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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've decided I want to buy a Panama hat for use around London. I'm not a hat-wearer by habit and am rarely in hat-wearing circles, and at 28 am at the younger end of the hat-wearing market, so am eager to avoid the appearance of costume.

A few questions:
1. Am I right in thinking that the Panama is the best, if not only, choice for a summer hat to be worn around the city (reserving my beloved Tilley for weekend hiking and what-not)?

2. The salesman at Swaine Adeney suggested that, at 6'5 (though just a 40 chest), a wider brim is important. Is this the generally-accepted rule, or is it a matter of taste? And, if the latter (given that I'm going to initially feel silly in just about any hat), what is your preference?

3. A rolling model seems to make a lot of sense, since I'd quite like to take this on holiday with me from time to time. But Swaine Adeney suggests that the only models that roll reliably have a prodtruding crease running from front to back, making the hat look suitable for a safari rather than lounging around town. Do I have to give up on the rolling dream?

4. Where in London can one find the best quality at not-unreasonable price? Lock? Swaine? A lesser name?
 

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Panama is best.

The width of the brim is up to you. Height is often balanced out by a wide brim, but the size of your head and width of your face are also important. Unless you an extreme case it really won't make that much difference - whatever the salesman tells you. It is also important to pay some attention to the actual hat style. A Panama with a super wide brim will look silly.

It only rolls if it looks like a pith helmet. Personally I think the style is just too old for me (and thus certainly for you) - and too informal for work. I am probably wrong on both counts, but my advice is to get a brim and wear a Kangaroo hat on holiday. The advantage of the latter (accepted formal wear in Australia and hot countries) is that you can soak it in water and keep your head cool.

Locks are very pricey. Try Bates - - or - cheaper still if lesser quality (and perhaps therefore a better risk for a first-timer) Christys, which are available here - https://www.hornetshats.com/f_hatview.php?link=Panamas. Locks are here - https://www.lockhatters.co.uk/Straw__amp__Panama_Hats-c61.aspx

The important thing about a hat is that it suits your face and that you wear it with confidence. Some people (seemingly more on the distaff side) have 'hatty' faces - my number 2 daughter looks good in anything from a bandana to a top hat. But very few have a face which looks silly under every type of hat. Wear it with dash and you will come to love it.
 

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The optimo (center ridge that rolls up) is a classic and can be worn by anyone. I would not let your age deter you from trying it. At 28 you are not too young to wear a hat.
Let your face shape and size detirmine what style brim you choose.
 

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If you don't know your size and are uncertain of what style to purchase, then I would also recommend Brent Black.

https://www.brentblack.com/

He has many different price points and if you send him a picture of yourself, he provides sound recommendations for a style to compliment your face shape and body proportions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you for all the responses. I think I'll abandon the idea of a folding hat for all the reasons given. And, although these online outfits sound excellent, for a first purchase I'm going to see what is available in London shops, even if it means paying a premium. For one thing, I think (from experience renting top hats) that I have an awkwardly-shaped head, and want to get comfortable with my size before ordering anything by mail. I hadn't realised that Bates was a Jermyn St. shop, so that will probably be my first point of call.

What about colour? Is the pure white the only acceptable Panama for city use, or are the cream-coloured models also worth considering?
 

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Hello,
It's an amazing coincidence but, at 29, I have also just gone through this exact same process! I too chose not to buy a folding panama and wanted to actually visit a shop to see how they looked in person. I actually visited a small shop near my home town which is about 50 mins outside of London. The gent who owns the shop is exceptionally knowledgable and has been working in the hat industry for some 30 years having started as an apprentice at Dunns when he was 16. It was lovely to deal with someone with a real passion for what he does.

The web address is:

https://www.classic-caps.co.uk/acatalog/Panama.html

The hats that he sells are Olneys and Olney also supply Lock and Herbert Johnson amongst many others. I bought the Brisa and, as you can see, by buying from outside of London real bargains can be had.

Worth a look if you're prepared to travel a little,

Chris.
 

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A panama hat has a very serious purpose - comfort. So brim size is not an issue of fashion as much as it is a utility of the hat in sun. Don't sweat the wide brim with a panama.

I recommend the Bailey's rollable as a first purchase. This year I purchased one and it's utterly comfortable and sharp for very little cash (around $50 I remember). Because it is rollable the fibers are loose and breathe well. It is a very light hat that shapes to your head well.

If you are thinking of a panama, don't spend $100+ and then get a hat that disappoints, or find the style doesn't work with you. Try a great entry level Bailey's.

Now if you go for other hats for fashion I suspect your body size would make smaller brims work.
 

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The optimo Panama, whether you fold it or not, is a classic--perhaps the classic--Panama look. By no means should it be considered only suitable for a safari. That said, get the hat that most suits your preferences. I would be careful of going too narrow on the brim, though. For a Panama I certainly wouldn't want anything narrower than 2.5", and probably a little wider.

You will feel self-conscious wearing it at first, but press on and soon you'll feel lost without it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Now if you go for other hats for fashion I suspect your body size would make smaller brims work.
That's interesting. Are you saying that a smaller brim is preferable, from a style standpoint, for a taller and slimmer man?

Your suggestion of starting with a lower-priced hat and going from there certainly makes sense. Unfortunately, choice in the ~£25 range is rather limited in London shops!

Any comments on the appropriateness of colours other than bright white ("champagne", "straw", beige, or whatever each maker wants to call it)?
 

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That's interesting. Are you saying that a smaller brim is preferable, from a style standpoint, for a taller and slimmer man?

Any comments on the appropriateness of colours other than bright white ("champagne", "straw", beige, or whatever each maker wants to call it)?
A hat should be in proportion to a person's face and body, if possible. There are hats you wear for specific reasons, like a sun hat, that needs a certain brim. I might be wrong, but I remember seeing a style guide with brims, bands and face types, and thinner brims were for thinner people/faces. My shoulders are slightly narrow of average and a large brim looks wild on me. It can be a style, but it looks ostentatious. If I wear very thin brim hats it looks ridiculous because I have a rounder face, so the hat looks like a toy.

The natural/white look is always best, in my opinion, because it reflects light and is part of the utility of the panama hat as summer wear. In terms of style any color goes. I also like golden colored straw hats. Black or dark seems odd because it takes on heat.
 

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I have just bought a lovely Panama for £45 at 'Old Hat', bottom of Fulham Road near Putney Bridge. It is made in Equador, and has a leather inner band with Christys, Made in England stamped on it. The advisor told me that they are sold under differant names in other stores (she may have said Locks) at over £100. I am delighted with it. Shame the weather has been so poor.

Incidently 'Old Hat' is famous for 2nd hand old 'classic' suits, however these hats are new. Suits no use for me as sizes all too big.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I have just bought a lovely Panama for £45 at 'Old Hat', bottom of Fulham Road near Putney Bridge. It is made in Equador, and has a leather inner band with Christys, Made in England stamped on it. The advisor told me that they are sold under differant names in other stores (she may have said Locks) at over £100. I am delighted with it. Shame the weather has been so poor.

Incidently 'Old Hat' is famous for 2nd hand old 'classic' suits, however these hats are new. Suits no use for me as sizes all too big.
I'm sorry that I didn't think to check out Old Hat; I thought their business was vintage clothes, and assumed a white straw hat wouldn't last beyond one owner. In the end I bought a Seville from Bates, which at GBP95 was rather more than I'd hoped to spend. So far I'm enjoying it, and the few comments I've received have all been favourable.
 

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The optimo Panama, whether you fold it or not, is a classic--perhaps the classic--Panama look. By no means should it be considered only suitable for a safari. That said, get the hat that most suits your preferences. I would be careful of going too narrow on the brim, though. For a Panama I certainly wouldn't want anything narrower than 2.5", and probably a little wider.

You will feel self-conscious wearing it at first, but press on and soon you'll feel lost without it.
I like Preu's advice as I am looking for my first Panama. I bought a Stetson Saxon fur felt hat for winter weather as my wife says it looks good on me. Saw a Borsalino for $225 but that much for a hat is too much until I start wearing them. $50 to $75 is more like it as I am more apt to wear the fedora in colder weather, but not so sure about a Panama.

Rollable, packable, seems good because going to lunch, going to court, not as many places to check your hat. Advice on where to go? I am fine witha wider brim on a Panama than on the fur felt as sun protection is key. The Saxon has a 2" brim.
 
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