Edward VII instructed his Bond Street hat maker to obtain for him the “finest Panama available.” The hat maker would not have dared to present less than a Mil Fino (meel fee-no).
Napoleon wore a Montecristi hat while in exile on the island of St. Helena, but not a Mil Fino. Emperors in exile don’t have generous wardrobe allowances. If you do, you can wear a hat finer than Napoleon’s. You’re probably taller, too.
Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, ruled as Emperor for eighteen years, and allowed himself, well, whatever he wanted. Of course he wore Montecristi hats. Of course he wore the best – the Mil Fino.
In 1934, a high stakes baccarat player in a famous Monte Carlo casino reluctantly offered his Montecristi Mil Fino (a center dent fedora with a burgundy ribbon) as collateral for a $1000 bet. That was during the Great Depression. A straw hat worth $1000. Nice hat. The casino consented. He won. He kept his hat.
For more than two centuries, Montecristi Panama hats have been legendary for their fine weave – which means thin straw, tightly woven. My Montecristi Mil Finos prove the legends are still true.
I have blocked by hand, with my own hands, Montecristi Mil Finos for movie stars, CEOs, even a king. Do you deserve less? Maybe. But money is a great equalizer.
I’m old. Get ‘em while you can.
A Mil Fino (meel fee-no) is a Montecristi Panama hat with a weave count of 1000, or higher.
A Mil Fino is also called a “Mil Cuenta” (meel kwenta - thousand count). It is often said, “Cada Mil Cuenta tiene mil cuentos.” “Every thousand count has a thousand stories.” Indeed. Mil Cuenta Montecristi hats are worn by people who live lives of a thousand stories. Stories the hats never leak to the media.
To determine the weave count, you count the little rectangles in one inch of weave, horizontally then vertically, then multiply the two numbers. Example: 33x31=1023.
Here are some photos of weave counts of Montecristi Mil Fino hats. The actual size of the weave area is 1x1. The lines are the paths of weave counted.
I make a photo count of every Montecristi Mil Fino. Proud owners receive a certificate of verification, which includes the photo weave count.
It’s the only way to verify for myself, and my clients, that the weave count really is one thousand or higher. Counting by eye gives you a number that is just a possibility. Not even a probability. Little more than a rumor.
Earlier today, I was choosing a Mil Fino to block for a client in Australia. I selected a beauty from inventory. The count (horizontal) penciled inside was 33. It is a fine, cloth-like hat. 33 looked right. I made a photo weave count to be sure, before blocking the hat.
I was surprised, and disappointed, to discover that the photo weave count is 28.5x30. Not a Mil Fino. Of course I put the hat aside and searched for another. Sure looked like a Mil Fino.
And that’s the point.
I’ve probably counted more weave counts of finely woven Montecristi hats, over the past thirty years, than anyone on the planet. I’ve used magnifying glasses, goggles, loupes, lights, low power microscopes, everything I could find.
With a tape measure and good light, I can count accurately up to about 28 weave count. Maybe. Even with magnification, I don’t trust my count, or anyone else’s, beyond that. A careful photo count is the only way to be certain.
In the photo of a 1-inch-by-1-inch sample of the weave, I draw a line along the path I counted, so the count can be recounted and verified.
I try to find paths with complete straw rectangles at both ends. Sometimes, I will count half a weave unit. Seems fair. That one-inch half count, spread all over the hat, can make a slight difference in how it looks.
Weave counts vary slightly even within one square inch. Different rows, different columns can vary slightly. Usually by a fraction of a weave rectangle, sometimes a full.
If I make photo counts in three different places around the equator of a finely woven hat, I would expect them to vary slightly, but not dramatically.
Back to finding a Mil Fino to block for my client in Australia. I searched again. I found another candidate. Another beauty. Weave count (horizontal) penciled in the hat was 34.
So, a hat represented to be a 33 count is a 30. And a 34 really is a 34.
That’s why I make photo weave counts. Trust, but verify.
It is important to me to be absolutely certain that my Mil Finos really are Mil Finos.
Master Weavers are certified at three levels of mastery by The Montecristi Foundation, Inc.
Maestro Tejedor Certificado for weaving hats 30x30 and higher.
Maestro Tejedor Superior for weaving hats 40x40 and higher.
Maestro Tejedor Cumbre for weaving hats 50x50 and higher.
To be certified, weavers must weave well, not just finely. They must qualify in both categories.
These are the weavers whose hats I buy. I’ve known most of them for many years. Some I’ve known since they were children, and they now have children of their own. Even grandchildren.
They are paid high market prices in cash when I buy their hats. And an even higher commission when you decide to wear the finest Montecristi Panama hat anyone at the club has ever seen.
Weavers are eager for me to buy their hats. https://www.brentblack.com/pages/sidebar_a_buyer_like_me.html
Just sayin’ – there’s no sweat shop exploitation thing going on here. Just the opposite. I’m more of a mission than a business.
The business was created to buy and sell hats in order to try to save the art of fine hat weaving. Not to make a big profit. I have had some success saving the art. I have been spectacularly successful not making a big profit. (Just ask my tax accountant.)
A core goal is to get more money to weavers, not to rip them off.
The weavers are my heroes. Some I am proud to call my friends. A few I am honored to call my family.
Simón Espinal and I have worked together for about twenty years. He’s moved from one room with a dirt floor to one of the biggest houses in Pile. His granddaughters are my goddaughters. When asked if I am exploiting him, I have answered, “If I am exploiting Simón, then I wish to heaven someone would come exploit me.”
Just sayin’ – there’s no sweat shop exploitation thing going on here. (I drive a 20-year-old car.)
The weaver of your hat will receive a much larger share of the price than whoever made your pants or shoes.
If you decide to own a Montecristi Mil Fino, the weaver of your hat will be very happy. As will I.
My goddaughter Odales.
Hey! Just had an idea.
I’ve always liked to send photos of weavers to clients who buy their hats. Makes it more real, less remote, more person to person. So, let’s also do the reverse.
How about if you send me a photo of you wearing the hat, and I will send the photo to the weaver! You will have a photo of the weaver, and the weaver will have a photo of you. Creates a more personal experience for both. Kind of nice, in our mass-manufactured world.
The weavers will like this. In your photo, the weaver will see how the finished hat looks, and the person who is enjoying it. It will help them know that you are as proud to wear their art as they are to weave it.
The most direct, and honorable, course of action would be to get out your credit card and call me.
You might want to have someone measure your head while you’re dialing.
I need to know head size to know what we’re talking about. A 21-inch head is a completely different conversation than a 25-inch head.
If your head is between 22 and 24 inches (56 to 61 cm), we’ll have more to talk about, at least in terms of my existing hat inventory.
I have the world’s largest existing inventory of Montecristi Mil Fino hats. It’s extensive, but not infinite.
Before you decide, ask your self this:
Okay. You can call now. Or send the form.
Which style(s) you prefer.
No need to know everything about everything.
Good to know which styles interest you most.
Good to know what size your head is.
If you can already imagine yourself wearing a legendary Montecristi Mil Fino, let me know what you have in mind by sending the Make Me a Legend short request form.
Wear a legend. Be a legend.