Dressing for a Wedding or Other Formal Occasion with a Panama Hat; a Gentleman’s Guide

A Gentleman’s Guide to Dressing for a Wedding with a Panama Hat

Is it OK to wear a Panama hat when dressing for a wedding or other formal occasion?

The short answer is a resounding “Yes!”

However, before you walk out the door in your favorite headgear, be aware that, in practice, this affirmation depends on the specific sort of formal occasion at hand. Indeed, the answer, in some cases, will be an equally emphatic “No!”

What’s more, even should a Panama hat be acceptable attire for your upcoming event, the exact impression you’ll create will depend, in great part, on just how you wear it.

Fear not though, because a Panama hat can make for a truly stylish accessory to a contemporary wedding outfit. What’s more, it’s not a difficult look to pull off once you’ve been acquainted with a few pointers. Read on for the full lowdown.

When Is It OK to Wear a Panama Hat to a Wedding?

Good dressing is a lot like storytelling. However, just as with a novel or a movie, you’ll lose credibility should your story become inconsistent or have too many confusing plot twists. Imagine that you’re watching a period British drama like Downton Abbey, when a horde of lowriding Chevrolet Impalas suddenly comes cruising across the lawn. It would amount to an historical anachronism.

It’s just the same with respect to hats; your chosen headgear must make sense within the context of your entire outfit. Frankly, a Panama hat would be, style-wise, incongruous with a tuxedo. Should the invitation to an event stipulate either a white or black tie dress code, you’d need to ditch the Panama in favor of something more appropriate.

In any case, quite aside from questions of style, attending a white tie event in a Panama hat would likely result in your being escorted from the premises; a top hat is the only acceptable headwear for a formal occasion. That’s not solely our dictum, of course, but is down to longstanding sartorial tradition. After all, who are we to argue with tradition?

The fact is, though, that many modern weddings and other events have considerably more relaxed dress codes than white or black tie. With that in mind, whether an invitation says formal, semi-formal, cocktail, business casual, or any other category, so long as it doesn’t specify a tailcoat or tuxedo, regard that as a green light to break out the Panama. This applies equally on the occasion of your own wedding or when you’re just one of the groomsmen.

That said, please bear in mind one word of caution: When dressing for a wedding, it’s essential to consider the most important factor – whose affair is it? If it’s your own big day, you are free to celebrate and dress just as you and your betrothed wish.

If it’s not your wedding, though, remember that this is another couple’s moment to shine. Dressing in a manner which draws too much attention from the happy couple will likely not be viewed positively by others present. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wear a Panama hat – quite the contrary – but, simply, that if it’s not your own affair, you might wish to keep your outfit’s accessories on the uncomplicated side.

Why Wear a Panama Hat to a Wedding or Other Formal Event?

There was once a time when wearing a hat was the norm for every man. Indeed, a century ago you’d have been considered to be immodestly dressed without one – and that was with regard to ordinary, day-to-day clothing, nevermind when dressed for a wedding.

Today, though, wearing a hat is the exception rather than the rule. Anyone who does so can expect to stand out. This is especially true when it’s a stylish and sophisticated Panama hat, with all its associations of travel and adventure. Indeed, wearing a Panama hat to a wedding or other formal event will guarantee that you make a strong impression.

Be certain, though, that it’s an entirely positive impression. For this reason, we’ve compiled an in-depth guide to dressing for a wedding in a Panama hat. Read on to learn how to combine your Panama hat with the other items in your outfit for maximum sartorial impact.

How to Wear a Panama Hat When Dressing for a Wedding or Other Formal Event

Panama hats are crafted from the Toquilla palm. This natural material gives the Panama a distinctive look. One that is very different from a hat made from other natural materials such as wool or felt. Successfully incorporating a Panama hat into one’s outfit when dressing for a wedding or other event requires taking this unique quality into consideration while selecting the items with which you’ll combine it.

There are two different tactics which may be applied to this task. The first is to take the natural, summery look of the Panama hat and make it the theme of your entire outfit. The second is to make the hat a contrasting centerpiece for your look by selecting darker colors and more staid fabrics. This will help to increase the overall impression of a more-formal outfit.

Both stratagems can result in a smart and sophisticated appearance. The former will be more appropriate for summer events where the dress code won’t be strictly enforced. The latter is a better option in cooler seasons or when a greater degree of formality is required.

Keeping this advice in mind, let’s consider the main elements of a man’s wedding outfit in turn, examining some of the best ways to coordinate them with a Panama hat for a suave and sophisticated look, but without being too showy.

The Suit

● Navy

The combination of a navy or midnight blue suit – in either wool or cotton canvas with a white collared shirt and a plaid necktie – will always create a timeless and impeccable impression. Top it off with a smart Panama hat such as the ivory-colored Casablanca or our genuine Montecristi Fedora and you’ve transformed the look from a dependable classic into a discrete head-turner.

Casablanca
Casablanca

#303 Montecristi Fedora
#303 Montecristi Fedora

● Gray

While a charcoal gray suit is another safe bet for many formal events, it can seem a bit somber for a joyous occasion such as a wedding. That said, it’s all about how you wear it. Indeed, a color as neutral as gray can make for a nice, clean canvas on which to get creative. As you’ll be offsetting the solemn mood with the sartorial spice of a Panama, starting from somewhere as safe as a charcoal gray suit can make for a sophisticated final result.

If you’re worried about coming across as overly staid and restrained, a subtle gray pinstripe or windowpane check will liven things up without the risk of crossing into oddball territory.

● Ivory

So as not to compete with the bride, traditional sartorial etiquette dictates that wedding guests should not wear white. However, should you be attending a summer wedding – and you’re certain that it’s not too formal an affair – an ecru suit worn with a natural-colored Panama hat such as the Aruba, a white or pale blue shirt, and a pastel-colored necktie can look extremely dashing while avoiding any risk of outshining the newlyweds.

Aruba
Aruba

● Tan

A mid-tan or tobacco linen suit, with a blue striped shirt, and a white or natural-hued Panama hat will always look fantastic. It’ll look better still if you can match one of the colors in your tie with the hatband. However, this is clearly a few steps removed from the much smarter, more somber suiting dictated by formal dress codes and would only be appropriate if the invitation calls for semi-formal or smart casual attire.

Simply Elegant Hatband
Simply Elegant Hatband

● Sport Coat/Blazer and Pants

If the invitation calls for anything more casual than cocktail dress – or should you be sufficiently well-acquainted with the hosts as to be certain that a full suit and tie outfit would be overdoing it – you can still make a very smart impression by going for a combination of sports coat and chinos. For a chic Mediterranean vibe, pair a navy blazer and white canvas pants with a Panama of your choice – a look which would make heads turn on the streets of Milan, yet is unlikely to offend even the staunchest of traditionalists.

If you have the confidence to risk a slightly more eccentric – though still traditional – outfit, a colorful striped blazer looks fantastic when paired with the clean-lined silhouette of the Montecristi Gambler. Finally, to add a truly laidback summer twist to your attire, a seersucker jacket is a surefire winner. In this case, match it with a simple classic such as the English Optimo.

Montecristi Gambler
Montecristi Gambler

English Optimo
English Optimo

● Vest

By opting to wear a Panama hat when dressing for a wedding you are committing to a look that is one part individualistic and two parts traditional. It could certainly be argued that, having come this far, you might as well go fully traditional and wear a fitted vest beneath your suit jacket. Since, in most cases, you’ll likely wish to select a vest in the same fabric and color palette as your suit, there’s not much in the way of decision-making with which to concern yourself after opting to wear a vest in the first place. Given its abundant old-world charm, a vest can make for a very lean and dapper look when combined with the right hat.

● Shirt

While there’s no sartorial reason why you shouldn’t coordinate the color of your dress shirt with your hat, you’ll most likely wish to keep the shirt neutral or opt for a color that contrasts with your Panama. Blue, for instance, offsets the white or ivory tones of a classic Panama hat very nicely.

When it comes to choosing a dress shirt, color isn’t the only consideration; fabric, too, plays a big part in telling the “story” of your outfit. If you’ve decided to take the Panama’s tropical connotations as your overall theme, you might wish to reinforce the colonial vibe by selecting a shirt in either breathable linen or poplin. For more formal occasions, however, a fine, crisp cotton shirting is the only way to go.

● Necktie

Once beyond the strictly-prescribed rules of white and black tie dress, a necktie is the one area of men’s attire where you’re free to get creative. If you wish to remain stylish and sophisticated, however, don’t take creative to mean novelty, kitschy, or juvenile. Indeed, breaking out your favorite cartoon or other wacky tie is the surest way to bring the whole carefully-combined ensemble crashing down.

In fact, as you’ve already opted for a “statement accessory” in the form of a Panama hat, you should probably remain fairly conservative with your choice of necktie. As mentioned above, though, the one creative flourish you might wish to entertain is selecting a tie that includes the color of your hatband in its design.

● Footwear

Generally speaking, the arcane rules of wedding attire dictate that a man should only wear black Oxfords or Derbies. In practice though, a smart pair of brown leather shoes will often be perfectly acceptable. Perhaps you might even get away with suede should the dress code lean more toward the relaxed side, thereby allowing for a nice coordination between an ivory Panama and light-tan shoes.

The big question, though, is whether you should consider wearing shoes of any sort without socks. Clearly, the sans-sock look is much more casual and so wouldn’t ever be appropriate for a wedding with a black tie or formal dress code. However, for summer weddings with a more relaxed vibe, a bit of bare ankle would not be entirely out of place. Still, for reasons of both comfort and hygiene, you should always wear “invisible” socks, rather than spending the day sweating into your new leather shoes.

● Accessories

Remember that a hat will always be a statement piece on any formal occasion. So, if you want to play it safe, keep your hat as the centerpiece of your outfit and accessorize it with nothing more than a classy wristwatch. However, should the situation allow it (perhaps on the occasion of your own wedding, for example), and you feel like being a bit more sartorially expressive, then feel free to liven up your ensemble with one or two carefully-chosen accessories.

Keeping with the natural tone of the hat by sticking to ecru, tan, or brown accessories can really help to unify a look. This can be especially beneficial if you’ve opted for a separate blazer and pants combination versus a mono-colored suit, as the color-coordinated accessories will very effectively unify the diverse elements into a cohesive whole.

The earthy tones of a brown or tan leather watch strap will look great with a Panama hat. If your hatband is black, then be assured that a black watch strap will appear equally sophisticated. For an event at the less-formal end of the scale, you might even wish to consider a wooden beaded bracelet as a creative and fashionable accessory.

Final Thoughts

Dressing for a wedding with a Panama hat can be a great means of adding a little personal character and style to your outfit without incurring the risk of outdoing the happy couple. Whether you’ll be wearing a full three-piece suit or going for a more casual combination, assembling a wedding ensemble to match your hat is a big part of the fun. A thorough review of this guide’s numerous pointers should set you well on your way to sartorial perfection. Have fun with it!

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