Friday, March 15, 2013


The OPTIMO crown panama hat is a classic style. In its native Equator it is simply called The Natural.
The Natural is simply an unblocked panama body that the wearer rolls up and sticks in his pocket when he does not feel like wearing it. After a few roll-ups the crown takes on a natural crease.
The OPTIMO crown panama became the hat of choice for British expats and British Empire builders. They wore it throughout the tropical Empire from Malaysia to Hong Kong to India, usually with a gin and tonic in their hand. They wore the OPTIMO crown panama hat to ward of sun stroke, the gin to ward off boredom and the tonic to ward off malaria with a slice of lemon for vitamin c. To this day the OPTIMO crown panama is more popular in the UK than in the USA.

The original OPTIMO crown hats of the 1800s were not made of PANAMA but were TAMSUI hats, made from Taiwanese (Formosa) Pandanus odorattssimus fiber. Tamsui hats retained their whiteness, were washable and could be folded and carried about without damage. The Tamsui hat was replaced by the panama hat in the early 1900s when the panamas popularity increased.
I am sure these panama hat wearing gentlemen were seen, swaggering around London on trips home, by a hatter who saw a hat trend and made an OPTIMO crown hat block to cash in on the look.
So here is how an OPTIMO crown panama hats works.

There are of course many grades of Panama. This one from Debenhams is low quality but it will get you through a weekend at Brighton.

Fold the hat in on itself, along the crease of the crown.

Roll it up into a cone shape.

Unroll and it should bounce back into its original shape

CAVEAT EMPTOR : Do not roll up an expensive GENUINE panama hat. Do not believe it if a hat store tells you can do it. It might bounce back a few times but in the end it will crack. Panama is a palm like leaf that will dry out over time. If you bend steel enough times it will break and so will a straw hat. This is why many hat store have sings "DO NOT PICK UP HATS BY THE CROWN".