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Panama vs Fedora Hats: A Hat Guide


Hats are a must-have fashion accessory for any time of the year. There are so many styles in the market today that consumers are spoiled for choice. There is the classic style of hats that have never really gone out of style, and then there are more laidback hats, such as baseball caps, that are worn by all generations for sports, leisure, and fashion. This guide will take an in-depth look at what the key differences are between the Panama hat and the fedora.

Table of Contents
What is a Panama hat?
What is a fedora hat?
Global market value of hats
Top styles of Panama and fedora hats

What is a Panama hat?

Panama hats originate from Ecuador and are traditionally made of toquilla straw, which makes them a very lightweight hat to own. They’re sold in light colors such as white or cream and will usually have a thick black band around the base of the hat. The shape is similar to a fedora hat, with the distinguishing features of a center crease on the top, a pinched crown, and a flexible brim. What makes the Panama hat so unique is that it tends to be handmade rather than produced on a press.

Panama hats are the perfect accessory for many tourists and vacationers to own, so they’re worth adding to the catalogs of businesses that sell to a lot of visitors or are placed in an area where there’s a large footfall of people on vacation.

Traditional white Panama hat with black ribbon around it

What is a fedora hat?

Fedora hats are quite similar to Panama hats, which is why many consumers often confuse the two. The shape is very similar, especially when viewed from far away, but it originated in the theater rather than a specific country. This type of hat features in many movies and TV shows, which is how it came to be so popular.

Whereas Panama hats are made of straw, fedoras are made using felt on a press machine and can come in a variety of colors, with the band around the base often matching the color of the felt. Since they’re made from sheep’s wool, fedoras are a very eco-friendly fashion accessory to own.

This type of hat is very fashion-forward and is a classy hat for men to wear with suits or jackets, but can equally be worn by women as it helps to elevate the status of an outfit. Unlike the Panama hat, the fedora isn’t designed to be worn while doing outdoor activities. It’s more of a trend-setting fashion accessory to own.

Brown fedora hat with ribbon around it in dark brown

Global market value of hats

The global headwear industry is constantly growing in size. This is down to a number of factors, such as consumers wanting to spend more of their disposable income on fashion accessories and changes in consumer lifestyles that have seen a higher demand for hats that can complement a dressed-up look. Among these luxury hats are Panama hats and fedoras, which have been popular for decades among consumers of all ages and genders.

In 2022, the global headwear market reached a staggering value of USD 20.8 billion. By 2028, that number is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.89%, bringing the total value to approximately USD 29.4 billion. Luxury hats in particular are expected to make a big impact on the market as demand continues to increase for stylish hats that aren’t necessarily used for warmth purposes, such as fedoras and Panama hats.

Top styles of Panama and fedora hats

Although Panama and fedora hats are somewhat similar in style, there are key features that make them stand apart, such as the material and color. For consumers wanting an outdoor hat that’s lightweight, stylish, and protects them from the sun, then the Panama hat is the way forward. On the other hand, the consumer that wants a statement piece of headwear that can be worn in the colder months will lean toward the fedora hat.

The top styles of these hats on the market today include the wide-brim fedora, the fedora with a leather band, the classic Panama hat, and the floppy Panama hat.

Wide-brim fedora

One of the most popular styles of fedora in today’s market is the wide-brim fedora. This classic style of hat has never really lost its popularity and can match almost any outfit thanks to the wide array of colors that this felt hat can come in. The warm material of the felt makes it the perfect fashion accessory to have on hand in the fall and winter. The wide-brim fedora can easily be worn by men and women who are looking to add a special finishing touch to their fashionable attire, whether that be with a subtle colored fedora or a bright and flashy one.

Man wearing brown fedora hat with black ribbon around it

Fedora with a leather band

Many fedoras will come with a fabric ribbon tied around the base of the hat in the same or a matching color to the hat itself. To add something a little different to this traditional fedora, consumers are turning to the addition of a leather band. The implementation of a leather band on the fedora adds an even more luxurious finish to the hat that also gives it a sharper look. This type of fedora hat is ideal for high-end outings or going to important dinners.

Cream-colored fedora hat with a thin black ribbon

Classic Panama hat

Having a Panama hat on hand for summer vacations or day trips to the beach is an unwritten rule. This quintessential summer hat is one of the world’s most purchased hats thanks to its breathability and features that make it easy to pair with almost any outfit. This straw hat is handwoven and very durable, so even if the hat is being packed away for a vacation, it will survive the journey. With the thick black band set against the pale color of the hat itself, it almost screams summer and warm weather.

Shelves of white and straw Panama hats

Floppy Panama hat

The Panama hat will always be a classic and traditional piece of headwear, and with such a high demand for it in today’s market, it should come as no surprise that some new versions of the iconic hat have been introduced.

The floppy Panama hat has many of the same features as the classic one, with the addition of a much wider and more flexible brim. This type of Panama hat is designed for casual living and days on the beach rather than being functional for outdoor work. Some Panama hat designs have even gone a step further and changed the traditional shape to make the wearer stand out more and make a bigger statement with their outfit.

Woman wearing floppy Panama hat on the beach


Both Panama hats and fedoras are instantly recognizable types of hats that have been worn for decades all over the world. The big difference between these two hats though is the material used to make them, as Panama hats are made of a straw material whereas fedoras are made of felt. The top styles of these hats to look out for in the future include the wide-brim fedora, the fedora with a leather band, the classic Panama hat, and the floppy Panama hat.

The headwear market is expecting modern adaptations of these classic hats to continue to hit the market in an attempt to appeal to the modern consumer. But the classic styles continue to be two of the best-selling hats globally, so they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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