Panama Hat Factory

As part of our city tour, we went to a Panama hat factory. This was much more interesting than I would have expected.

Leaves are harvested
Boiling leaves

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.

Weaving finished, needs trimming, washing, drying, shaping, and hat band.
One machine for shaping; you can see shapes on the shelves.

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.

Hat bands are added in this room.

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.)


Clothes in store window

I have no idea what the current hair and clothes fashions are in the USA but I can tell you that the torn jeans and tops with lots of straps or off the shoulder tops are popular with women in Colombia. And the torn jeans are popular with the men as well.

I don’t have really good pictures because I didn’t want to be too obvious when I took them but I am sure that at least for the jeans, you know what I am talking about.

Lots of straps and bra back shows; this is common

And for the tops, the more straps, the better it seems. It doesn’t matter if the bra straps or backs show.

I think of the off the shoulder tops as very Latin anyway but sometimes I’m chilly and I can’t imagine how the women in the tops must feel.

If Dan hadn’t gotten his jeans so dirty, he could have sold his torn jeans! These are someone I took on the street.

As for as hair, most women have long hair. They leave it down or pull it into a pony tail or wrap it up in a bun. It must bug them some because I frequently see the women doing something with their hair: braiding it, unbraiding it, putting it in a pony tail or bun or taking it down. Little girls often have the nicest French braids.

Men are generally clean shaven and generally have short hair. A few have mustaches and even fewer have beards.

I call this a wide Mohawk. In smaller towns, the top of the hair would be relatively short but the sides/back would be as short as the sides are on these guys.

In smaller towns, the sides are so short that they are almost shaved. In Manizales, young men and teens often had what I would call a wide Mohawk.

One funny thing happened as I boarded a bus a while back. There are button on the back pockets of my pants and as I passed by this woman who had her hair down, her hair got tangled in my button. I’m sure it wasn’t comfortable for her but I couldn’t do anything because it was behind me. Someone helped untangle her hair from the button and eventually she pulled the hair into a pony tail if I remember correctly.

Men, especially teens and early twenties, tend to wear their hair very short, especially on the sides. In Manizales, we saw a lot of “wide Mohawk” cuts. The sides were cut very short but the center, front to back, of the hair was longer.