Tucked away in the Coconut Grove of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is the prestigious international hatter, Newt. Inside this famous, hidden gem you will find the most gorgeous Panama Hats this side of the Pacific and perhaps the entire world. Handmade in Ecuador near the town of Montecristi, artisans spend months tightly weaving together the shredded dried toquilla plant stems to produce the silky, linen like finished sombrero. I know what you are thinking: a Panama hat made in Ecuador? Turns out, the famed hat was incorrectly named in a headline describing a photograph of President Teddy Roosevelt: "President Wears Panama Hat at Panama Canal Opening." And so, The owners of Newt, Jim and Lee, make the trip a few times per year to Ecuador, not Panama, to hand select a limited collection of fine headwear. From South America they are shipped off to Chicago, where they are formed by a master blocker into a variety of styles available at the shop in Waikiki.
On our trip to Newt, Ron, the friendly hat connoisseur, perfectly fitted me with each style. I fell in love with the playful French Press and the classic Fedora. I am still not settled on if I prefer to wear my Fedora European or American style. European is placed lower on the brow, rising slightly up towards the back. For American, the brim sits a touch higher, slightly titled to the side. Either way, I have never worn something that not only instantly upgraded my outfit, but completely changed my world and perspective. Life under this hat was divine and glamorous. It is no wonder that the polariods adorning the walls of Newt include famous clientele like Pierce Brosnan and Patty Labelle. While we were visiting the 29 year old shop, a customer from a quarter century ago stopped in to try on the latest styles. She found there weren't any. Seems her hat, still in perfect, wearable condition, stood the fashion test of time. Newt - a true classic.
The 96815 Favorite - If I had to pick just one, my favorite is the Fedora with feather hat band. The peacock feathers are sewn by hand on the friendly island of Molokai by an expert, local craftswoman. Newt hat prices range from $200 to $15,000 depending on style and weave.