The Hat Story

The Finest Montecristi Panama Hats

The Golden Age of Travel

During the first half of the last century, travel in ‘the Golden Age’ was considered a glamorous affair. When the journey itself was something to be celebrated, something to experience in its own right. More to the point, it was an experience worth dressing up for. Like going to the theatre or opera, the art of dressing for a journey is one largely forgotten.

What the sojourner of the Golden Age realized, of course, was that comfort and class are not mutually exclusive. The Panama Hat, the pressed pajamas, and an immaculate luggage set were all accessories to a personal style that made every queue an opportunity to pose, and every ocean liner gangplank a catwalk.

“…And all your future lies beneath your hat.” — John Oldham

Five Days of Luxury at Sea

In the early days of travel to Hawai‘i, the first view of Matson Lines’ oceanliner Lurline, no doubt brought a wave of excitement, an ineffable feeling of romance and mystery.

Accompanying your ticket was a charming Matson pamphlet entitled “Clothes for Your Lurline and Island Vacation,” listing wardrobe suggestions. “Clothing of linen, white drill, pongees, or “Palm Beach” are popular all seasons with visitors to Hawai‘i and the South Seas.”

Women were advised that a single evening dress and one cocktail dress would get them through the ocean voyage. A white dinner jacket was suggested for men, with slacks and aloha shirts suggested for their stay in the islands. And of course, no properly dressed gentleman would be without his Panama Hat.

Hawai‘i Boat Days

As you rounded Diamond Head, those on deck caught their first glimpse of Waikiki and came under the spell of swaying palms and rolling surf. Warmed by the tropical sun and caressed by the trade winds, passengers gathered at the railings to take in the breathtaking panorama before them. Those childhood daydreams of adventure flare into being once more. It is a sudden realization that all the tales of Stevenson and Melville must have been true.

Soft, balmy air of the islands came to greet you, carrying fragrances unique to Hawai‘i. Down the gangplank the visitors came, greeted by a hearty “aloha” and a draping of fresh-flower lei around their necks. Their carefree island days had now truly begun.

Join Generations of Distinguished Owners of the World’s Most Respected Hat

Napoleon. Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind. Truman Capote. Noel Coward. Kings and emperors, tycoons and sportsmen. These are just a few of the world’s rich and famous who have long favored the finest of all hats — the handwoven straw Sombreros Montecristi from Ecuador. Immediately recognizable and appreciated by discriminating men and women everywhere, each handcrafted Panama hat is a unique artifact of fashion tradition that will never go out of style.

“Without hats, we have no civilization”
— Christian Dior, As reported in the Daily Telegraph, London

Did you know the Great Panama Hats Have Always Been Made in Ecuador?

This legendary hat, which combines timeless design with outstanding practicality, never came from Panama. The crème de la crème of classic Panama hats have always been woven in Ecuador, in and around the ancient hill town of Montecristi. Today, there are fewer master artisans remaining who are capable of weaving these fine grade hats — including the famed Sombreros Montecristi offered by Newt at the Royal.

Each Hat is A Painstaking Work of Art

It can take several months to craft a fino-grade Panama, using only the finest Toquilla palm fronds split into thin strands — all by hand. The actual weaving is done standing up, with the weaver carefully holding the emerging hat body in place with a piece of wood pressed down by exactly the right pressure from the weaver’s chest. When completed, the weave feels more like silk or linen than straw.

“The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after
the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.”
— Aldo Gucci, 1905-1990

When You Purchase Your Sombrero Montecristi from Newt At The Royal

In order to ensure that we offer the most exceptional examples of this rare art form, we journey often to Montecristi, Ecuador to handpick the finest hats. The best ones, and therefore the most expensive, are judged by the lightness of their color and the tightness and consistency of their weave. However our selection of the woven straw is only the first step.

The formless straw must be hand shaped by a master artisan. Hand shaping is critical to the finished hat. The straw is never stressed—the process never hurried. An expert craftsman allows the hat to lead, rather than imposing his will on the hat body. The crown is shaped on a wooden block; then the brim is flanged using heat. Some of the equipment and hat forms in this process are approaching a century old and are more valuable than gold.

Once the master has hand formed the hat, the finishing is very important. The black Grosgrain ribbon should have a soft sheen—never glaring. The use of premium Roan leather in the sweatband is another mark of quality, flanged and hand stitched for comfort and to ensure correct fit.

Only then is your hat ready and awaiting your arrival at our little shop. All of our Sombero Montecristi are sold only at our Waikiki shop, as a fine hat must be hand fitted by our experts. We pride ourselves on our personalized and experienced service and offer a wide selection of classic styles and sizes for both men and women.

You will also receive a traditional hat box with your purchase for safe transport and a lifetime of storage. It is critical that fine hats be only handled by the brim, never grabbing the crown. When a light cleaning is called for, use mild soap and water, carefully wiping with a dampened sponge.

“Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Above all, remember that even though it is a magnificent work of art, a Sombrero Montecristi is made to be worn. The hat ages gracefully, taking on a soft golden patina over time. Enjoy it! Every time you wear it, you are joining the distinguished lineage of Panama hat aficionados who appreciate good taste, style and practicality.

The Man in the Arena

“It is not the critic who counts,
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs,
who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end
the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be
with those cold and timid souls
who neither know victory nor defeat.”

— President Theodore Roosevelt
Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910­

November 13, 2017