D bar J visited the town of Montecristi, Ecuador, in February 2020, in search of quality Straw Bodies to import, and make hats for our hat shop. Our current bodies are woven in Ecuador, as are all Panama Straws, and make great Cowboy hats, but people were asking for a better quality Straw Hat.
All of the people in the town of Montecristi know how to weave hats, and they make many qualities of woven straw. Some people think that all hats made in Montecristi would be too expensive to own. After roaming the town, asking a lot of questions, and looking at the various qualities of weaves, we found Fino Quality hats that we believe are reasonably priced for the average hat wearer.
Most people, who want a Montecristi hat, want one because they know Montecristis are the finest quality Panama hats in the world. They also probably know a bit about how Panama Hats are woven and graded, and therefore, are willing to pay more for a better quality product. We did hold a SuperFino straw body in our hands, which took over 6 months to weave. A finished hat in that quality would cost more than 99.99% of our customers would be willing to pay for a hat. It was incredibly amazing to see and feel! Needless to say, we didn't bring one home.
Many of you have probably purchased the "boxed, foldable" Panamas, while on vacation, that say "Montecristi" on them. They ARE actually woven in Montecristi, but the locals consider them a "one use hat". That is probably why you can't get them back into a good shape, and then bring them to us to "fix".
We met many weavers in Montecristi, and after weighing the options of importing the bodies and making the hats, or importing the finished product, we decided to bring the finished hats to you at a reasonable price. After they weave the bodies, they use presses to set the crease, so each crease will be identical.
Our initial order includes Fedoras, Gamblers and a few Ladies Sun Hats, all Fino Quality. If there is an interest, we will expand our selection of styles, and the quality of the hat weave. The speciality in Montecristi is smaller hats. We can order big hat bodies to make the better quality "big cowboy hats". We didn't see one "Cowboy Hat" in Montecristi. The straw bodies we currently use are woven in Ecuador, but not in the town of Montecristi. (They chuckled at my straw hat)
Why are Straw Hats that are woven in Ecuador, called Panama Straw hats and not Ecuador Straw hats? It is very simple. Ecuador is a small country, and they could not sell all of their hats locally, so they exported them to Panama, where a lot of tourists would visit. When the tourists got home with their hats, people would say "I like that hat, where did you get it?". "Panama", was their reply...Hence, the Panama Hat !!