The search for straw hats really spikes in the summer months. Google’s keyword tool shows searches jump to a whopping 60,000+ per month this time of year. The results served up for straw hats are all over the board because there are so many different kinds of straws. So let’s sort them out.
First straw hats can be for fishing, gardening, farming, or working outdoor. They can also be for the beach, vacationing, fashion, teas, or garden parties. The uses are wide ranging and so are the hats and straw materials that fit the bill.
This blog will cover practical straw hats used for work and sun protection and the next will review straw hats from a fashion angle. The workhorse in the practical category is lindu straw. This rugged straw holds up in the weather and has a tinsel strength that makes it semi-shapeable with out breaking.
Information is scarce on lindu straw. There s a city in China called Lindu and a forest in Indonesia. Either one could be the source for the name. When we say these hats are the workhorse of straw headwear, it is not an overstatement. Lindu straws provide traditional gardening hats with round crowns and wide brims, as well as safaris, lifeguards, and gamblers—the practical hats that provide sun protection without worrying about fashion.
Lindu straw is charting new territory this year because of the price escalation of raffia and toyo. Lindu is becoming an affordable medium for cowboy hats. Shaping and distressing the straw results in attractive designs for western hats that remain affordable as the price of raffia moves up.
Corn is over $7.00 a bushel so farmers are happy and nothing is going to waste thanks to maize and corn stock hats that deliver a straw in a bleached white appearance. These hats withstand the elements with a durable construction and differ from most other straws with a rather coarse texture and bleached white color. Popular shapes are fedoras and wide brims.
Popular for cowboy hats, Moroccan straw is coarse with firm body that can still be shaped. The straw can dry and crack more easily than raffia, but it has a rugged look and feel that customers love.
The most common use for bamboo is lifeguard hats or the conical hats seen in the Orient. The bamboo is split and fairly stiff, creating very durable headwear that can take the elements. Lifeguard hats often use bamboo for the body that can take a beating outdoors while it protects from the wearer from the sun with its wide brims that angle down. Usually the hats have a high crown sometimes with a cattleman crease and others that are a pinch front style.
Palm straw hats, usually made in Mexico, can run the gamut in quality and price. The number of strands of braid per inch determines the quality with lower number of strands providing economically priced hats. Cowboy hats most commonly use palm straw and high number of strands can have the fine weaved look of a Panama straw.
The wider look in weaved straw provides the economical cowboy hats that are capturing a larger percentage of the market, picking up some of the business that is shying away from hats made in China because of escalating prices. Together with lindu straws, these two materials are mushrooming in popularity because the raffia straws and toyo hats from China have jumped in price this year.
Palm straw hats have a stiffer body and are semi-shapeable. Some designs are distressed with a staining process that often uses coco. Others have a singed pattern that delivers a handsome hat. Economical palm hats are answering the need for cowboy hats that look good at inexpensive prices.
Seagrass is a material with a history in hat making. Actually, there are several species used to make hats referred to as seagrass, but the most common is a marsh grass that habitats the shallow waters in areas of China.
Perhaps the most familiar seagrass hat is the golfer in twisted seagrass that is lacquered and provides an open weave. Because of the openings, they often have an underbrim to protect from the sun. Lacquering delivers a firm body that retains its shape and helps the hats survive a light rain. Women’s hats often use crocheted seagrass, but the headwear has a flimsy body. The color is a dark sage green or brown, which distinguishes it from most straws.
Next blog continues the survey of straws used in headwear, concentrating on more fashionable designs.