At the turn of the 19th century, the Panama hat entered America's sartorial stage atop a rather surprising host. President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing the classic white-and-black straw hat while inspecting progress on the Panama Canal. It has since become a fashion staple, perfect for those eye-squintingly bright summer days.
But, as New York photographer Steve Remich found, the name is a misnomer.
"I was in Ecuador (in 2009) with a friend for a project, and my colleague mentioned that Panama hats were in fact not originally from Panama, but from Ecuador," Remich said. "That sparked my interest."
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Remich was amazed to learn that no matter where the hats sell around the world or how high their price tag, their initial weaving is still done in the most traditional way.
"The hats' bodies are still woven by people who don't work in factories," Remich explained. "Weaving full time isn't economically viable, so it's just something that — primarily, but not exclusively — women do throughout their day, while doing other things. I hope when someone picks up a slick-looking Panama hat somewhere in Miami, he realizes that it could have been woven by an indigenous woman in the mountains of Ecuador."
Below, trace the Panama hat's journey from beginning to end, as captured in Remich's images. Also, check out the photographer's video of the process, here.
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