A hat comes in from the cold: Hester Lacey on the summer of the Panama

THE CLASSIC straw Panama hat has lost its fuddy-duddy image. Much in evidence at Wimbledon and Henley, it is the hat to be seen in this summer.

'There won't be any left at all by the end of the season,' said Joanne Atkins of the Hat Shop in Covent Garden, London. It has already run out of Latin American imports. Some 60,000 Panamas were brought to Britain by the largest importer this summer (it was fewer than 4,000 in 1985) and imitations are made here.

'They are popular with everyone,' Ms Atkins said. 'I sold three today, one to a man of 24 and one to a young lady, as well as one to a man of 70.' The Genuine Panama Hat Company, a mail-order firm, put this down to 'sun protection, and nostalgia'.

The Yellow Pages advert in which a cricket umpire picks up his new Panama in Cheltenham on his way to the Test has also played a part.

One Panama devotee of 40 years' standing is delighted to find himself suddenly so fashionable: 'I wear mine all summer whenever I'm outdoors. I also sometimes wear it indoors when I am watching Wimbledon on the television, to get that summery sporty feel.'

Panama hats in fact come from Ecuador, where fine straw is hand-woven into the distinctive close-meshed sombrero de paja toquilla, as it is known locally. 'But,' as the Genuine Panama Hat Company spokesman pointed out, 'if you ask for an Ecuador hat no one will know what you're talking about.'

The genuine article is so strong and flexible that it can be folded into a pocket or storage tube without losing its shape.

Panamas have existed since the 16th century, but became popular further afield when they were adopted by the US Army in the Caribbean at the turn of the century. Edward VII made them fashionable in Britain when he wore one to Goodwood.

Today's Panama ranges from the ultimate pounds 500 hat in finest Montecristi Ecuadorean straw, from London hatters Locks of St James's, through folding versions from the Hat Shop ( pounds 75) to the Hat Shop's day-trip version that, at pounds 4.95, has never been near Latin America.

Controversy rages over the exact shape for the chic-est Panama. Johnnie Boden, a mail-order seller, makes a point of wider brims. 'Small brims look awful,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones