How to Grade a Panama Hat
Panama hat afficianados are likely to ask us what grade some of our panama fedoras are. They are looking for a numerical grade of about 0 to 20.
The more tightly woven the straw is the higher the grade.
Grading panama hats started in 1929 with the price fixing at the start of the Great Depression. To prevent inflation from further devasting the economy, the federal government began a price fixing structure that lasted until the economy got back on its feet. As the government wanted to fairly set prices based on the quality of the merchandise, they devised a method of grading the panama straw used in hats.
The graders focused on the type and tightness of the weaves. Weaves were first divided by basic single weaves known as “Brisa,” in Spanish, and a double weave known as “Cuenca.” After that a simple square tool that looks like a frame for a one-inch picture was used to measure the tightness of the weave. The aperture of this frame was 25mm or about 1 inch. The regulator would set this frame about one-inch from the edge of the fedora’s brim edge and then count the peaks of the cross weaves called carerra moving in a parallel direction. The tighter the weave, the more carerras were counted. That number would be multiplied by two and reconsiciled against a grading chart.
Say a measurement of seven carerras was taken. It would be multiplied by two to get 14. That 14 equals a grade 2. A highly refined grade 20 would consist of 16 carerras.
Other weave designs evolved called the “New-Corder” and the “Torcido.” Above is a sample of all the weaves and their grades.