Hat Quality Grades

Quality Factors

The most important factor to determine the quality and price of a hat is by looking at the fineness of the weave.  If you look closely at a hat you can appreciate how finely the hat is woven by determining how thin the straws are.   The finer the weave, the higher the quality grade of a hat.

different_quality Every time the weave quality is doubled, the amount of work is multiplied by four so the finely woven hats demand more time and cost more.    A standard Cuenca hat may take 3 days of weaving while a fine Montecristi could take months of work.

Unfortunately, there is no standardized grading system, each provider uses their own grading method and a Grade 12 from one provider could mean a totally different quality than a Grade 12 from another provider.  Same thing happens with hats classified as Fino, Fino Fino, Super Fino, Ultrafino, Museum, etc.

The fines of the weave may be the most important factor when defining quality; however you should take into consideration the quality of the weave and color of the straw.

The quality of the weave should be determined looking at how homogenous and straight the pattern is through the entire surface.  Of course, you will not find a perfect weave since all is done by hand and there will be parts that are tighter than others. quality_weave
weave_colors The color of the straw varies between one hat to another since the color tone of the straw could be lighter or darker.  What is really important is to have hats with an even color throughout the surface.  If you find an area where the straw is obviously different, then the hat looses quality.    It is perfectly normal to detect slightly different color straw through the weave and in almost every hat you will find at least some red or gray straw.

Number of Rings or “Vueltas”

A traditional way of comparing hat quality is to hold up the hat to the light and count the number of “vueltas” or rings that are visiblee on the inside of the crown.  The “vueltas” are created when new strands of straw are added to the weave, which means that with larger amount of “vueltas” the weave is finer and tighter.

The cheapest Panama Hat that you cand find in the market will probably be a Cuenca Hat of 3 vueltas while a budget Montecristi will have 8 vueltas and an extreme fine Montecristi around 25 vueltas.



vueltas

Number of Weaves in a Square Inch

A better and more objective way to measure fines is using a new method called the Montecristi Foundation Grading System or Montecristi Cuenta that consists in counting the number of weaves in a square inch of the hat.     First, you choose a square inch of the surface of the hat and you measure the number of horizontal rows.  Then, you multiply it by the number of vertical rows, the result number is the Montecristi Cuenta.  For example, if you have 20 horizontal rows and 25 vertical rows then the Montecristi Cuenta is 500 (20–25 500).

This is a tedious method but is the only way of objectively comparing fines between hats, other methods are very subjective and are rather opinions of quality.

MC391 MC1292
17 x 23 =MC 391 38 x 34 = MC 1292

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