From the luxurious Panama Montecristi hand-woven in Ecuador to the creations in fine natural straw, this collection of Borsalino straw hats is the most refined and elegant you can find for the summer season.
Seen every season on VIPs, celebrities, runways and red carpets, the straw hat is one of the most beloved, stylish protagonists for summer and it looks good on everyone. Whether it’s worn at the beach or in the city, it has the magical ability to highlight personal style with characteristic flair, while still providing the important function of protection against the sun’s rays.
Historic origins of the straw hat are complex and difficult to pinpoint. Today, it is seen as a celebrated accessory but it was initially created as a functional item. Made by the ancient craft of intertwining of vegetable fibers and inspired by Nature, early models were developed into a variety of working shapes and sizes. The first known straw hats, characterized by different types of fibers woven together, were worn in Asia and Europe during the fifteenth century primarily by agricultural communities. They were quite common due to the availability of raw materials, the straw’s lightness and how the weave with its tiny slits allowed ventilation even during the hottest days. In Asian countries like Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, straw hats were used equally by men and women. In Europe, however, they were almost exclusively worn by men as illustrated in Très Riche Heures du Duc de Berry (Book of the Hours) created between 1412 and 1416 by the Limbourg brothers Paul, Jean Hennequin and Hermann.
But custom was destined to change. Women began to dominate a variety of straw hats from floppy or stiff shapes to ribbon-embellished or sprinkled with flowers as seen in European paintings from the 1700s and 1800s. These were the first straw hat examples that added decorative elements to functionality. Of course, one famous art history exception is the 1887 self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh wearing a minimalistic straw hat.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, growing middle classes started to adopt these legendary straw hats. In Europe and the United States, they became summer alternatives to winter felts and were worn traditionally from May to September. Protective function began to take a back seat in favor of aesthetics and social representation. One style in particular called the Boater garnered a lot of attention with its flat dome, rigid and short circular brim and wide grosgrain hatband. The most luxurious models were created in Florence straw, an ancient Tuscan weaving tradition characterized by 40 woven braids, each made of up of 13 straw threads. Evolved and inspired from the typical Venetian gondolier headdresses, the Boater was often associated with the world of rowing, as celebrated in the paintings of French Impressionists Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Édouard Manet. Actors Harold Lloyd and Maurice Chevalier from the world of Cinema each wore Boater hats as part of their signature look. But it was renowned French designer Coco Chanel who transformed straw hats into fashionable headdresses for women.
Iconic images that portrayed actresses like Brigitte Bardot and Laurence de Monaghan donning these hats shortly followed, up to the first straw hat to hit the runway in 1965. Today, designers and stylists continue their love affair with this chic accessory, revolutionizing it into a thousand playful variations for both men and women. From wide to narrow brims, colorful or natural palettes, embellished with pins or scarves, interpretations for straw hats are endless but always in the name of elegance.