Since it is more about material than shape or design, the Panama hat can be made using different weaving methods from the simplest to the most complex that guarantee their quality. However , by opposition with a lot of exceptional accessories from arts and crafts, no universal scale, no standardized grading system make it possible to determine the quality of a Panama hat and there are nearly as many methods of classification than there are retailers.

Some use a grading system from 1 to 20, others give designations such as ‘FinoFino’ and ‘Superfino’ but even within these designations the characteristics they refer to are not the same and change according to the retailer and including quite disparate qualities. And yet some norms exist that enable to qualify the requirements prior to the manufacture of hats and that make the Panama an iconic and essential item out of time and out of fashion. These are also the reasons why there are so many price differences.


Cuenca, Brisa or Montecristi, whether the weave is in a herringbone-like pattern, crisscrossed or intricate, the quality of a Panama hat is defined by the tightness of the weave. Indeed, it determines both the fineness and the softness of a hat but also the time that a weaver put in to the hat. Each number of rows of weave per square centimetre multiplied by two means an increase up to four times longer to make the hat.The denser the weave is the better quality for the hat. What’s more, the finer the straw is – which means fine-tuned by the weaver’s nail when he was separating the straw in thin strands –the longer the hat-making process - sometimes more than one year – and more exceptional the hat will be.

Harmony and excellence requiredQUALITY OF THE WEAVING

If the fineness of the weave is important to judge the value of a Panama hat, the quality of the weave is also very important as it determines the know-how, the skills and the qualification of the hat weaver.

Indeed, it is possible to hold a hat up to the light and to appreciate its regularity, its opacity, its uniformity, the homogeneity of the weave following a straight line. Nevertheless, one should not forget that a Panama hat is entirely hand-made. It is a human creation and thus naturally imperfect. It is important to be able to recognize harmony and excellence that are visible in a Panama hat but not forget the tiniest defects that make it be a singular, timeless and unique item.

Consistency and harmonyCOLOUR OF THE HAT

Appreciating the colour of a Panama is quite more subjective than just counting the rows of weave per square centimetre or than observing their straightness. The colour, sometimes with hint of red or grey straw, can vary from one Panama to the other or from one strand to the other. Nevertheless, it is possible to appreciate the colour of an exceptional Panama hat through the overall consistency or the general harmony that radiate from it. This impression of harmony is also due to the skilled bleaching process at the last steps of its making.

Half bleached, yellow straw or violineA COLOUR THAT CHANGES OVER TIME

In Cuenca, Panama hats are immersed in peroxyde until they turn to a pure white colour contrasting with the yellowish colour of the straw. Cuenca creations can also be half bleached, natural straw colour or violine. The Panama hats Montecristi are a little more ivory in colour, obtained by fumigation of sulphur bleaching them just a little bit in a uniform colour. Since the structure of the straw in itself is respected in the making process of Panama hats Montecristi, those latter may slightly darken over time as a respectable sign of maturity.

A unique traditional know-howFROM ROSE TO VUELTAS

Any genuine Panama hat, hand-made in Ecuador, can be recognised from its industrial cousins by a rose on the top part of its crown, the starting point of the weaving and a guarantee of this unique traditional know-how.

To really detail Panama hats whose quality seems identical, it is also possible to hold the hat up to the light and to count the number of rings named vueltas which represent the different moment when it was necessary to add a new strand of straw to weave on the hat, indicating thus the quantity of fibres used for the weaving. A high number of vueltas - up to 45 for the high standard Panamas – will be the proof of a best quality hat with a fine and tight weaving.