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Tips For Shaping the Brim on your Panama Hat

By Taylor James


Updated on

The Panama hat is an absolute classic beach vacation hat and has a rich history that spans all the way back to at least the 1800s! These beautiful and malleable hats are traditionally made from Toquilla straw and are perfect to wear in any humid environment, because they provide shade from the sun, but don’t trap heat. Due to their pliable nature, you have the ability to customize your Panama hat’s shape to fit your head and needs perfectly. 

Just like a baseball glove or pointe shoes, you’ll want to shape your Panama hat to your desired specifications. There are a handful of ways you can accomplish this. Here are a few tips for shaping the brim on your Panama hat. 

woman wearing a Panama hat

Use your regular garment steamer. 

Steam is the primary way you’re going to be able to shape your Panama hat. If you own a garment steamer, set it to a low steam setting and hold the hat six to eight inches above the steam. In just a few minutes, you should be able to start shaping the brim. 

Break out your iron. 

Similarly, you can use an iron to shape the brim of your Panama hat. Set your iron to the lowest heat possible and turn the steam setting on. This technique is most helpful when you’re trying to get rid of wrinkles that may have formed in your hat if you got caught in the rain or your hat was bunched up during travel. 

Make yourself a spot of tea. 

This is mostly a joke, but you can use the steam from a tea kettle to shape your Panama hat. Bring your kettle to a boil, safely open up the spout, and hold your hat six to eight inches away. It’s important when using all of these techniques to avoid burning yourself with the steam, so make sure you’re taking proper safety measures. 

Bring your Panama hat into the bathroom during a bath or shower. 

Obviously, you don’t want to have your hat come into contact with the water, but if you set your hat on the sink and close the door, after fifteen minutes or so the brim of your Panama hat will be malleable enough to shape. 

Panama hat pitfalls to avoid. 

If you bring your hat into the bathroom while you shower, make sure you remove it after you’ve shaped the brim. Otherwise, you run the risk of the straw material getting moldy! Also, before you take any step to shape the brim, double-check that there’s not an inner wire in your Panama hat. Steaming a hat with an inner wire could damage it. 

Take your Panama hat to a professional. 

If you’ve spent good money on your hat and don’t necessarily trust yourself to shape your Panama hat, you can take it to a milliner for help. A milliner should have a special steamer designed to shape and reshape straw. You’ll be able to work together to revitalize an old Panama hat or break in a new one.

Read this article for tips on folding your Panama hat.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.