la qualité des chapeaux panama
The different qualities of panama hats - the determining factors.
The fineness of the weave of a Panama hat :
The most important element when judging the quality of a Panama hat is the fineness of the weave. It is by looking closely that you can see the fineness of the diameter of the straws. If the straws are fine, the number of stitches per square centimetre will be more important. This number determines the general quality of a hat. It is important to know that each twofold increase in this quality factor corresponds to a fourfold increase in the amount of work required. This is also the reason why a high quality hat requires much more time. A basic Cuenca can take up to a minimum of 3 days to manufacture while a good quality Montecristi can easily take 2 months.
Unfortunately, there is currently no standardised measurement system and each importer has his own unit of measurement so that grade 12 of one will mean a completely different result than grade 12 of another. The same applies to derivatives such as Fino, Fino fino or Super Fino.
Although the fineness of the weave is the most important basic factor in determining the quality of manufacture and finish, the quality of the weave itself and the colour of the straw must also be taken into account.
Color of the straw of the hat :
As for the color of the straw, it varies from hat to hat as the basic color of the straw used also varies. This is why we find more or less dark shades. What really counts is once again the homogeneity of the colour over the whole surface. If there are areas where the colour is very visibly different, it is obvious that the overall quality is affected. Nevertheless it is perfectly normal to detect very slight variations in the basic colour of the fibres, and by observing the meshes closely one can even notice grey or reddish lines.
The rings or "Vueltas" :
Hats and their respective quality can be compared by pointing them towards a light source to better see the number of different rings or crowns that were needed to assemble the hat. These "vueltas" appear when new strips of straw are added to the weave. This means that more of these vueltas means a finer and tighter weave
The cheapest Panama on the market is probably the Cuenca à 3 vueltas. A low priced Montecristi contains 8 vueltas, while an excellent model can hold about 25 vueltas.
The Montecristi Cuenta method for measuring the fineness of the weave :
The number of stitches per square centimetre remains the most relevant index for judging the finish of a Panama hat. There is probably a more objective way of measuring fineness known as the Montecristi Foundation System or Montecristi Cuenta.
This system consists of counting the exact number of stitches per square centimetre of hat surface. First the number of vertical weaves of a designated square centimetre is measured, then the number of horizontal weaves on that same centimetre is counted and multiplied together to obtain the cuenta Montecristi. Thus, for example, 20 horizontal weaves multiplied by 25 vertical ones gives a cuenta Montecristi of 500.
This method is certainly laborious, but today it is the only one capable of objectively comparing the fineness of hats. All other methods are much more random and subjective.