Worth US $100,000, “THE HAT” by Brent Black is considered one of the most expensive hats in the world. To give you some illustrations, the FINEST MONTECRISTI PANAMA HAT the world has ever known is equivalent to 1,682 packages of Ed Hardy “Love Kills” Car Accessories, or 1,111 pieces of Michael Jackson’s Trade Mark Hat, or 917 pieces of Robert Pattinson’s Ray Ban sunglasses, or 306 units of McLaren Sport Samsonite Black Label.
The world’s finest Authentic Montecristi Panamas includes all the crème de la crème. It was made to order by BRENT BLACK – the most excellent purveyor of hand-woven straw hats, from the BEST WEAVER in HISTORY – Simón Espinal who lives in the village of Píle in Montecristi Canton, using extremely fine toquilla straw and woven only in Ecuador. The king of master weavers spent five months to complete THE HAT before it was prepared and finished by five other artisans for several more weeks. An incredible amount of handwork produce the best of the best, hence the price.
Simón Espinal might claim he could make another one equal to THE HAT’s fineness; but the founder of PANAMA HAT COMPANY OF THE PACIFIC disagrees. Brent Black remarked,
“I have been obsessed with the very finest hats for more than 20 years. I have researched the finest hats woven during the 20th century. There is simply no hat that is comparable to this one. I do not want to part with THE HAT; however, if someone were serious enough to pay $100,000 I think I’d have to give it up. I represent the interests of the artist as a gallery does. Simón would be pleased for me to sell it.”
What makes the price so fantastic? Is it the label? The art? Or maybe the labor?
“I believe the most direct way to encourage any artists is to buy their work and to pay them high enough wages and commissions that they will be eager to create more of their art. So I pay the weavers higher prices than anyone else in the world. Plus I pay the artists commissions when their art is sold. Simón Espinal is the highest paid weaver in history. He only weaves 3 or 4 hats per year, and they’re priced between $10,000 and $30,000 apiece.”
Simon Espinal - The Best Weaver of Panama Hat from Montecristi, Ecuador
Simon Espinal working on Brent Black’s “The Hat”
If you think that the price is too high in these times, then you must hear the fact. “I am happily overwhelmed with orders,” Black notes. “At the moment I have orders for five hats in the $10,000 to $25,000 price range, plus a few more in the $5000 to $10,000 range.”
However, if those are out of your range, don’t worry - Black’s best hats, other than this unique work of art, sell for $5,000 to $30,000. It’s such an affordable price for the rarity and quality premium hats which are popular among celebrities like Pierce Brosnan, Harrison Ford, Peter O’Toole, George Hamilton, Anthony Hopkins and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course none of them owns one as fine as The Hat yet.
Finished Brent Black Panama Hats
Brent Black Panama Hat - Fedora finished
THE HAT has not been blocked into a style or sized yet and is awaiting the purchaser’s final instructions. Black offers dozen of different styles and personalized finishes, some based on vintage pattern such as the debonair OPTIMO DESIGN, above. The exquisite Montecristi Panama Hat weighs less than one ounce. Black explains, “It is as thin as my stationery. When I handle The Hat, I do not worry that it might fall to the floor if I drop it; I worry that it might float away.”
“THE HAT” - Brent Black Panama Montecristi Hat, unblocked
Started in Hawaii in 1987, Panama Hat Company of Brent Black has a mission to preserve the art of hand weaving the finest Montecristi hats. Each of their hats is custom made to order - hand woven, hand blocked and styled, custom sized.
A Panama hat or just Panama is a traditional brimmed hat of Ecuadorian origin that is made from the plaited leaves of the toquilla straw plant (Carludovica palmata). Straw hats woven in Ecuador, like many other 19th and early 20th century South American goods, were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama before sailing for their destinations in Asia, the rest of the Americas and Europe. For some products, the name of their point of international sale rather than their place of domestic origin stuck, hence “Panama hats.” The 49ers picked up these hats in Panama, and when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal construction, he wore such a hat, which increased its popularity. They’re also known as a Jipijapa, named for a town in Ecuador once a center of the hat trade. (Source: Wikipedia)
Harry Truman’s Panama Hat
In Montecristi, Ecuador live a handful of master weavers, the creators of the finest straw hats in the world “Montecristi Panama Hats”. Each Panama hat is woven by a single artisan, hand-blocked, and takes months to complete. Because there are so few master weavers of panama hats left (two generations ago there were 2000 Panama Hat weavers; today there are about 20 weavers of panama hats), these works of woven art are becoming endangered to the point of disappearing.
Wizened Weaver of Panama Hat in Montecristi, Ecuador
Montecristi panama hats are made from toquilla straw, hand-split into strands not much thicker than thread and woven so finely. After weaving, the hat bodies are washed, pummeled a bit to provide regularity, flexibility and suppleness and dried. The sides and crown are actually carefully beaten (another art unto itself) to even them out, but without damaging the hat. The finishing processes after this are the only semi industrialized part of the Panama hat’s production but are accomplished with hand operated tools or devices at most. The ironing and blocking process begins either in Ecuador or at the site of a blocker and seller overseas and a lot of ironing is done with an old fashioned cast metal iron heated on a stove! Initial ironing of the brim through a cloth is needed to remove undulations. At the last, before blocking, the raw edges of fibers are trimmed from the brim and it is back woven to prevent fraying. Hand blocking with steam and iron or with the use of a steam press produces the familiar pattern styles. The countless Fedora styles, Optimos and the Planters/Gamblers are the most popular block styles. (Source: www.ecuador.us)
Weaving Process of Panama Hat
After Weaving Panama Hat
Washing Process of Panama Hat
Ironing Process of Panama Hat
Blocked Panama Hat
| Via | | images from luxist.com and brentblack.com |