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History of Straw hats & Felt hats - Straw dress hats

History of Straw hats and Felt hats - Dress hatsMen's dress hats, such as the boater, homburg and fedora, all of which came into vogue towards the end of the 1800s, marked the emergence of a new social informality and a less rigid class structure.

By the early 1900s, straw boaters were widely worn in the summer months, by both the middle and the working class.

The boater, a stiff straw hat with a moderately deep, flat-topped crown encircled by a petersham ribbon and a flat narrow brim, was universally popular with men and women for the country, the seaside and boating. From 1880-1920, the boater was a requisite for the tennis court and picnic, and worn by men and women alike for casual summer wear. Another hat worn by the seaside was the helmet, made of cloth with a small brim and a helmet-shaped sectional crown.

The humble sublimity of the straw hat swept with all its glory through the 1890s—1920s. The boater, so called because it originally topped off the striped blazer and flannel trouser outfit worn by young men while rowing, developed into the universal style for both men and women. American men wore the boater with a modest brim, slightly tilted on the head in a cocky mode, embellished only with a wide, striped grosgrain or silk hatband.

The evolution of modern straw dress hats is marked by important changes which took place in the middle 1930s. Summer headwear, which had previously been merely cool-looking became, cool and comfortable on the head. Paralleling the shift from hard derbies to soft hats in felts, the emphasis shifted from hard straws to soft straws.

Some of the better known soft straws are Open-weave Panama, New braids, Hanoki, Hemp, Peanit, Leghorn, Baku, Bangkok, and Madagascar.

The popularity of the Panama straw dress hat soared at the start of the 20th century when a photograph of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sporting a stylish fino appeared in the world press. The demand for the chic hat rose. Prominent companies around the globe began distributing them. In Turkey, modernization laws banned the traditional fez in 1925 and mandated the use of Panama hats. By 1944 the Panama hat had become Ecuador's primary export item.

By the second half of the 20th century, the popularity of hats waned. Yet, Ecuador's finely woven Panama hats maintained their mystique. Indeed, expert hatters throughout the world compete for premium grade specimens. Famous people from bygone eras to our day have been captivated by the elegance of the Panama hat. It has graced the heads of Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, Humphrey Bogart, and Michael Jordan, to name but a few.

Of course, there are inexpensive mass produced imitations of the genuine Panama. However, many of these crack; others do not breathe. In contrast, the genuine Panama is light and airy, and it lasts a lifetime. Each is hand woven and therefore is one of a kind. Prices range from a few dollars for the coarser hats to over $1,000 for the rarest, the superfinos of Montecristi. Quality is determined by the fineness and regularity of the weave as well as the consistency of color. But always remember this: A genuine Panama hat is made only in Ecuador.

After some time away from the fashion scene, Panama hats are now coming back with a vengeance, and there's no better way to tell the world that you're a powerful man who recognizes the importance of image, than by choosing a panama dress hat that suits you.

Evolution of Straw dress hats - read more
Felt dress hats - read more


History of Straw hats and Felt hats furnishes enlightening detail, beginning with interesting accounts of dress hats in the early years, through the roaring 20's gangster fedoras, includes features on golf and movie celebrities' hats, and highlights some original and contemporary hatmakers.