Monday, 21 June 2010

Discovering Pitti: My Bob

Finding My Bob

There have been many golden eras where a man would consider an outfit incomplete, consider himself naked even, without a hat but now they are rarely even considered in the construction of the everyday outfit. As EJ mentioned in her campaign for hats, 'just look at the street scenes in almost any film made the 50s or earlier to see how commonly the hat used to be worn and how much better it makes almost everyone look.' However, the modern decline of hat wearing amongst men is obvious. I have to confess that despite admiring many hats from afar, I'm yet to fully commit to donning one. However, there is a great deal of inspirational hat donning out there and I stumbled across a wonderful hat brand on the very first morning of Pitti Uomo. My Bob's colourful arrangement of head wear instantly grabbed my attention on the lower level of the main exhibition space. Fortunately, the charismatic owner positively encouraged me to photograph his wonderfully crafted Panama hats while he talked me through his latest collection and how the Belgian brand came to be...

Quite possibly the perfect headwear for a warm Spring/Summer day.

My Bob's story began in 2008 when Geoffroy Moreels decided, thanks to his persuasive friend Hugo Machado, to launch a hat business with the famous panama hats from Ecuador. Moreels, a headdress collector from around the world, was very motivated to promote the spirit of the handmade panama hats. Quickly he convinced a number people about his project and needed to get the hats. He wanted to re style the classic panama hat, to give it a casual yet fun look in order to make it more colourful, sexy even. Now his creations are sold under the smile inducing banner "my bob, use your head!"

An ideal way to shield the sun from your face.

Last weekend John introduced me to the luxurious world of great craftsmanship behind Montecristi Panama hats. I have to concede that I am no expert on what makes a great Panama hat but My Bob's examples are certainly more appealing to my current sartorial aesthetic (not to mention I don't really have a spare $25k). A genuine Panama hat is weaved with "Carludovica Palmata" also called toquilla palm from the fabulous tropical jungle of the Ecuadorian Coast. Harvesters of the toquilla palm split the stem into narrow strands. These are cooked, dried and bleached before being passed to the weavers. They prepare the straw in the lengths they want and weave it to a fine Panama hat. After being woven, the excess straw is being cut. The hat is washed, bleached again and treated before being blocked into a nice shape. The Panama hat is completed with a sweatband and ribbon.

Such a variety of colour of trimmings.

So, despite the name, genuine Panama hats are in fact made in Ecuador, not Panama. The origin of the name is uncertain. However, the Oxford English Dictionary cites a use of the term as early as 1834. When the Spanish conquerors arrived to what nowadays are known as the provinces of Guayas and ManabĂ­ on the Ecuadorian coast. They observed native Indians using straw hats which covered their ears and necks. These hats looked like headdresses, similar to those used by the nuns or widows in Europe at the time. It is this similarity that gave the hats the name of "Toquillas" (headdress in Spanish) and resulted in the straw from which they were made to be called "Toquilla Straw". According to legend, the hat became associated with Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal in 1913. During the event Teddy Roosevelt received an Ecuadorian straw hat as a gift. Without knowing the true origin, the American president thanked his guests for the gift mentioning it as a "Panama Hat" and wore such a hat, which increased its popularity. We know today that the "Panama Hat" is made in Ecuador with the secrets for the elaboration of the hat passing from generation to generation. Each hat is unique and totally artisanal! A few seasons in and Moreels has continued to add to his colourful range...

This hat is entirely reversible but I love the baby blue hue of this side.

These examples are a great way to add colour to any Summer outfit.

Just a taster of My Bob's diversity

This collection of hats certainly turned my head at Pitti and I'm sure they'll turn a few of yours but hopefully we'll see a few proudly sitting atop. With the help of passionate hat wearing gentleman such as Geoffroy Moreels of MyBob, the time for a new era of hat wearing is now.


J said...

The colour rich Panamas are great!

Matthew Spade said...

pretty damn eye catching hey. my favs are the green and the orange ones. i have a brown panama but never seem to wear it, wonder why? i better get it out

Anonymous said...

Belgians are good in fashion. Great hats, thank you for the info!!

Will definetly buy some.


Unknown said...

Fab old-school summer hats with the traditional shape but updated by the fabric mix and color blocking concept.

KC said...

aaah... all those make me wanna wear one right now.. i have one similar hat at home but i only wear it during sunny days and it makes my outfit look all summery.

Ivan McK said...

What an awesome display....breath-taking. Great write-up, too! Thanks to Teddy R., the hat is the Panama and not the "Ecuador" as it should be. How ironic, LOL!



Related Posts with Thumbnails