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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Panamas: 1919

Panamas: 1919

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Hat display, Saks & Co." Panama hats, and how they're made. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Hat Trick

My grandfather claimed that his Panama hat could be pulled through his wedding ring without being damaged. However, I never watched him try it.


They may not have sold many $100 hats, but folks that bought a $10 hat bought it from a store that sold $100 hats. Not a dime-store. And that carried some prestige, to folks that care about that. The concept is still is important to many people.

JFK in a hat

Odd the things that one's memory retains. I recall seeing one of those "on the lighter side" type new stories of the time, possibly on Huntley-Brinkley, with footage of JFK in a hat. Though in decline, the hat trade still had enough clout that their complaint that the President wasn't seen in one enough that, so the story went, he decided to mollify them by wearing on on occasion. It was one of those very narrow-brim fedoras, the kind you'd associate with ring-a-ding-ding-era Sinatra. On JFK it looked weird.

Can you imagine

an elaborate window display like this of baseball caps in 2010? No?

Large cranium

Might be the reason John F. Kennedy was seldom seen wearing hats. I had this problem myself. My head was measured at a size 8 and the only hat or cap I could find to fit was a large baseball cap worn on the last sizing notch. I always thought JFK had a similar malady.

Summer hats

These are the best hats to wear in the summer, keeps the sun off the face and ears, specially places like Australia where skin cancers are common. Nice, light and cool too.

The hats with crease in the crown are the Colonial style, the flat-tops are Montecristi, and a Fedora style is available today as well, the finer the weave the longer it takes to make a hat and more it costs, the $50 hat I bought from an eBay seller is far superior to those cheap straw hats, this has 130 weaves per square inch, right through to a $800 hat with 1,200 weaves per square inch.

JFK and hats

It's a canard that John F. Kennedy's hat-phobia was responsible for the decline in the popularity of men's hats. Hat sales had been in a steady decline for more than 20 years at the time of JFK's inauguration in early 1961. What's more, he wore a hat (the traditional top hat) during much of the inauguration, as many photographs clearly show.

A True Panama Hat

A true Panama hat is made in Ecuador not Panama. The name comes from the trans-shipment point of Panama where South American goods were often collected before shipment to their ultimate destination. Men traveling to the California Gold Rush bought the hats in Panama and gave them the name of the place where they bought them.

The Panama Hat industry is dying, as increasingly the hats are being undersold by cheaper paper based Chinese imitations. Hats are judged by the number and quality of weaves per inch. These days the best Panama Hats - the Montecristi superfinos, hand blocked in Ecuador - can sell for over $3,000 US according to one website I found.

Panama hats come from Ecuador

And well-made ones cost $400+ today.

And worth every dollar!

A true Panama hat is very light, very flexible, very cool and very expensive!


Looks like Saks was pretty proud of its merchandise; at a time when a can of soup was 12¢ a can, $100 was one expensive hat.


It's one thing to see how shoes. trousers, dresses, overcoats, clothing in general has changed (and not changed) over time. It's another to recall a time when everyone wore a hat, since no one does anymore. Will America ever recover from the days of JFK's bare head?

Expensive Hats!

That $100 hat cost the 1917 equivalent of $1,000 in 2010!

He wears tan shoes

...with pink shoelaces,
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man,
Tan shoes with pink shoelaces
and a BIG PANAMA with a purple hat band.

My father had several authentic, beautifully-made Panama hats in the days when men wore summer hats. I gave them to a hat collector when he died but now I wish I had kept at least one. They were really classy.

Drooling right now.

That is a fantastic display of panamas. Such a great idea to show off how they are created. The stack of blanks in the center would be worth a fortune today. They don't make them like they used to.

Thousand Dollar Hat

The hat in the middle of the window costs $100. What cost $100 in 1919 would cost $1,229.44 in 2009. The straw weaver in Panama probably made 2 cents a day. What a markup. We all should have been hat sellers in 1919.


Those hats are just what I have been looking for! Oddly, they are hard to find in this day and age.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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