This is frugal style! For less than the cost of a Quarter-Pounder meal at McDonalds, this ‘Panama Hat’ knock-off was purchased on aliexpress.com direct from the Chinese factory. Durable and stylish, it attracts plenty of compliments (in spite of the ultra-low cost).
The fact that I can wear this hat without fear of it blowing off my head and rolling down the street only to be promptly crushed by a passing city bus at a strategically placed patch of mud makes it one of my best buys ever!
I wear Panama style straw hats on a near-daily basis during the spring and summer. For me, it is not just an expression of style, it is also a practical means of shielding my head from the relentless high-desert sun. Because I’m wearing a Panama Hat (or something like it) constantly, I generally replace them on a yearly basis. Straw hats usually start to develop sweat stains after a season of wear and can be difficult to clean. For that reason, I’m not interested in spending $80 or more for a quality Panama Hat. I look for low-cost alternatives that offer high style on a frugal budget.
A Great Source for Cheap, Stylish Panama Hats
China has a number of factories selling very low-cost straw hats that look much like the more expensive Panama Hats made in Ecuador. These hats are featured on the Chinese e-commerce website AliExpress.com. The hats I purchase (such as the ones shown on this page) typically cost me about $5.00 each including shipping. Of course, they may not satisfy hat purists who want the best. However, they offer all the style and utility I need at a rock-bottom price. I generally purchase two or three each season and wear them constantly.
These hats are generally shipped from China in air bubble packaging (they arrive in about three to four weeks). This prevents them from being flattened during shipping. You can use a steam iron or clothes steamer to reshape them to your preference when they arrive. It’s quite easy to do. If the hat feels too floppy, get a can of unscented spray starch and spray a few coats, letting the hat dry between each coat (cover the hat band before spraying). This will stiffen the hat without discoloring it. Be sure to use unscented spray starch!
There is usually a limited range of standard sizes in these hats (mine are one size fits all somewhere between medium and large size). For frugal style, these hats are an amazing buy. Visit aliexpress.com and do a search for straw hats, paper hats, and Panama Hats. This is frugal style on a budget!
In the photo above I am wearing a $5.00 aliexpress.com straw hat with a second-hand Paul Betenly speckled wool blazer purchased on eBay.com (second-hand) for $14.00. The silk tie and 100% cotton shirt were purchased for $1.00 each from a local thrift shop. Learn how I thrift shop for menswear in this post!