Help me return my panama hat to Equador
August 18, 2011 2:21 AM   Subscribe

It's hot. Damned hot. And I lose sunglasses.

I'm in the UK. A good panama hat is expensive, so I decided I'd buy a fine, custom-made panama hat, directly from someone in Equador. I was comfortable with the purchase, because they guarantee satisfaction. Not happy? Send us the hat back and we'll make you another.

The hat arrives and it truly is a fine hat. Put there's a problem. Problem is, I'm a moron. A moron who can't measure his own head.

Long story short, hat too big. Gotta go back to Equador. Here comes the question:

Because of the hatbox that they mailed it to me in, if I was to mail it back using UK parcelforce (the UK equiv of USPS, seller insists I return via USPS rather than a carrier), they want around £150 -- what's that, around $250? Because of the volume, they say my parcel is the equiv. of around 6.5 kilos

There's gotta be a cheaper way to do this. Hive mind, please help me! I need that new hat badly.

(NB. Not seductive trilby. Havana stylee!)
posted by PeterMcDermott to Shopping (12 answers total)
Surely you'd be better off selling the hat in the UK, and then ordering a new one?

What size is it?
posted by chrispy108 at 2:33 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Can you find someone who has access to a US base in the UK and have them send it to Equador via the real USPS?
posted by chiefthe at 2:49 AM on August 18, 2011

How good is it? A really fine Panama hat, of 20 or more vueltas, can be rolled into a tube, and is normally delivered in a long narrow box.
posted by nicwolff at 3:38 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Because of the volume, they say my parcel is the equiv. of around 6.5 kilos

What. Volume isn't what determines weight. Have you actually weighed it?
posted by halogen at 4:21 AM on August 18, 2011

I take that back, just checked out their website and they use a volumetric minimum. I'd look into cheaper carriers and mail it anyway – it's not like the seller is going to reject it.
posted by halogen at 4:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I came here to say what nicwolff said, even my cheap-ass panamas will roll right up and unroll without losing their shape.
posted by Floydd at 7:26 AM on August 18, 2011

It's an extremely fine hat. I don't know how many vueltas it is because I don't know what a vuelta is, but if you look at the first panama hat seller that comes up on a Google search and check their fino fino -- that's the quality. Havana style, as I said.

The tube thing was my first thought as well, and I've emailed the seller to ask if he'll deal with that. Given that they have them manufactured by local weavers and they do the fit and finish, I'm sure they'd have to reblock it anyway when it comes to resale.

Re. the UK sale thing -- pretty sure I'd take a big hit on it. If you're gonna spend that kind of dough on a hat, you want it to be perfect. In some senses, I'm kinda glad it's going back because having seen the thing in real life, I want an additional half inch on the height of the crown, and an extra three quarters of an inch on the brim.

They're happy to make me a new hat to that specification. It'll cost me an extra $35 for the additional work on the brim, but that seems like a snap.

Re. size -- the hat is a US 7 1/2. Which is a full two sizes too big for my head. My head is actually 58cm around, but I somehow measured it as 60cm.

As I said, I'm a moron. I don't deserve such a hat.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:36 AM on August 18, 2011

Oh and for anyone who's interested in what it actually looks like...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:55 AM on August 18, 2011

Try these next time.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK I can see why you might not be able to roll it; it looks like it has been glued into shape. An untreated fino fino can have the texture of stiff linen and can be rolled up without damage at least a few times, if any hatband and sweatband are removed.

For comparison to the ultimate, this is a picture of my father's hat, taken by my father to illustrate a 1983 Connoisseur magazine cover article he wrote called "The Perfect Panama". For this article he travelled to Ecuador, tracked down the best weaver then living, and offered him whatever he wanted to charge – less than $80 as it turned out – for the best hat he could make.

Click the Zoom button three times and compare the fineness of the weave to your hat. Vueltas are the rings in the crown of the hat formed by the periodic addition of new fibers by the weaver as the hat grows; you can see them if you hold the hat up to a light. The finer the fibers, the more rings. The vueltas in the crown of my father's hat are so dense that they cannot be counted.
posted by nicwolff at 3:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the message I got from the seller told me that I needed to protect the crown, but could roll the brim, so I managed to get one of those boxes that you get several books in -- just big enough to house the crown -- and rolled the brim up around the sides.

Just managed to get it into the Post Office this morning. Air Mail, with a signature required at the other end cost me £11 -- a far cry from the £160 that their website wanted to send it boxed in the original box.

I'm jealous of your father's hat, nicwolff. It's my understanding that there probably isn't anyone left alive who is capable of making hats that fine any more. From what I can tell, Brent Black tends to buy up all the finest hats -- paying over the odds for them -- and ships them to Hawaii where he blocks and finishes them himself and charges upwards of five grand a pop for them. But its my understanding that you can't buy the kind of heirloom quality hat that your dad owns for love nor money these days.

Will it come to you when he passes?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2011

I imagine it will – but it would have to be reblocked, he has a colossal noggin. And I'm more of a ball-cap guy anyway ツ
posted by nicwolff at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2011

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