Panama hats come in all shapes and sizes, with different methods of weaving determining the style statement that it brings forth. To be a true connoisseur of Panama hats, it is imperative to understand the differences that come with wired brim and woven brim hats. In this article, we touch on some of the fundamental variations between these hats, so that you know what you are signing in for the next time you buy one.

Wired Brim Hats

The generic difference between a wired brim and a woven one is the possibility of being mass-manufactured since the process of finishing the brim can be mechanized. This makes the wired brim hat a cheaper alternative, with it costing much less of what handwoven brim hats go for. Hats with wires have brims that can preserve its form and thus, can be molded to retain its desired shape. This makes it stiffer than the woven brim variant, making it easier to handle. Wired brim hats are more durable than handwoven brimmed ones and they seldom require reshaping or steaming, therefore, they make an ideal daily hat.

Examples of hats with wired brims

But then, with it being hardened, there is the possibility of the wire breaking. This could lead to an awkward crease that might become hard to conceal. There also is the problem of unsightly stitching at the end of the brim, which could be irksome. Though automation has made it cheaper, it goes to show that certain design anomalies still need to be contended with. The biggest caveat of wired brim hats though is its perceived worth against woven brim hats. Panama hat aficionados find the value of a wired brim hat to be diminished in comparison to the woven brim hat, because of its inability to provide a “final human touch” to the hat weaving process.

Woven Brim Hats

Panama hats with handwoven brims are considered to be the gold standard of Panama hats, bringing in the essence of Ecuador and centuries of traditional weaving practices. Woven brims require significantly more time to knit compared to its wired brims because it needs to be done by hand. Additional, a second weaver needs to be employed for woven brims. This weaver typically specializes in solely finishing brims by hand after the main weaver has completed the body. Since no wire is used, the brim is not fixed on this hat, and thus, it can be moved up or down depending on the wearer’s preference. Over the centuries, Panama hats have grown in stature because of its rich history of hand weaving. Therefore many fanatics only consider Panama hats with handwoven brims to be true and authentic Panama hats. 

Examples of hats with fully handwoven brims

It takes about two to three months on an average for a weaver to complete one high-quality Panama hat. Some Montecristis can even take up to six months. Because of this, the prices are quite steep – making it unaffordable to an average patron. Though these hats are fairly low maintenance, they might be in need of steaming now and then, to reshape the brim. Care also needs to be taken while storing it so that it does not unravel and get frayed along the edges. When stored its best to store your hat in a hat box in a dry place. For more information about storing your hat see this article about best practices for storing your hat. 

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