Don't be fooled by this old tourist scam - selling rollable Panama hats in little boxes or tubes.. The answer is yes you can roll them, but it will crack and the brim will ripple. Sure they look good in the photos, but in a very short time they will look like crap.
If you have a Montechristi fino like above, with the traditional centre crease, then your chances are improved. However most people dont like the look of the centre crease (it is a bit odd), and dont want to spend $800+ on a fancy hat that will end up being broken and wonky.
In the old days people did roll them, but only in an emergency. Usually these hats had no hat band, or just a simple thin ribbon. They also bought them for a lot less than we do today, so didn't mind when they broke. Often you will see photos of the Optimo crown looking pristine and crisp - thats because they have never been rolled.
Manufacturers make a rollable hat using several techniques :
* The super-bleached rubbery panama. This one feels like plastic and is surprisingly flexible, though it tends to look cheap and rubbery. They will roll for a while and crack through the crown.
* Twisted weave open crown Panamas. These will roll reliably for a good time, but they dont look very nice and feel cheap.
* Dishonesty. This is the most common solution, Sell people a hat that will roll for a while, with a special box/tube for storage - and don't worry if it looks like crap on their head and will break. People come into our store all the time lamenting their tourist Panama that fell apart.
As a Panama specialist I have been very keen to work this out - but I feel ashamed selling them. You can see the hats above - they are very expensive, and have been groomed for the photos, and they still look crap.
The best solution is wearing a crushable Panama hat like the Traveller. This hat has a very strong crown that will not break, and pops back into shape when you wear it. Most importantly, the brim is reinforced with a plastic wire, that snaps the brim smooth and crisp everytime. So, it always looks good, travels beautifully and lasts a long time.
The Panama Hat Guy