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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The "Distinguished Hats For Distinguished People" Story

Owner Jim at Newt at The Royal in Honolulu.
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I were walking around the grounds of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu when we found this rather unique men's store that featured two items: Tropical Sportswear and Montecristi Panama Hats.  Walked in the store known as "Newt at The Royal" and was greeted by the owner, Jim, who was dressed in a Aloha shirt and a Panama hat.  The next half hour of our visit to Hawaii was one of the most interesting of our trip.  Jim purchased the store from Mr. Newton years ago and has made it into one of the most interesting on the island.  His Aloha designs were original and his hats were outstanding.  His hats are hand-woven in Ecuador in the town of Montecristi.  The artisans in the small city create the famed Sombreros Montecristi which Jim sells at the Newt.  
Men's hat on the left while Woman's hat sits on the right.
All processes on the hats are done by hand.  Toquilla palm fronds are used which create the feeling of silk or linen rather than straw when completed.  The artisans weave the hats while standing during evening hours to help protect straw from sweat or sun damage.  
A photo of Jim examining the Toquilla
palm fronds in Ecuador.
Some of Jim's Sombreros are woven so tight that they actually hold water.  Jim's collection of hats are made in Ecuador, but blocked in the USA.  If you buy one of his hats it will bear its own number under the hat band.  The walls of his shop hold Polaroids of customers from this year that have bought hats from him.  Impressive number of photos line just about every spot in the shop and the year has yet to end.  Many of the images are of people who I recognized as famous actors, artists and musicians.  Jim allowed me to try on one of his hats and I must admit it was extremely comfortable, but the look on my wife's face told me I wasn't meant to wear a hat that sold for a minimum of $1,000.  
The walls of his shop hold Polaroids of customers.
Some of the woman's models sold for $400, but they too ran up to $1,000 or more.  He had a few photos of himself taken on one of his trips to Ecuador to see how the hats are made.  His legendary hats combine timeless style with outstanding practicality and I actually had one of them on my head .... for about 15 seconds. I did manage to buy one of his Aloha shirts which I got to wear on a few occasions during the remainder of our visit to Hawaii.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

1 comment:

  1. Jere bought a Panama Jack hat at a store in the Royal Hawaiian on our 1996 trip. Don't know if it was the same shop. I remember he bought it from a sweet saleLADY, definitely not Jim. ☺
    JS

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