The surprising journey of a Panama hat, from field to head

A New York photographer traces the creation of an iconic topper

Panama hats
(Image credit: (Steve Remich))

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."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

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.

**See more of Steve Remich's work via his website and follow him on Instagram**

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us