You head out into the sunny morning, putting on your best Panama hat, and by the afternoon, the clouds are pouring down upon you. It is not a big problem, but it also depends on the type of hat you have, and how much water we are talking. A wet hat is much like a wet book, if you look after it, everything is OK, and if you don't you throw it away. Here are some scenarios and how to handle it.
Caught in Light Drizzle.
Your Panama hat is porous and absorbs moisture (sweat) like a sponge. Light rain is not a problem, and the hat will keep you dry and warm, protecting you from the weather. It will then dry out on your head. If it stays a tad moist, it will dry out overnight, so protect it a little until it does. Placing it upsidedown on a table/shelf, and being a bit careful while it is soft.
The one exception is if you are wearing a very fine weave ($800+). In which case I would take it off and tuck it under your arm, and get wet - I live in a rain forest, and sometimes the hat comes first. Alternatively, you can cover it with a book, newspaper, umbrella, plastic bag or a large leaf.
My Panama hat got thoroughly drenched in the Rain.
When your hat gets thoroughly wet, the fibres will swell, absorbing the moisture and your hat will lose its structure. The easiest solution is to leave your hat on your head once you get out of the rain. You are allowing the heat from your body to dry your hat and keeping its shape. If you stand in front of a mirror, you can straighten out your brim, and adjust the shape of your crown. It is not difficult, but take it slowly and be gentle. When the shape looks just right, leave it on as long as you can.
When you finally take it off, rest it on the edge of a table with the brim hanging over the edge (if it has the brim snapped down at the front). If your brim will get deformed sitting flat, then either rest it upside-down on the table, or snap the brim up all around and let it sit flat.
Don't put it in front of a heat source, like a fire, hairdryer, heater or the sun (unless it's on your head) - it will make it shrink and go all wonky. The idea is to let it slowly dry out. If you live somewhere humid, putting it in a room with a fan on lightly will help.
Ideally, it is sitting somewhere safe, while it dries overnight. In the morning, pop it on and adjust it a little if need be. If you need to use a little steam to reshape it, you can follow this guide.
My hat flew off into the ocean or pool.
Now we are talking about a completely soaked hat. Scoop it out, and shake off as much water as you can, without tearing the brim off. Then put it back on your head.
The fibres in the hat have a memory, and the shape will snap back into place if you do this quickly. If you have access to a cloth, towel or paper towels, you can dry it off by dabbing it carefully. Then follow the instructions above. The important thing is to reshape it while it is on your head because your head is the perfect block to mold it. Taking your hat off occasionally and drying your hair, will help moisture wick out of the hat too.
Now its possible you are reading this long after the fact, in which case you are going to have to reshape it. If you have placed it on a heater or in the sun to dry, then you will probably need to stretch it and do some heavy adjusting. Watching some of my videos would help immensely.
My Panama Hat got wet, and the brim is all rippled/wrinkled.
If your hat is finer, and especially if the brim has a natural edge (not sewn), then you can get wrinkles and bubbles in the straw. It looks like paper that has been wet and is a bit frustrating. Using a warm iron and a little steam, it is possible to iron out the wrinkles, but you need to patient and see how the hat reacts. Every single Panama hat is different (literally), and running through all the scenarios is just not possible.
If you don't know what to do, please email me with a picture of your hat and we can work it out. Bringing hats back to life is like recycling; it makes for a better world. The likelihood that you will have access to a Panama hat specialist in your area is extraordinarily slim, so let's get it right before someone makes a mess.
Further information on loving Panama hats :