An email we received from a reader some time ago. Hello,

I purchased a “Panama” hat, over the Internet.

The hat seems “limp:” as compared to previous Panama Hats. It does not resist pressure AT ALL – just limp I feels cheap

What do you know about Panama Hats and maybe bogus limp, look alikes that are sometimes marketed incorrectly as “PANAMA”?

I look forward to your response.

Our answer:

Styles & Shape – Panamas are great options for stylish head wear that serves the purpose of protection from the sun. Depending on your needs, the brim’s size can vary widely; it should be large enough to keep the sun off your face and neck when the sun is at its peak.

Material &Weave; – The best summer hats are made from plant fibers and woven in a way that they can block light, retain their shape, and allow airflow. Usually this is why you see such a wide range in price – a panama hat woven from a low quality fiber in one day will cost 1/100th that of a hat woven from a quality fiber that takes a full month to weave and shape.

Airflow – Beware of gummed-up straw hats that do not allow airflow through the crown. Despite feeling lightweight in build, they are like wearing a plastic bag on your head and more suited for show than function. Vents are a good thing, mesh crowns are even better! High quality Panama hats use a weave pattern that although appearing solid does allow airflow – however, be prepared to pay for this mix of style and function.

Fit – You have to get your hat’s fit right. Anything too tight and you’ll be feeling light headed before noon; too loose and the hat will be resting on the wrong areas of your head and will not promote proper airflow. Look for a quality tanned leather sweatband; fabric sweatbands are OK but will need replacing after extended wear. Elastic sweatbands are found on lower quality hats – however for a first time price sensitive buyer they are an acceptable compromise.

More info on some of the best Panama hats in the world--

More info on cheap versus quality headgear

Subscribe for free menswear business news, style tips & advice.