Montecristi Custom Hat Works takes our name from the village of Montecristi, near Ecuador’s Pacific coast, the source of the best authentic Panama hats.

Our four-decade story is that of our founder, Milton Johnson, who first visited South America in 1973 in search of textiles and pre-Columbian artifacts. After two years of exploring Panama, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador, Milton met the expert hatmakers of Montecristi. They are the remaining heirs of a centuries-long tradition: hand-weaving hats out of straw fibers from the leaves of the paja toquilla plant.

At first, Milton wholesaled these hat bodies (that is, unblocked hats) to hatters in the U.S. Then, realizing that he could fit and shape a hat as well as any hatter, he established Montecristi Custom Hat Works in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1978. He later began offering fur felt hats of the highest quality as well.

Montecristi Custom Hat Works has earned a reputation as the world’s finest custom hatter. We still travel to Montecristi, Ecuador, two or more times a year, to personally select from thousands of hat bodies the few that are worthy of becoming hats by Montecristi. And we still shape each of our Panama and fur felt hats entirely by hand.