Brent Black, renowned authority and preeminent purveyor of handwoven straw hats, is now offering the world's finest Montecristi Panama for $100,000. Known simply as "The Hat", Black calls the exquisite creation the most finely woven Montecristi Panama the world has ever known. Authentic Montecristi Panamas, the world's greatest, are made from extremely fine toquilla straw and woven only in Ecuador; a handful of master weavers produce the best of the best, which sell for tens of thousands of dollars apiece. The Hat was commissioned by Black from the king of the master weavers - Black calls him the best weaver in history - Simón Espinal, who lives in the village of Píle in Montecristi Canton. It took him five full months to complete.
After Espinal completed the weaving, five other artisans spent several more weeks preparing and finishing The Hat. An incredible amount of handwork goes into Montecristis; hence the price. You can see some of it in the gallery and a more detailed exposition here. The Hat has not been blocked into a style or sized yet, and is awaiting the purchaser's final instructions. Black offers dozens of different styles and bespoke finishes, some based on vintage patterns such as the dashing Optimo design, above. The Hat is so incredibly fine it weighs less than one ounce. "It is as thin as my stationery," Black tells The Classicist. "When I handle The Hat, I do not worry that it might fall to the floor if I drop it; I worry that it might float away."
While Espinal could theoretically create another one equal to The Hat's fineness, it's not a given that he could replicate the feat. "I have been obsessed with the very finest hats for more than 20 years," Black notes. "I have researched the finest hats woven during the 20th century. There is simply no hat that is comparable to this one." At first Black says he did not want to part with The Hat. However, "if someone were serious enough to pay $100,000 I think I'd have to give it up," he concedes. "I represent the interests of the artist as a gallery does. Simón would be pleased for me to sell it." If that's out of your range, don't worry - Black's best hats, other than this unique work of art, sell for $5,000 to $30,000. You can work your way up.
Gallery: Brent Black Panama Hats