page i:The Optimo Montecristi Panama
Issue 1: Welcome to the Optimo Hat Shop
Issue 3: The Optimo Milan Straw
Issue 4: The Felt IssueDownload this issue
I took my first trip to Montecristi Ecuador, when I was 17. I basically followed “The Panama Hat Trail” after reading Tom Miller’s classic book.
Since starting Optimo Hats, I’ve taken 2-3 trips per year to Ecuador in order to inspect each hat that I buy and to commission new ones to be woven. Over time, I’ve learned what makes certain Montecristi Hats stand out from the rest. We’ve worked diligently over the years to bring the quality of our Montecristi Hats to the standard which existed 50+ years ago.
The Montecristi Panama Hat originates from the toquilla palm that grows wild in the humid, fertile coastal lowlands of Ecuador. Select leaves of these palms are gathered while still immature, and split into ribbons. After repeatedly being dipped in boiling water, the leaves are shaken well and air dried away from the sun. Once dry, each fiber is worked on individually—divided many times with a sharpened fingernail, or small tool—until each strand is like thread. From those threads, the weaver will choose his selection for its color, suppleness and fineness of fibre.
For only a few hours in the cool of the early morning and evening, when the straw is at its most soft and pliable, the Montecristi Panama is woven over a wooden block, supported by a wooden tripod, which acts as a support for the weaver and for the hat.