An ad for various styles of straw hats
A straw hat is a wide-brimmed hat woven out of straw or straw-like synthetic materials. Straw hats are a type of sun hat designed to shade the head and face from direct sunlight, but are also used in fashion as a decorative element or a uniform.
Commonly used fibers are:
- Wheat straw: (Milan straw, Tuscan, Livorno),
- Rye straw: used for the traditional bryl straw hats popular among the peasants of Belarus, southwestern Russia and Ukraine.
- Toquilla straw: flexible and durable fiber, which is often made into hats, known as Panama hats, in Ecuador.
- Buntal/ Parabuntal straw: from unopened Palm leaves or stems of the Buri Palm,
- Baku straw: 1x1 woven, made from the young stalks of the Talipot palm from Malabar and Ceylon,
- Braided hemp,
- Shantung straw: made from high-performance paper which is rolled into a yarn to imitate straw, historically it was made of buntal
- Toyo straw: cellophane coated Washi,
- Bangora straw: made from a lower grade of Washi,
- Paperbraids: made from different paper strands from viscose from different Plants (Swiss Paglinastraw), (Silkpaper, Rice paper),
- Sisal/ Parasisal (2x2 woven sisal),
- Seagrass (Xian),
- Visca straw: an artificial straw made by spinning viscose in a flat filament capable of being braided, woven, or knitted and used especially for women's hats,
- Rush straw: a thick, stiff straw, used to manufacture inexpensive casual sun hats, made from rush grass (Juncus effesus, Juncus polycephalus), from the bulrushtypes sedge grass (Schoenoplectus lacustris, Cyperus papyrus, Typha (Typha domingensis, syn. Thypha angustata) (bulrush or cattail)} and other types seashore rushgrass (Sporobolus virginicus) or reed
- Abacá: (for Sinamay hats)
- Artificial, synthetic straw, PP straw: made from Polypropylene, Polyethylene or from different blends from Acrylic, PP, PE, Polyester, Ramie and Paper
- other straw fibers that are mostly used in Asian conical hats are made from different palms (Corypha, Rattan, Trachycarpus, Phoenix), grasses Cane, Bamboo and rice straw (Kasa (hat))
- Chip straw: from White pine, Lombardy poplar, or English willow, has historically been used, but has become less common.
There are several styles of straw hats, but all of them are woven using some form of plant fibre. Many of these hats are formed in a similar way to felt hats; they are softened by steam or by submersion in hot water, and then formed by hand or over a hat block. Finer and more expensive straw hats have a tighter and more consistent weave. Since it takes much more time to weave a larger hat than a smaller one, larger hats are more expensive.
Straw hats have been worn in Africa and Asia since after the Middle Ages during the summer months, and have changed little between the medieval times and today. They are worn, mostly by men, by all classes. Many can be seen in the calendar miniatures of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
The mokorotlo, a local design of a straw hat, is the national symbol of the Basotho and Lesotho peoples, and of the nation of Lesotho. It is displayed on Lesotho license plates.
President Theodore Roosevelt posed for a series of photos at the Panama Canal construction site in 1906. He was portrayed as a strong, rugged leader dressed crisply in light-colored suits and stylish straw fedoras. This helped popularize the straw "Panama hat".
Artwork produced during the Middle Ages shows, among the more fashionably dressed, possibly the most spectacular straw hats ever seen on men in the West, notably those worn in the Arnolfini Portrait of 1434 by Jan van Eyck (tall, stained black) and by Saint George in a painting by Pisanello of around the same date (left). In the middle of the 18th century, it was fashionable for rich ladies to dress as country girls with a low crowned and wide brimmed straw hat to complete the look.