x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

If you want to get ahead, get a hat

The Life: Panama hats offer a fine way to keep stylish in the searing hat. If you fancy a bespoke version expect to pay in the region of $500 - or even as much as $10,000.

Brent Black, a Hawaii dealer, has Panama hats available from $500. This is one of his pricier models at $100,000 hat. Courtesy Brent Black
Brent Black, a Hawaii dealer, has Panama hats available from $500. This is one of his pricier models at $100,000 hat. Courtesy Brent Black

Summer's here, and a hat could come in handy to protect you from the sun's rays.

If you are looking for something a little more bespoke, however, a Hawaii-based Panama hat dealer, Brent Black, has an option for US$100,000.

The hat's value is based on the amount of work that went into the creation as well as the fineness and quality of the straw and the weave. Plus, so far it does not have a particular size; when a customer is found, it will be customised to fit the buyer.

Panama hats, unlike their name, are made from the finest Ecuadorean straw, and Mr Black's prized offering is less about the hat and more about the hands that make them.

Simón Espinal is his master weaver whose hats have found celebrity homes, including that of the American actor Charlie Sheen.

Most of the hats Mr Black sells are in the $500 to $1,500 price range; however, some retail at $25,000 with the dealer selling about two or three a year.

The weavers and artisans who create the hats receive 40 per cent of the retail price.

Mr Black, who has been selling the hats for 20 years, runs the The Panama Hat Company of the Pacific and does business as Brent Black Panama Hats on the internet.

He says he first fell in love with Montecristi hats - the best type of Panama hat available - in 1988.

"I was alarmed that everyone I talked with agreed the art was dying and probably would be extinct in a few years," he recalls.

Montecristi is a city and an eponymous county in Ecuador. Mr Black's hats are woven in the village of Pile outside the city.

To pass on the art of hat-weaving to the next generation, the entrepreneur set up a weaving school in Pile in January 2011.

"We had seven students each of the first two years, and we have 15 students this year," Mr Black adds.

 

ssahoo@thenational.ae