We have always maintained that a Panama hat is a living entity, more like a flower pot on the window sill. It is precious to us, needs care and is prone to damage under erratic weather conditions. A Panama hat, being especially delicate, requires careful handling even when it is not being used.
These straw hats are made from toquilla straw, which becomes delicate once it dries out from excessive use or prolonged exposure to the sun, such as leaving the hat in a hot car.
Why straw cracks
The most common place we see straw cracking is 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 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 to use baby wipes. 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. The sun’s UV rays damage the straw so it’s best to leave your hat in the shade when it is not in use.
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 can help repairing it. However, it is usually best to repair your hat using a crown repair strip. These strips patch and hold the straw together preventing the straw from further cracking. Additionally, you can apply these repair strips to prevent the straw from cracking. Some Panama hats even come with these repair strips to reinforced the crown and prevent tearing.