation and eventually gained worldwide popularity. In the 1880s, a construction company, that was building the Panama Canal, purchased a huge batch of straw hats for all the workers – the perfect solution for Caribbean West Indian workers that helped them to stand a burning sun.


That is where the name of a Panama hat derived from – in honor of the Panama Canal. However, in Ecuador, Panama hats are called “sombrero de paja toquilla” translated as “a hat made of toquilla reed straw”).


Luckily for this one-of-a-kind craftsmanship and the whole world, in 2012, the UNESCO committee decided on adding the art of weaving the traditional Ecuadorian toquilla hat to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. 

And luckily for us, we have a great opportunity to praise its creators and popularize a genuine Panama hat to each and every one.

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