Lock & Co. is the world's foremost hat company that was founded in 1676 and is primarily known for its range of gentlemanly headgear – from the Trilby to the flat cap – however, it's also garnered a reputation for its range of Panama hats.
We now have the pleasure of offering a few styles in this category, including the classic fedora with standard or wide brim, a planter version with pork-pie crown, and the Superfino Montecristi in both fedora and rollable colonial style, just in time for any impending post-lockdown escapes you might have lined up.
In our first Lock & Co feature, which you can read here, we recounted the company's history and also its Sandown trilby that was often worn by Sean Connery in his outings as James Bond. Upon doing our customary picture research for Bond imagery, we came across a film still of Connery wearing a Panama hat. Sadly, this isn’t from any of his Bond movies but instead, it's from the crime thriller Just Cause (1995). That combination of a suspicious stare and slight grin that's hidden beneath the low brim of his Panama is too good to amiss.
Connery in Just Cause (1995) wearing a Panama hat and a charming purple polka dot tie and jacket combination.
When we visited Lock & Co. not too long ago, we spoke in great lengths with its managing director, Ben Dalrymple, about the production process of its Panama hats. He immediately clarified a common mistake, and that’s the source of the manufacturing which is not Panama, but Ecuador. “The name Panama is a bit of a misnomer, they’ve never been made there. Theodore Roosevelt wore one at the opening of the Panama canal and the name has stuck ever since."
Theodore Roosevelt visiting the Panama Canal in 1906, which is where the common mistake that's too far gone to rectify started.
Lock & Co.'s Panama hats are made in a traditional way from toquilla palm straw, which is indigenous to Ecuadorian rainforests. These straws are then split by hand into incredibly fine slithers and the craftspeople only work in the middle of the night when it's humid, as during the day the straws can crack and split.
Robert Redford wearing fedora-style Panama in The Great Gatsby (1974)
There are three villages in this South American country that Lock & Co sources its hats from, each distinguishable from the other via the type of handweaving. “A very cheap one will only take a few days to make, whereas our lowest grade, which is 15, takes three months. Our highest grade is 50, which is a one-off and took 18 months to weave and is launching next year. When you see the really high-grade ones, it almost defies belief that it’s done by hand,” Dalrymple adds.
HRH The Prince of Wales, who's bestowed Lock & Co a Royal Warrant.
It's incredibly hands-on work from start to finish, and the small teams of craftspeople begin at the top of the crown and intricately weave their way outwards from there. They also apply great amounts of pressure on to the centre most part using their bodyweight pressed on to a specific block which begins the shaping process. As it begins to take shape, they're scrupulously checked by all members of the team, which can be as many as 40 people, at several stages for the most minor imperfections in the weave structure. Furthermore, given that it's a natural material, any errors can be quickly amended with steam and delicate handwork.
Peter O'Toole wearing Colonial style Panama in The Last Emperor (1987).
The hats are all finished with a black ribbon, which is a nod to the tradition of mourning bands that were worn on fino Panama hats in the year of Prince Albert's death in 1861.
There really isn't any other type of summer hat that comes close to the Panama in terms of style and legend and its past and present patrons are surely testimony to that, too.
View the Lock & Co hat collection by clicking here.