The Panama Hat Story


The Panama hat holds an iconic status around the world.  Its legend is associated with an elegant and refined lifestyle, recognised by young and old.

Authentic Panama hats actually come from another South American country, Ecuador. But they are not called “Ecuador hats” because Panama is where the market was developed, before and during the construction of the Panama Canal. Their origin is even older and more romantic than that – the conquering Spaniards of the 16th century discovered the production of this unique straw hat – also know as a toquilla – in the high mountains of the Andes. 





Developed over centuries, there are still two main processes involved in the creation of a Panama hat – weaving and blocking. Coastal farmers harvest fibres from a specific palm tree, which is then boiled and dried. 


Bella Blu Hats Craftmanship


After weavers select the best silky straw at market, they begin with the crown, then sides, and lastly brim – which Ecuadoreans call the wings of a hat. There are several thousand artisans who use techniques that have been handed down over the years – and their skill was recognized when handmade toquilla hats were added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2012.  They transform the toquilla straw into something legendary.


Bella Blu Hats Craftmanship


The “raw” hats with unfinished edges are taken to market, where they are bought by wholesalers.


Bella Blu Hats Craftmanship

The hat's brim edge is either naturally woven or is cut to the right length and the hat hood is then bleached, dried in the sun, and may be given a colour bath.  
Lastly the shape is formed using heat. The family that makes Bella Blu’s hats has been in the trade for over five generations, working from the mountain city of Cuenca.

The finished product is strong, lightweight and breathable. The elegance of the hat is contained in its natural form, so fine and perfect already. A simple band of black ribbon is the traditional trim, but modern hats carry a range of colours and patterns that can add character to the hat. 

The popularity of Panama hats surged in the 19th and 20th centuries, becoming a symbol of relaxed refinement in America and Europe. Photographs of movie stars and politicians alike contributed to the legend of the Panama Hat. 

Today, wearing a Panama hat still conveys that classic style.



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