As part of our city tour, we went to a Panama hat factory. This was much more interesting than I would have expected.
Long leaves are picked and rolled a little to curl them. Then they are boiled and then dried and dyed. There are a lot of colors that they use.
Once the leaves are dried again, they are woven by hand into the shape for the hat. Cheap hats start at $35 at the factory, much more other places, although there are vendors on the street that offer them for less…and you can even watch them working on a hat.
More expensive hats use smaller “threads” of leaves to weave so that they are softer and have a more finished look.
Once the hat is woven and trimmed, it is washed in large vats and then dried. Then there are a number of steps to shape the brim and head part with steam.
The final step is to add the hat band.
This same process is used for bags and even clothing. Here is a wedding dress and flowers which were made in the same way.
Many famous people wear hats from this factory including Madonna, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, and others. (Sorry the pictures aren’t very good.)