Originally Posted by LabelKing
I have an older panama hat that today would probably be priced at the $1000 point. Not quite the best, but still a nice one.
I understand that the pricing has to do with how fine the weaves are, but I'm not too sure on details.
If you consider the gruelling process it takes to produce one real Panama-Hat, the price is not at all outrageous!
The Indios cultivate the Carludovica Palms, then cut the still closed leaves at the right moment. For that they have to climb up steep slopes through deep, slippery mud, then transport the bundles back to where they live.
The leaves are split with their long thumb nails into thin, thinner, the thinnest strips who are then boiled, separated, dried and stored in many complicated steps. The thinner the fibers, the longer it takes to weave the hats - up to six months for a fino-fino. The fibers are called Paja Toquilla.
The weaver stands on his feet, torso bent over a stand, the emerging hat on another stand below him, weaving round and round, steadily adding more fibres, weaving in steady patterns, that have names and are different from each other.
After the desired size is reached, the hat is then given to other weavers, mostly women, to weave back the hanging strands and make a flat ending, cutting off the overhanging straw.
Still others dye the hats (often before the backweaving), after which the hats are transported back and finished.
The next step is to pound sulphur powder into the hats to make them soft. The pounding is done with simple stones on the floor.
The hats are then either steamed and blocked in Ecuador, ironed with antique looking, primitive irons that they say are best for this purpose and sent all over the world or are sent as rawlings to hatters internationally to be finished there.
Of course buyers snatch them up as soon as they are finished. IÂ´m not sure who makes the biggest profit, the buyers or the retailers who finally sell the hats.
I have been there - itÂ´s really overwhealming. I felt really sorry for the people, working under these circumstances, without proper medical care or basic hygiene.
But there is no other work to be had far and wide and they are glad for this opportunity. The weaving profession is almost dying out, though, not surprisingly. Youngsters often leave the area to go to the cities or to the United States if they are lucky - I doubt if they are better off there...