Comment reconnaître un chapeau de paille de qualité ?
Straw hat: how to recognize a quality straw hat?
Straw hat: a little history
First of all and as a preamble, let's come back to the history of straw hats. Indeed the straw hat has been worn for centuries all over the world.
Its history is really rooted in Europe, in the Middle Ages. It was then the headdress of the peasants. The hat was purely functional, straw was then an affordable raw material and the wide edges of the hat allowed them to shelter from the sun.
It was in Tuscany, in the 16th century, that the straw hat took on a symbolic dimension. At the instigation of the Medici, it became a fashion item, a symbol of elegance in all the courts of Europe. Women adored this hat, which protected their faces from the sun and preserved the whiteness of their complexion, a symbol of beauty and nobility.
The straw hat has remained popular to this day. It has taken on different shapes and aspects over time.
Straw hat: the famous shapes.
The boater's hat is a headgear created in the 1880s. It is characterized by its oval shape, with flat bottom and edges. This straw hat is decorated with a ribbon. The craze for this straw hat was then exceptional. One only has to look at the paintings of the period to realize this, such as the famous "Déjeuner des canotiers" by Auguste Renoir. The boater is also the emblematic hat of Coco Chanel.
On the other side of the globe, Mexicans love the sombrero. This large straw hat is ideal for enjoying a bit of coolness in hot climates thanks to its very wide brim. It is the straw hat of the westerns.
Finally, the Panama hat is the most famous straw hat. Originally worn by Ecuadorian workers to protect themselves from the sun, it quickly became, from the 1900s, a very fashionable hat. Today it is a symbol of quality and elegance.
Straw hat: what quality?
Measuring the fineness of the straw hat's stitches:
The most important point to measure the quality of a straw hat is the fineness of the weave. The smaller the diameter of the stitches, the greater the density of the weave. The finer the mesh, the stronger the hat. For example, the panama fedora hat made by Borsalino has an extremely fine mesh, which gives this hat an exceptional quality.
A method to measure the quality of the straw hat, consists in observing the rings "vueltas" visible at the bottom of the hat. A large number of rings means the presence of a large number of straw bands and therefore that the weave of the hat is very fine.
You can also measure the fineness of the straw weave using the Cuanta Montecristi method. This measurement was developed by the Montecristi Foundation and consists of counting the exact number of straws per square centimetre. On one cm², measure the number of vertical and then horizontal weaves. Multiply the two figures to obtain the cuenta Montecristi.
Weaving quality of the straw hat :
The quality of the weave is another marker that indicates the quality of the straw hat. The stitches must be straight and homogeneous. However, there will always be irregularities, especially in hand-made straw hats.
The homogeneity of the straw color:
The homogeneity of the colour of the straw is also a determining factor. The colour of the straw is not an indicator in itself, as it can vary depending on the origin of the straw, but beware of straw hats that have a very different colour in one area.
Finally, there is currently no universal system for measuring the quality of straw hats. The only way is to evaluate the fineness of the weave and to trust renowned hatmakers such as Traclet, Borsalino, Stetson, Mayser, ..