How to take care of your (Panama) Straw hat ?

Your straw hat especially if he is made of panama straw needs care and is prone to damage under erratic weather conditions.

It requires careful handling even when it is not being used.

If your hat is made from toquilla straw, it becomes delicate once it dries out from excessive use or prolonged exposure to the sun, such as leaving the hat in a hot car.

WHAT IS TOQUILLA STRAW ?


The toquilla straw hat is woven from fibers from a palm tree characteristic of the Ecuadorian coast.

Coastal farmers cultivate the toquillales and harvest the stems before separating the fibre from the green outer skin. This is boiled to remove chlorophyll and dried for subsequent bleaching with sulfur over a wood fire. Weavers take this raw material and begin weaving the crown and the brim of the hat. Weaving a hat can take from one day to eight months, depending on the quality and finesse.

In Pile, a costal community, weavers produce extra fine hats that require specific climatic conditions and involve an exact number of points in each row of weaving.

The process is completed by washing, bleaching, moulding, ironing and pressing. The weavers are mostly peasant families and transmission of weaving techniques occurs within the home from an early age through observation and imitation.


The skills and knowledge enfold a complex and dynamic social fabric including traditional techniques of cultivation and processing, forms of social organization, and use of the hat as part of everyday clothing and in festive contexts. It is a distinctive mark of the communities perpetrating this tradition and part of their cultural heritage.



More info: https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/traditional-weaving-of-the-ecuadorian-toquilla-straw-hat-00729


MAINTAINING YOUR PANAMA HAT

It needs to be brushed periodically to retain its appearance. Use a soft  brush to remove dust from your hat. Brushing your hat prevents dirt from settling down into the fibers, which can permanently darken the appearance of your Panama hat over time. Clean your hat once a week to avoid permanent staining.

Next, maintain the shape of your Panama hat by being careful of how you pick it up and put it down. When you pick up your hat, use the brim rather than the crown of the hat. When you put it down, put it with the crown facing down to avoid distorting the shape of the brim. If you do need to straighten the brim of your hat, you can iron it on low heat with a cloth between the iron and the hat to prevent the delicate fibers of the hat from burning.

STORING YOUR HAT

Proper storage of your hat can prolong its lifetime and avoid damage to its overall shape and color. A Panama hat needs to be kept in a cool, dark place when you are not wearing it. The straw fibers are sensitive to extreme temperatures, so storing it in places such as the back of the car on a hot day is a bad idea. Extreme heat will cause the fibers to dehydrate and crack, leading to a frayed appearance. If your hat is subjected to hot weather, spraying your hat with water from time to time will prevent the fibers from cracking.

When it’s time to take off your Panama hat for the day, place it on a hat rack or a block specifically made for storing hats. Leaving your hat on a flat surface will cause it to bow in the front and the back.

PREVENT STAINS

You can avoid make-up and sweat stains using  a hat sweat liner - usually self-adhesive that you could stick at the front and eventually all around your hat crown. It will remain completely invisible, it will bring you comfort and will protect your hat long term.

 

 

 

 

PANAMA HAT DRYING

Dry your hat upside down and with the brim in it’s desired shape.
If drenched, the hat needs to be dried out with care – under the sun but not in direct sun and without applying artificial heat as it could wilt the straw and change its color.

When you dry it out, make sure to store it in the correct shape, so it doesn’t dry out in an irregular or different shape than it originally was.

WHY STRAW CRACKS

Usually you could observe the straw cracking on top of the hat on the front of the crown.

The reason why this spot cracks and tears so often is because of the way the hat has been handled on a daily basis. Picking up the hat by the crown dries out the straw in the area and adds stress to that spot. This is called pinching the hat.

 

 

GRAB HATS BY THE BRIM

To prevent the straw from cracking around the crown, try to always pick up your hat by the brim. The brim is much more flexible than the crown. The crown of Panama hats are usually stiff from blocking and from stiffeners. This makes the straw around the crown more brittle than the brim.

PREVENT CRACKING BY MOISTURIZING

The straw of your Panama hat can become brittle if it is too dry. Similar to leather, toquilla straw needs to be moisturized to extend its life.
One way to moisturize your hat is to purchase professional hat cleaner. Hat cleaner will clean dirt and stains from the straw and also moisturize the straw.

However, the most cost effective way to moisturize your hat is:
1. Keep your hat in the bathroom for few days as soon as you detect a lack of flexibility of the straw

2. Use baby wipes to clean and moisturize your hat:
Baby wipes contain small quantities of mild soap and the perfect amount of moisture. Cleaning your hat gently with baby wipes will keep your hat looking pristine and moisturized. Avoid leaving your hat in a hot car or near a window. 

IF THE STRAW CRACKS

Sometimes precautions only take you so far. When the day comes where there's a tear on your precious Panama hat, there isn't a need to panic. A small crack can and should be repaired. Neglecting to repair a small tear is like neglecting to repair a small windshield chip.
Eventually, the crack will grow until the hat becomes unwearable. If you notice a tiny crack forming, a slight dab of Elmer's glue or even of Silicon gel can help repairing it.
Additionally, you could apply some silicone patch to prevent the straw from cracking. Some Panama hats even come with repair strips to reinforced the crown and prevent tearing.