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The Secret to Wearing Hats

The Secret to Wearing Hats

Sarah Curtis tells me that she wears a hat seven days a week, rain, hail or shine.  On the day I meet her, she’s wearing one of her navy Toquilla straw panamas (it's a shine rather than a hail occasion) as well as a pretty spectacular pair of pale blue sequin pants. 

They make sense on her. This is someone who moves a lot, gesticulates a lot and laughs a lot.

“People spend a fortune on their skin theses days, and it’s cheaper to wear a hat,” says Sarah, who is something of an expert on the matter. “To me its just a no-brainer.”

Sarah Curtis’ panama hat obsession isn’t just the result of a career working in fashion in Sydney, Melbourne and her home town of Adelaide.  After being diagnosed with a melanoma whilst pregnant with her second child, her love of hats took on new purpose.

“I always loved the classic style of a panama, however they traditionally only have a seven centimetre brim,” Sarah explains.  “I was determined to find someone who could weave one with a much wider brim to actually keep the sun off.”

After quite a search, Sarah found that ‘someone’ willing to custom-weave the hats with a protective, 14cm wide brim: a government-backed co-operative in Ecuador.  The co-operative gives people (mostly women on the streets) employment enabling them to live in a safer environment, while the farmers who grow the Toquilla straw from which the hats are made also given a rebate.

Despite their name, most panama hats are actually woven in Ecuador, and are named after the Isthmus to which they were historically shipped for export, along with most South American goods manufactured in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The huge influx of Californian Gold rush miners passing through Panama who took a liking to the hats helped to bolster their popularity back in America, Sarah explains, but when President Roosevelt was photographed in one whilst visiting the construction site of the Panama Canal in 1903, their fate was sealed.

Since launching her custom-made panama hats (which have since been worn by the likes of Fifi Geldof), Sarah has also introduced merino woollen fedoras in burgundy reds, royal blues, soft pinks and caramels with soft satin ribbons to her range.

The options are endless. But for the uninitiated, the idea of becoming an everyday hat-wearing type can be a little daunting.  So how to pull it off?

Aside from their extra wide brim adding a magic brushstroke of elegance, Sarah says that panamas are a good option because “they go with anything and everything and never date.”

But when all other hats fail, there is another option. 

“If I cant wear a hat because its doesn't seem appropriate, I'm obsessed with wearing fresh flowers in my hair,” says Sarah.

Just the thing to finish off those sequin pants, I reckon.

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Sarah’s panama hats are available here.