Actually it’s Ecuadorian…

After the disappointingly flat coastline, Cuenca was a pleasant surprise and we settled in at Posada Todos Santos, home to South America’s best hot shower (according to Joydrive!).

Panama Hats in Ecuador

We wandered the cute streets and came across more than a few Panama Hat shops.  I know…isn’t the Panama Hat from Panama?

Old school hat sizer

Actually, the Panama Hat is and has always been from Ecuador.  Here it is known as a sombrero de paja toquilla to Ecuadorians. This rather large misnomer all started back in the 1800s when the Spanish realized the exceptional quality of these hats and started exporting them via Panama. Then, in the early 19th century the workers on the Panama Canal started to use the same hats as protection from the powerful sun and, lo and behold, the hat quickly became known as the “Panama Hat”.

Hats drying

The Panama Hat can take anywhere from a week to three months to make depending on the quality.  Hats are graded into four categories depending on their weave: standard, superior, fino (fine) and superfino (superfine).  You can buy a standard hat between $10 to $15USD but if you are in the market for a superfino expect to pay upwards of $400 USD.  The best quality hats can hold water and be rolled up to fit through a man’s wedding ring, bouncing back to their original shape!

A hat for Kels... nope

Even cooler, the locals get their hats cleaned and repaired at shops around the city and seeing walls of white hats, each with a name tag attached, it was easy to see how important the Panama Hat is to the Ecuadorian community.

How do they keep them straight?

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  1. Nomadic Matt’s avatar

    i learned something completely new today!

  2. Brittni’s avatar

    Actually I didn’t want to comment on this one, but just wanted to tell you that I just found a “joydrive” sticker in my hotel in Cartagena! Did you stay at Hotel Marlin or do you just hand out your stickers to people? haha. That’s so cool that I found your sticker, but sucks that we passed each other! I’ve been really looking forward to meeting up with you guys and think about you every once and a while, but, to be honest, haven’t looked at your blog in a while. It looks like we passed each other between Quito and Cali, Colombia because I was in Quito on July 11th, but then did a straight shot to Cali because my brother and boyfriend have been really anxious to get to the beaches here. Hope your having a good time on the beaches in Ecuador! Keep it joyful!

  3. tom’s avatar

    Hey Brittni – Good to hear from you.

    Awesome that you found one of our stickers … we named our little car Marlin, so couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay at Hotel Marlin. We made the stickers in Panama and have been sneakily putting them around.

    Hope you’re doing well and rocking it dark horse styles.